On November 4th we arrived in Johannesburg South Africa. The day we had been planning and fundraising for was finally here! The airport was big and gray, as thunderstorm rolled in. We met with our fellow Artizens, the Tanzanian Magomamoto Theater Group, along with a new friend Bonface from Kenya.
The drive from the airport to the hotel was a beautiful sign of the power of the arts to bring people together. We shared songs and drums, and sang together in our different languages.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by two local South African women who just so happened to be at the hotel for breakfast, which neither had ever done before. The universe brought us angels to help us accomplish our tasks! The one woman Hanna, my newest friend, assisted us in so many things…. from finding a local woman to purchase fabric from, to taking us to the store two days in a row to gather materials for our workshops. She even took me to the airport on my last day.
Artizen Conference Day 1 – Creation
Our first day of the Artizen – Art for Social Transformation conference was amazing. Jennifer Foylan presented the keynote speech about her journey through the life cycle of the butterfly. While she shared her story, I created a live intuitive painting for her, in front of the group. This was a powerful time to show how art can express our experiences and emotions.
I was apart of the group that presented on the birth of the caterpillar and the transitional stage in the cocoon. Linda M and Raisa J were my team mates, and we each shared pieces of our indigenous knowledge with those who attended.
Day one was the birth of the caterpillar, where Linda shared the creation story and the medicine wheel knowledge and Raisa presented the tradition of ribbon skirts and how each is connected through creator. I assisted the students that attended in creating a mandala based off of a workshop Linda does through her art therapy presentations.
The mandalas were a collaborative group project that started with 4 questions:
Who am I?
Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
Where and I going?
Participants were asked to create a visual representation of their answers to these questions using the mandala template that was pre drawn. Each group member had a task of completing a section, while they worked together on the meaning. After the students created their mandalas, each group shared what it meant to them.
This was powerful because students in South Africa do not get the arts in school. This showed them how powerful of a tool art is to help share your stories and connect with one another.
Day 2 – Begin Ribbon Skirts
Day 2 of the Artizen 2021: Turtle Island to South Africa conference we traveled, with our new friend Hanna, to find fabric, ribbons and sewing machines for the ribbon making workshop we presented for a group of women from South Africa who are domestic abuse survivors.
Along the way we met a beautiful soul at Spirit of Stone and were gifted amazing stones and medicines. Stuart does amazing energy work in South Africa and I look forward to returning again soon to participate in experiences with him!
We were also so blessed to have found a local woman who had traditional fabric from Kenya, Mo_Fabrics_More. It was such a blessing to purchase fabric from her and support a local small business entrepreneur.
The workshop was wonderful. It was at the Turquoise Harmony Institute. Jennifer shared her story and journey through domestic violence and sexual abuse, and Raisa discussed how ribbon skirts are a form of traditional art that is healing. Even though we weren’t able to begin sewing the skirts, we had each woman pick a fabric they wanted to make their skirt from, and we measured and cut the fabric to prepare for the next day, when we worked with the women to add their ribbons and sew their skirts.
We selected fabric with the color purple intentionally, as is the color for domestic violence awareness. The women who were participating in the workshop are survivors of gender based violence, and sexual abuse. They are working with Disele May, who has created the Disele May Foundation to help women overcome these struggles.
Constitution Hill Gala
After the workshop we attended a gala… all I can say is… amazing powerful work was being done there… doors opened… and I am ready. The gala was held at Constitution Hill in the old women’s prison. There were speakers from the beginning of the apartheid, and those that worked to bring democracy to South Africa. The speakers were powerful, the performances were divine, the food was delicious and I was asked to share about my White Buffalo painting “Hope”, which was donated for silent auction. Our day even included another rainbow! Our work is blessed… as we remind each other through art that we are all connected.
Day 3 – Performance Art and Sewing
This day began with a beautiful tour of the only constitutional court in the country of South Africa. It was amazing seeing the structures of the holding cells for the jail used during the apartheid. Getting to spend time in such an historic place that was FILLED with art was super inspirational. It reinforced the need to tell our stories through art to heal past traumas.
After our tour we participated in the keynote speech, and addressed students from another school. Linda, Raisa and I shared our teachings and stories with the students. And they were blown away by our spirit names.
After the keynote, we continued to work with the women who have survived domestic violence, to create healing ribbon skirts. They LOVED it!!
After completing day 2 of 3 for ribbon skirt making, I participated in a performance with Shanna and 12 other amazing artists. It was such a powerful experience to dance free as an Indigenous person from Turtle Island on the land of South Africa.
Lastly there was an art tank competition, where Teaching Artist Institute awarded one local artist with a small stipend and free business coaching for a year. It was amazing to see all of the local talent. Arie Squires also was apart of the conference and she selected one young woman to personally mentor in branding and business!
Day 4 – The last day of the conference
Before heading to the conference, we visited the Tanzania Embassy with our new Tanzanian friends of the Magomamoto theater group. It was the first time Indigenous people visited with the Ambassador. We made history! We sat and talked with the ambassador about using art for social transformation, and we even got to sing the Tanzania anthem together!
After the embassy, we ended the conference at Amajika Performing Arts center. The ladies from Disele May Foundation were able to complete their skirts. It was so powerful to hear their stories and witness the beginning of beautiful transformations, from victims of gender based violence to superheroes reclaiming their power! Thank you Disele May for following your heart so others might thrive.
Shanna taught performance dance to the kids and women there. It was powerful hearing them sing and seeing them do their traditional dances!
While there I created a flower of life community mural to symbolize the connections we all have to one another. Art to remind us we are all connected.
The kids who attend the art center on Saturdays painted it in! Children in South Africa do not get art in school, so Tu Nokwe has different art lessons for them at the center on Saturdays. The children love it so much, they try to come other days as well! It was such a blessing blessing work with them and hear them say how soothing and fun it was to paint! So blessed to bring Creative Balance to South Africa!!
Thank you Kim Poole, Haki Shakur Ammi, and Firdoze Bulbulia for organizing such an amazing event. This was history in the making and I am so excited about the partnerships we’ve created and what change will come from them.
This experience was life changing for myself and so many others. I am humbled and honored to have been able to attend and participate. Thank you to everyone who donated and supported this trip. This is only the beginning.