This week, American women lost their right to have an abortion. And while this legal ruling only considers women residing in the US, cries have been heard around the world sharing their outrage in solidarity, not to mention this harsh reminder of how easily hard-fought rights can be removed by a few men in power. It’s a traumatic blow for all women, and it’s imperative moving forward in this fight to understand trauma before unleashing it as fuel.
In their directorial debut as a duo, Welsh creatives Carys Huws and Casi Wyn have done just that, focusing their lens on Cardiff-born and raised artist Marged in an honest and moving documentary that captures the power of Marged’s story so far – with an emphasis on how performing on stage liberates and enables her to process trauma.
Marged is a member of pop group and BRICKS Family Issue starSelf Esteem as a backing vocalist-dancer and supporting act. Rebecca Taylor’s Brit-nominated project Self Esteem, which just this week received a five-star rating for their Glastonbury performance, is critically acclaimed for shedding light on the challenging experiences that women face in daily life.
“The film has weight to it but it isn’t necessarily dark, because she courageously brings her experiences to light,” says singer, poet and co-director Casi. “It’s when we keep our stories or experiences hidden that darkness starts to fester. So the film, though it deals with grave matters like trauma, has a triumphant feel to it also. Because she survives, and not only she survives but we also see her thrive.”
The documentary, which was shot during Self Esteem’s tour of Britain and America, follows Marged as she discusses how music and performance have helped her heal from trauma. Marged’s life changed significantly in her early twenties after she survived a sexual assault, leading to struggles with addiction and a long-term abusive relationship.
The film has weight to it but it isn’t necessarily dark, because Marged courageously brings her experiences to light.
She explains that she had reservations about the film for fear of oversharing and for her safety. But she says, “As a survivor of Domestic Abuse, you spend your time going between the denial of your perpetrator’s behaviour and the fight and clarity of knowing you need to leave. I needed to prepare myself emotionally, spiritually and mentally for people denying my truth, saying they don’t believe me and that I’m fabricating this for whatever reason, because if they come for me on a wrong day then I go straight back into that denial of my experience and excusing abusive behaviour as I did for four and a half years.”
She adds, “When I watched the documentary I had this panic of not wanting to be seen as just this part of my story. You know, I’m a human being, artist, musician, writer, performer, dancer, friend, and sister before any of that bullshit. Of course, it’s definitely a part of who I am but I’m so much more than how others have treated me. Who I am is how I respond.”
The intimate nature of the film could only be achieved through the long-standing friendship between the trio, who have known each other since high school and university.
“Despite not seeing each other physically much in the past 10-15 years, the unique kind of connection Marged, Casi and I have enabled us to come together and discuss difficult topics openly and quite naturally,” says Carys. “I’ve recently realised how unique friendship within the Welsh language community is – there is a closeness amongst the community which feels almost family-like sometimes. There are downsides to this too, but one of the most beautiful things about it is that it creates space to be open and vulnerable and to feel safe doing so.”
“Another reason why I wanted to tell this story is that as a nation, as Welsh speaking communities especially, we don’t really hold that space for trauma,” Casi explains. “It’s a very Welsh thing from my experience to suppress grief and pain. We just get on with it, it’s how we’ve always done things in certain communities, but there comes a point where the hurt or the gash needs to yield – it no longer serves us, healthily at least, ‘to get on with it.’ If we’re stuck – and that’s what trauma is, being stuck in this wounded territory – we can’t express ourselves fully, we paralyze our potential growth. So Marged expressing herself in Welsh hopefully carves out a new space within our communities in Wales to re-shape how we hold things – linguistically and emotionally as one. The film is a real moment for that I think, to allow change in how Welsh communities perceive and experience themselves and to shift how we manage our difficulties as people.”
Marged expressing herself in Welsh hopefully carves out a new space within our communities in Wales to re-shape how we hold things – linguistically and emotionally as one. The film is a real moment for that I think, to allow change in how Welsh communities perceive and experience themselves and to shift how we manage our difficulties as people.
For Marged, she hopes that by sharing her experiences now, it can have a life-changing impact on women in similar situations: “I had a message to say that the video was going to be played in a women’s shelter. For me, that’s who this documentary is for. It’s going to reach the person who needs to see someone else who’s been through the same thing and hopefully give them hope that they still have agency over their lives. Agency is so integral to feeling that you can reclaim your body, mind, and life. I had to really work on that and bring that into my consciousness.”
Marged has also shared with BRICKS a playlist of songs that “When I think about how we share our experiences, it’s important to include ways of self-care for both speaker and listener,” she explains. “This is an offering from myself to whoever watches. I hope that these songs empower, validate and bring joy to you in the ways that they have done for me.”
Hunan Hyder is available to watch now on Clic and Youtube, and will be shown tonight at 10pm on S4C. You can also catch-up on demand on S4C Clic and iPlayer.
Enjoyed this story? Help keep independent queer-led publishing alive and unlock the BRICKS WORLD Learner Platform, full of resources for emerging and aspiring creatives sent to you every week via newsletter. Start your 30-day free trial now.