Zakiya McKenzie

Do the write thing.

Zakiya McKenzie is a writer and PhD candidate in English based in Bristol, UK. In 2019 she was writer-in-residence for Forestry England and in 2021 she was artist-in-residence at Studio Voltaire in London, ending her time with an audio/visual exhibition based on her writing. Zakiya’s essays have appeared in a number of anthologies including, Haunting Ashton Court: A Creative Handbook for Collective History-Making (2023), Radical Landscapes: Art, Identity and Activism (Tate, 2022), Reading the Forest: A Forest of Dean Anthology (Douglas McLean Publishing, 2022), Women on Nature: An Anthology of Women’s Writing about the Natural World in the East Atlantic Archipelago (Unbound, 2021), Gifts of Gravity and Light: A Nature Almanac for the 21st Century (Hodder & Stoughton, 2021) and The Wild Isles: An Anthology of the Best of British & Irish Nature Writing (Head of Zeus, 2021). Her 2021 Rough Trade Books historical fiction pamphlet Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Vol. 1 explores the natural and social history of Jamaica in 1655 – the year Britain took the colony from Spain.

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Testimonies on The History of Jamaica Vol 1, May 2021, Rough Trade Books

Testimonies on the History of Jamaica is a piece of historical fiction exploring some of the environmental implications of Europe’s bloody venture into the ‘New World’. Set in Jamaica but speaking to all the Caribbean, the story follows what happened to land and native people when the Spaniards occupied, when the British invaded in 1655 and when the indigenous knowledge was removed from the island.
More about the Testimonies on the History of Jamaica

Gifts of Gravity and Light, July 2021

Gifts of Gravity and Light is a new collection of nature writing that shines a light on the natural world in all its biodiversity as experienced by those who, for reasons of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class, upbringing or disability, are not often seen or heard when it comes to nature writing. With a foreword by Bernadine Evaristo, and contributions from Kaliane Bradley, Pippa Marland, Testament, Michael Malay, Tishani Doshi, Jay Griffiths, Luke Turner, Anita Roy, Raine Geoghegan, Zakiya McKenzie, Alys Fowler and Amanda Thomson – these are the voices of those whose perspective is not necessarily that of a ‘insider’.

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Women on Nature, May 2021

This scintillating anthology provides a timely new perspective on women’s writing about the natural world.

There has, in recent years, been an explosion of writing about place, landscape and the natural world. But within this blossoming of interest, women’s voices have remained very much in the minority. In Women on Nature, Katharine Norbury has sifted through the pages of women’s fiction, poetry, household planners, gardening diaries and recipe books to show the multitude of ways in which they have observed and recorded the natural world about them, from the fourteenth-century writing of the anchorite Julian of Norwich to the seventeenth-century travel journal of Celia Fiennes; from the keen observations of Emily Brontë to the brilliant new voices throughout our archipelago writing today.
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An Elegy for Lignum Vitae, The Wild Isles, 2021

Indigenous to the Carribean and South America, the wood from the lignum vitae tree (genus Guaiacum) was once most sought after in England. Much of the British West Indies was deforested to extract the wood back to Britain for a plethora of uses. Today, the remnants of this shared legacy are found in the national tree of the Bahamas, the national flower of Jamaica, in British museums and on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list of potentially endangered species. This is an elegy for lignum vitae trees.

I hesitate to mourn the loss of my dear friend Lignum Vitae because he is not gone. We tend to think of the dead as those to be planted in the dirt, buried to start a new type of existence as roots grow underground…
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Gardens of Others with MADEYOULOOK

South African artist collaborative MADEYOULOOK invites you into deep listening to the recollections of various gardeners, activists, artists and writers of colour in Britain and South Africa as they share[…]

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30 August 2021 0

Interrogating collective memory on colonial history with Tender Buttons

Tender Buttons is a Bristol-based podcast chatting to writers and artists about their ideas, process and politics ? hosted by Jessica Andrews and Jack Young. With Storysmith bookshop, Bristol.[…]

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29 June 2021 0


Diversity Outdoors

“Teenager Mya-Rose Craig, aka Birdgirl talks to Zakiya Mckenzie about her love of green spaces and how to increase diversity outdoors.”

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FE Research Podcast

“In this special edition we talk with broadcaster, writer, poet, nature lover, PhD candidate Zakiya McKenzie. We talk nature, wellbeing, history of black journalism, Bristol, Power Rangers and arborist action!”

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How to Diversify the Eco Movement

“Journalist, writer and academic, Zakiya McKenzie, talks to Harriet about the changes she believes need to be made to ensure black, indigenous and people of colour are equally represented within the environmental movement.”

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The Way Through The Woods

“”I know it’s all a matter of rebuilding one’s life. In many ways it’s a matter of surviving and living under another sun, but how was I to do that?”

Listen back to this conversation with writers Long Litt Woon and Zakiya Mckenzie, exploring the power of nature as a source of healing and belonging.”
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Bristol Unpacked with Neil Maggs

“As a leader of Bristol’s Black and Green project, Zakiya is bringing a background in broadcasting and research to connect the inner city with the natural environment and the wider environment movement. Featuring on BBC 4 and across many platforms with writing, Zakiya is a Jamaican born in London and lived most of her life in Jamaica. Zakiya brings a fresh perspective on many issues, and wants to see more radicalism in our thinking about race, class and climate change…and for people to stop being so polite!”

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The Forest by Zakiya Mckenzie

“In this episode, British-Jamaican nature writer Zakiya Mckenzie goes looking for her past in the darkness of the Forest of Dean. Occupied by one night from her youth spent in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Zakiya takes her first trip into an English Forest at night…to discover what the murky history of the Dean can tell her about herself.”

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