Community Painting: Healing Together!

Photo by Cindy Lee;Feminista Futurisms: Afro-Indigenous Muxeres in Hip Hop; Intellectual House, Seattle, USA; 6/3/2019; An untitled elected piece inspired by the phrase “Vivas Nos Queremos”; Project led by Milvia Pacheco of MÁS, Movimiento Afro Latino Seattle

Throughout the Feminista Futurisms: Afro-Indigenous Muxeres in Hip Hop event, Milvia Pacheo of MÁS, Movimiento Afro Latino Seattle, invited all attendees to participate and contribute to a community painting that has been worked on since Dialogue Más hip hop, más muxeres, mas resistencia on June 1st, 2019.

The intent of the project is to provide an opportunity and space to reflect on the words and ideas that were shared. When interviewing Pacheo, she stressed the importance of how coming together and responding to our experiences has power. The base of the painting is a silhouette of a Black woman to reclaim the bodies of women. Pacheo shared how she specifically used her body as the silhouette and painted spirals around areas in her body where these ideas stirred emotion and created a response. She asked attendees to respond in a similar way and paint or draw on the area of the body that responded and depicts how it felt.

At the moment, there is no name for the project but has the phrase, “Vivas Nos Queremos “ or “We are alive”. This phrase is what drove the process and inspiration for the project.

When observing the piece, I could feel the different emotions and feelings that each person has contributed. There are works that expressed pain, celebration, frustrations, and empowerment. When everything is shown in one piece, it is beautiful. These raw emotions and moments of healing are preserved and accounted for in a way that speaks louder than an academic journal could ever record.

UPDATE: 7:00 PM

I love how attendees of all ages are participating in the project. Personally, I grew up in an environment that taught me from a young age that my body is dangerous and that I must always be modest and cover my skin. I love that children, specifically young girls, are painting around a bare body and having fun. I hope that they continue to gain exposure to become comfortable with their body and to grow up knowing how beautiful their bodies truly are.

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Anticipation Builds! (Group 1, Feminista Futurisms: Afro-Indigenous Muxeres in Hip Hop, Post #1)

Photo by Estey Chen; Trish Hoy and Anders Peterson setting up our ofrenda; Feminista Futurisms: Afro-Indigenous Muxeres in Hip Hop; Intellectual House, Seattle, USA; 6/3/2019; Group 1 Setting Up
Photo by Estey Chen; Trish Hoy and Anders Peterson setting up our ofrenda; Feminista Futurisms: Afro-Indigenous Muxeres in Hip Hop; Intellectual House, Seattle, USA; 6/3/2019; Group 1 Setting Up

My group, which included Trish Hoy, Anders Peterson, and Ian Platou, chose to dedicate our altar to sites of environmental degradation and exploitation as a consequence of human actions. Out altar recognized the

My group, which included Trish Hoy, Anders Peterson, and Ian Platou, chose to dedicate our altar to sites of environmental degradation and exploitation as a consequence of human irresponsibility and greed. However, our altar also recognizes those sites of environmental exploitation as sites of healing.

Throughout the quarter, I think my group was not alone in feeling perplexed about how we would complete our final project. The idea of building our own altar seemed so abstract and like a project we were ill-prepared to tackle. However, as I watched our altar come together as we built it from scratch just an hour ago, everything started to click.

The most exciting part of the set-up was playing around with rearranging, adding, and removing objects/images to arrive at our ofrenda as it stands. We experimented with which images best complemented our theme, ultimately arriving at a mix of photographs, drawings, and digital artwork.

While there is no singular definition of what an ofrenda includes, I am impressed by how legit our ofrenda looks.

Encuentro- Honors class, Live Blog #1

Us students have just finished setting up our altars. We, collectively, worked in our groups to create our altars. The altars are all unique and different, and are beautifully made. The majority of the altars have been made with three boxes, and have various fabrics as covering. The lights include tea lights, candles, LED electronic lights, and mini lantern lights. Us students have placed the altars in the front of the room on three tables, and the chairs are arranged in a semi-circle, to contribute to the cypher. There are various themes for the altars and the set up of the altars was finished by 5:30 pm.

Encuentro- Honors class, Live Blog #2

Now the encuentro has officially begun, and it starts with two student speakers from the University of Washington. These students introduce the encuentro and preview the schedule. Thanks and recognition is given to the indigenous peoples whose land is inhabited by the university buildings. After the speakers are introduced, the audience is then asked to listen to the song of Sombrero Blanco, which is a song of aruna (a way to call people of Ecuador) and asked to explore this way of feminism. The lyrics to Sombrero Blanco are shown on the screen while the music is playing, in addition to the music video. After this video is shown, Black mama performs her song Queremos La Verdad, with Caye Cayejera.

Encuentro- Honors class Live Blog

Us students have just finished setting up our altars. We, collectively, worked in our groups to create our altars. The altars are all unique and different, and are beautifully made. The majority of the altars have been made with three boxes, and have various fabrics as covering. The lights include tea lights, candles, LED electronic lights, and mini lantern lights. Us students have placed the altars in the front of the room on three tables, and the chairs are arranged in a semi-circle, to contribute to the cypher. There are various themes for the altars and the set up of the altars was finished by 5:30 pm.

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #7: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 3)

 

One of the maestras, shared her experiences on growing up in a community where womxn have not traditionally been allowed behind the drums. When she decided to pursue the journey of learning anyways, she took it as a very big responsibility: She spent her life seeking out maestros and maestras, learning from their lessons and working very hard. “When I get behind the drum I am a different person: It is a shield from the rest of the world.”

Following up to these thoughts, Iris Viveros suggested that through music we disrupt things as they are, and we create something else apart: She mentioned something that I’ve thought about many times, which is that music and especially this kind of community dance, we fight the neoliberal notions of individualism, and we realize that without the context of our traditions and oral histories, we don’t make sense, the artistic process is not complete. Herself as a graduate student, she commented how competition is incentivized between students. Be the first one to do this, achieve this before anyone else! At some point it’s very easy to let your goals losen in between this frenetic competitive spirit that in some way yes, it motivates us to get to different places, but at the same time it creates a lot of stress in the individual, and it tricks us into believing that we are in this journey by ourselves.

One time I found myself pushing my partner to also take on these kinds of challenges: He loves reading all kinds of books, but most importantly comic books and graphic novels. It was his biggest passion as a kid, and now as a young adult his journey continues. Every time I let the anxieties of future and this neoliberal world take on me he reminds me, my goal for life is to read every single comic book/graphic novel”. Let me be on my journey, on getting to know the different artists. I do not seek money or titles, stability. I seek freedom and a community. I will not die of stress and a poor live, stripped of community and art. These words resounded very well within me as I later spoke with Iris Viveros.

She commented how she knows many professors who have passed away of cancer, how it is so strictly linked with stress and anxiety. And how being part of communities that celebrate dance like this one, can help so much. We are meant to join these kind of practices, aren’t we? When I was looking at the children during the event having fun next to their parents who were relaxed as well, it reminded me how “an entire village is needed to raise a child”, and I reminded myself how we should never treat ourselves as if we had grown up all the way, and we did not need of that village to continue educating each other.

That is how I have decided that I will start looking for dance classes and overall, for a community  like this to join and to learn from!

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #6: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 2)

 

As the Q&A Section of the event carried on, a we were analyzing “what art did to everyone”, the tone of the answers started shifting especially towards the act of healing through art. I personally related a lot to this characteristic that art brings to our lives: Since the age of 16 I have experienced constant periods of mental instability that have made It difficult for me to remember that I am worth my goals and my achievements, that I should always keep going, even when I am the one standing on my way. This year I started singing more constantly in a cabaret show that we organize with what I call my latinx adoptive family of friends here in Capitol Hill, and being able to express myself artistically has at least opened a way of being that I had forgotten while I was buried under the academic institution that has seen me grow since the age of 3. All I can think of now, is wishing for my college days to be over so I can go home in the evenings and rehearse, meet with my friends and continue building what we started!

 

One of the maestras opened up her past, exploring the intersectionality of her being POC and an artist womxn: “I think that dance and art is what made me possible. As a child I carried a lot of pain, I used to think I didn’t deserve love. But through music and dancing, as I was trying to discover who I am as an artist, I realized I was looking for a home, for validation. Art for me, is what made this realization possible. I had been trying to hid my blackness all my childhood: Getting into drumming and dancing helped internalize this process.” 

 

Art gives you the mental space to be able to walk without fear and with assentation. With proudness”.  – This is a phrase I will never forget, because it is true! That is why we need art so much in our lives! Another maestra followed up with her own comment on the subject: Art gives you a sense of belonging, it makes us feel as if all of us are here together and having our part to play. If I come and I listen to you singing in the coro, I will involuntarily join in the singing!

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #5: Thoughts shared during the Q&A (Part 1)

 

At around 3:30 pm, we all brought the chairs back into the space, and sat happily and sweaty, still getting out of the trance that the experience of dancing and singing in unison produces. The maestras were given microphones, and asked questions that I tried to type as fast as I could. These are  some of the answers, which were open and profound. Like the feminists they are, they constantly intertwined with their bringing up, and what communities helped them become who they are. They all emphasized the importance of creating spaces like these for mothers and children, so they can be participants of the artistic process, and have the children learn as they grow up. What does art mean to you? That was a question whose answers I will not forget:

Some mentioned how art means to heal and to decolonize themselves: Amarilys Rios commented: I make music and music is my therapy. I don’t know how else to explain it. Music is your spirit, the universal language. What better connection is there than this one?

Denise Solís commented that art is the creation of spaces where 2 spirt folks like herself, feel welcome to come in. It’s a space where folks can come in however they need to come. This is what bomba is to me.

One of the maestras, explained how she had been practicing bomba since she is 5 years old. “Bomba is what I live, what I breathe… it’s where I am the proudest. My main thing in bomba is singing, touching souls, messing with energies.”- I personally found this very true, and something that every artist I have ever known has shared when I ask about the purpose of art. Being able to touch other people’s spirits, to see them heal and heal with them is a kind of magic that only art can create. That is why at the Womxn’s Action Commission, we want to bring as many artistic forms as possible!

Iris Viveros shared her experiences when it comes to art, in relation to Fandango from Veracruz, and the “zapateado”. For me fandango is family, because people in Fandango come from different backgrounds. I don’t want to romanticize the language and the space, but I find it to be a zone where we can find solutions for a more productive, egalitarian society.” – I found Viveros’s reflections very interesting, because we started discerning the individual dance, and focusing on the community, as well as how it helps carry on social movements.

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #4: “Hey mamá, se quema la hacienda mamá”

 

As we were all moving with the punteado, we were told that we always had to “bring our swag” with us. “Put your hands on your hips, always carry your chin high!” we were told by the maestras, as they danced and did the saludos towards the drums with a very serious expression, to me it was the graphic definition of pride. I love how they communicated with us in a similar way that I do back home: Sometimes there are no words to describe a step to take, so we use the rhythm of what the step sounds like to explain it:

 

Listen to the drums! Takatakata  Tukutukutu if they drummed closer to the center of the drums, you could very clearly hear the tukutú , lower pitch, clearer. But if they hit the drum on the outer area, the takata was the dominant. Watching the maestras respond to these different pitches was like seeing them call the drum and respond to it’s rhythm, or the other way around. There was a moment where you weren’t exactly sure who was singing and who was responding. And this ended up translating onto the music.

 

I had a friend from Puerto Rico who came to visit, his mother is form there and we grew up listening to this music on the weekends. He commented something that immediately after the maestras said: “Do you realize that the call  – and respond song they’re singing become another instrument of it’s own? As if the calling was a chord or a takata that the drum is playing? – At first I thought, of course! The voice is another instrument (I always tell myself that  since I sing but don’t play other instruments and I feel strange about it).  But then when the meastras commented that now they were going to sing a phrase and we would have to answer the first part:

 

“Heey Mamá! Se quema la hacienda mamá”   – Heyyy Mamá! – And we all responded in chorus, I realized that without our voices, the dance and the music just wasn’t the same.  We were told that in bomba, there is always this kind of response. And we all sang it together: At this point there was almost none who wasn’t participating! Even people from outside would take a peek once in a while. I have always been drawn to the act of being part of a larger chorus, because only then you feel that your vibrations coming from your lips are joining something larger than your space… We learned that Juba is an ancestral dance, and that it is danced with family members.

Group 3, Womxn Who Rock (un)conference, Live Blog #3: Honoring el saludo

 

Now that all the dancers are in their salsa, (as we say where I come from) we learn the basic steps of the paseo: The punteado, which means to signal with the tip of your left or right shoe: It’s funny, I recalled that lesson we had at class where we drew the connections between “cowboy dance” and vaqueros from Mexico.. when you learn vaquero style, first thing you are told is to do the punteado as well! When I was growing up in the little town where we would spend our summers, there was a farmer who was the local vaquero dance teacher. He would teach in our local parties at the square of our town, and mostly elder farmers would be really into it:  I am sure we could also find connections with the performing of the masculinity identities that we mentioned in class, and how one style has influenced another.

 

But going back to Beacon Hill, this time we were in a womxn-lead circle. And the punteado marked the strength of what we had described previously as the power of circle dance as a protective container: Instead of trying to prove anyone our virility, we were celebrating shared ancestral oral histories. One thing that really called my attention was the practice of giving a saludo to the drums, once in a while. I found it a very feminist practice, since in all my GWSS class, we have been told that a number one rule for the feminist framework is to acknowledge all those members of our communities who have contributed to the creation and spread of knowledge, who have made us who we are. So acknowledging a 400 year old instrument as part of this music practice is very important. I would like to learn more history on it, but since we know that these maestras are defying some traditional rules that would not allow womxn to be behind drums or perhaps leading these workshops, the salutation to the drum who for many generations wasn’t played by a womxn, is a beautiful healing practice (at least in my eyes!)