Archive | Art RSS feed for this section

History as Territory

1 Jul
image by Luba Lukova

image by Luba Lukova

 

 

 

 
I went to a wonderful talk last night organized by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance on reclaiming feminisms at the grassroots.  The inspirational speaker, Sandra Moran, spoke about planting.  The first part of creating something new is developing an idea, planting a seed.  To do that, you must reclaim what is yours and decide that territory will be where something new can grow.

She mentioned 5 types of “territory”:
1. Your body; 2. Land; 3. Nature; 4. History; 5. Memory

This past year, I’ve been deeply engaged in reclaiming my territories of history and memory, and I’ve done that through writing and reading.  As I continue to revise my play, Tree of Seeds, I’m continually uncovering new connections to my Parsi history, especially that of Parsi women.  This article in particular, about Indian suffragettes in England, struck a chord with me. The first play I wrote (and produced in the 4th grade) told the story of a suffragette who organizes women to march for their rights, and is ultimately killed.

https://i0.wp.com/fwsablog.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/001489-Asian-suffragettes.jpg

Women’s Coronation Procession, 17 June 1911, courtesy of the Museum of London

 

 

Knowing the history of my people, makes my art more relevant and vibrant. As I reclaim this territory for myself, I can populate it with new knowledge, resonance, and meaning.

 

 

What task, what activity could help you to reclaim one of these territories for yourself?  It doesn’t have to be something public, but the simple act of doing something new will lead to regeneration and new revitalization.

 

Remember that? I'm going for another one!

Remember that? I’m going for another one, in a sari!

 

 

This year I’ve decided to write as much as I can.  I’ve started a novel and a TV pilot.

 

T.V. writing is leading me to fun and whimsy.

 
Yes, my TV pilot is about an undocumented teen growing up in Queens, but it is a half hour sit-com filled with humor and a light touch to explore a heavy reality.  I’m learning to go with the joy of using my mind and writing what comes.

The novel writing is the most personal writing I’ve done in my life and is giving me insights into how I see the world, how I see my own story.  I am looking at hurtful memories, crying while I write, and then writing some more.

So what might you want to reclaim for yourself? Which territory do you need to access and repopulate with your own power and brilliance?  Start something, use the talents you have, it will undoubtedly lead to a bigger and more hopeful world!

Free Expression — Free Dimensional

16 Apr

Friends,
I’m using this blog space to make you all aware of a wonderful organization I am on the board of – Free Dimensional.

Since 2006, fD has worked with nearly 200 artists and culture workers, from over 35 countries, who are at risk because of their art.  We help find them safe haven in artists residencies, small living grants, and we develop tools for our partners to use in supporting artists in danger.

Right now we need to raise money for:

  1. One-to-one case management for artists, culture workers and communicators in need of critical personal and professional support
  1. Design and translation of our DIY guidebook for artists at risk (called The Creative Safe Haven Advocacy Kit) into the languages where artists are most in need
  1. Development of 5 ‘artist safety networks’ around the world to provide immediate and accessible response when individuals are in danger

Your contribution will make a real difference in the lives of artists, culture workers and communicators who find themselves at risk, around the world.

Artists inspire us and their communities, but in return they may be harassed, face physical violence, torture, imprisonment or worse fD defends these essential voices, but to do so we need your financial support today.

Below, Lawman Lynch, a political asylee who we helped, writes about his experience.

We want to continue being in the world, helping other artists in danger. Help us to keep going.

by:  Lawman Lynch

Staying in the United States was not by choice, I had to. I woke up to see my car ablaze as a result of it being firebombed while I was asleep – the consequence of stating my opinion as an advocate on a sensitive matter in my home country, Jamaica. Reluctantly, the decision was made to seek political asylum for my safety in the United States.lawman with car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was granted political asylum in January 2011, I realized that to survive in the U.S. with limited resources is a great challenge, but to survive in New York without a support system is an even greater challenge.

… I had no relatives in the U.S. and there are limits to how much friends can help.  The minute I thought I was putting a strain on friends or “helpers”, I felt it was my cue to move on: I moved 17 times within the first 10 months of being an asylee.

fD opened the door for my stability and made my transition to life in the U.S. much easier. fD facilitated 6 months of live/work space at the Flux Factory, giving me a safe and stable space to live while I got on my feet. fD also ensured that I was connected to a network of individuals who were not only able to assist my growth and development, but also share experiences and strengthen each other. The first financial support grant I got from the Rory Peck Trust was facilitated by fD and that grant helped to offset critical living expenses I had, especially in my first year as an asylee.lawman profile

fD plays a pivotal role in the NGO sector, bridging culture and human rights, complementing other programs and building support networks within civil society. fD also makes the transition process of asylees and other vulnerable individuals much easier by connecting us to a network of not just “sayers” but “doers”.

Today I am the Center and After School Program Director for a Salvation Army location in Brooklyn and I’m happy that “The Lawman Lynch Foundation” is building a base here in the United States so that my philanthropic work may continue….

fd-donate-2011-button

 

Donate today! –  make your donation online or send a check payable to freeDimensional to P.O. Box 301, New York, NY 10276

 

 

Longest Night

21 Dec
posted by Farvartish

posted by Farvartish

 

 

 

Tonight, we will pass through the longest night of the year.

We will regain a tiny bit of light, with each new day.

 

 

The end of 2013 seems to have opened a thousand little doors of terror inside me.  This is the first time I am “properly” developing a play.  That means I’m not jumping right into a production process but taking time to write, re-write, show it to others, share my thoughts, and hear the words read aloud. It’s brought me face to face with many of my feelings of inadequacy, superiority, futility, and desperation.  It’s been a long night in the life of this artist.

(What corner of your life needs a tiny bit of light?  Where are those dry, cracked places that can be softened by the heat, smoothed over by warm touch?)

Tree of Seeds by Stedroy Cleghorne

Tree of Seeds image by Stedroy Cleghorne

 

I’ve just returned from London where I was able to attend one of the two readings my play was offered.

Hearing the words read aloud brought clarity to what isn’t working and offered me a sharp view into what needs to change.  Sharp and pointy and slightly painful, but that’s my own inner critic.  The world outside my head offered ripe fruit and juicy seeds to chew on.  It reminds of the thoughts in my previous post about how people, human beings, are the most sustainable and valuable resource we have.

Sharing my misshapen, oozing, little work-in-progress has been a magical window into kindness and consideration.  People across the globe are offering their soft hands, their light touch, to guide this piece along.  Friends and family rallied to help me get to London.  The cast and crew in London offered their talent, their time, and their best thinking  to help  move the work forward.  I returned home with over 60 pieces of paper, audience feedback forms, that give me strength and energy and new thoughts!  And, there are a few theater companies waiting for the new script.

In Central and West Asia, people celebrate Shab-e-Yalda (solstice) by staying up all night together, eating red and orange and yellow foods, especially pomegranate.  They make wishes and recite the poetry of Hafez to each other.  You are supposed to open to any page in a book of his poems and read the first thing you see.  That excerpt is meant to offer some guidance, some insight to you.  Here’s what I turned to today:

“…And the hundred graceful movements
Your body now makes each time
The wind, children and love come near.”
― حافظThe Subject Tonight Is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz

Thank you to everyone who helped me to move along with grace this past year. In the darkness, your hands, your voice, propelled me forward.

The warm wind blows up the edges on the thin grey shroud.  You can reach up and pull it down now.

It’s time.

Happy Shab-e-Yalda, Happy Solstice.

 

On Thanksgiving, Giving Up

29 Nov

After co-leading a wonderful weekend workshop looking at the ways we internalize our defeats and let oppressive messages stop us from going after our deepest desires, I am still asking myself “do I have the courage to be happy?”

That depends. 

Go, don't go?

Go, don’t go?

Do I know what makes me most happy and am I able to see it and feel it clearly? By clearly I mean am I able to see past the layers; the media images of happiness, the broken record of social messages about happiness, the fear that covers any impulse to disbelieve the imposed voices.

While the U.S. is meditating on thanks and having (we talk about giving thanks but isn’t it always focused on what we have — a series of things on a checklist — like a Christmas list?)  I’m walking away from the deeply held notion that I need more money to do what I most want. 

Says it all

Says it all

 

It’s a big intention and it isn’t easy as an artist (and as a raised working class immigrant woman).  I have a clear understanding of how most artists are devalued, ignored, not seen as having importance in society unless their work comes with a huge price tag or media fanfare. 

Art is our human heritage and our birthright.  It goes beyond economics.  In fact, human beings are drawn to art not from a place of money and commerce but from a place of human curiosity, zest, emotion and connection.  Values which are necessary for human growth, social understanding and transformation. 

Friends are so good.

Friends are so good.


These values, are given little monetary value and we need to examine why.  More importantly, why do we go along with it?

Most of how we assign monetary value has little to do with what we truly treasure.  Human connection is what makes much of life bearable, livable. Our relationships (to each other and the planet) give us the sustenance we need to blossom and grow.  Yet we spend so much of our time cultivating relationships with things – thinking that this hamster wheel will get us to a better place. 

What could we think of if we stopped thinking in terms of money?

What could we think of if we stopped thinking in terms of money?

We end up worn out and alone, frustrated at ourselves for not following our intuition, for not acting on the knowledge that our liberation doesn’t sit at the edge of a dollar bill.

So I’ve decided to give up. I must live my values.  I’m giving up on holding back my energy, time, love, and creativity from myself and others because there isn’t money attached to that exchange.  I’m going to work on cultivating relationships with people who will make me a better person, I am going to think big no matter what!

I’m in the process of writing a new play, and somehow it’s blooming.

The postcard for my play

The postcard for my play

Being held up by others who are putting their creative minds into a project they believe in, for no money.  I am grateful for that.  For human reciprocity, sharing, community, and love. 

May you all give up.  May you have the courage to be happy.

Love,
Kayhan


Go, don't go?
Go, don’t go?

 

 

 

The postcard for my play

The postcard for my play

Crafting History

17 Jan

122a

Sometimes I wonder if everything I’ve thought of, everything I’m thinking of, has been thought before.  Often, it’s in bouts of depression and my conclusion is that I’m probably useless and unoriginal.  (Yes, I am being a bit dramatic but that’s me!)

These last few months, however, when I reflect on the originality of my being (how embarrassing) I have been grateful for all the thinking that has come before me.

At 93, Nadja is still making torans. She shows me some of her original sketches in her book.

At 93, Nadja is still making torans. She shows me some of her sketches.

Millions of people, doing the best they could, have lived lives and laid the groundwork for me to do what I do.  Being immersed in the world of craft, it is starting to make more and more sense that originality isn’t highly prized.  It’s nice, but it isn’t the point.

As I’ve been learning how to make a toran (a beaded wall hanging that is strung in a doorway) it amazed me that instinctively I said I’d prefer to follow a pattern that someone has done before.  As my elders have tried to show me new techniques or ways I could change my pattern my stock answer has been “I just want to do it this way until I understand”.

Mani strings the thread needed to weave the beaded toran.

Mani strings the thread needed to weave the beaded toran.

Look at me, I'm learning!

Look at me, I’m learning!

Craft is about following knowledge, putting together history and the information that has come before you.  Piecing together meaning – understanding – through practice.  And only when one understands the story, the hows and whys, can one add a unique element to that story.

 

Making a toran in a traditional Parsi baugh (housing development), surrounded by people who know and appreciate the craft, who display their own torans, who have pieces of the past to complete my puzzle is a unique and vital part of learning the craft.  During the days I could wander the halls and see the different designs and aesthetics at play. I came to see what people appreciated and wanted to project in front of their homes.  People who walked by and saw me at my work recognized what I was doing and inquired about it.

My first little scallops complete!

My first little scallops complete!

Craft is not simply the creation of a product.  It is an assembly of knowledge, belief, skill, context and imagination applied and developed over time to create significant, living things.  Embedded in the process of craft are a multitude of social functions from religious practice to identity formation to relationship building to exercising power to visualizing the future.

The materials used, the process of work, the relationship of craftspeople to their community, the standing of the community within a larger society are all interconnected elements and the relationships constructed between these elements fuel the vitality and development of a craft tradition.  Craft has a soul and craft creates soul.  In order for that soul to thrive all these connections need to be maintained with dignity – human and environmental.

010a

A young woman trains in block printing techniques at the Weaver’s Service Center in Bombay.

 

 

Hey lady, what's your story?

Hey lady, what’s your story?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For craft revivalists and preservationists, the challenge is how to hold this soul and help it do well.  Beyond the economic realm, what responsibility does the revival community have to help heal the social ruptures (oppressions) that have caused the decline and disappearance of craft traditions and the marginalization of craft workers?  How to construct a holistic view of craft revival that honors the complex social web that is at the core of craft work that goes beyond the houses of commerce?

I don’t have any answers but I am eager to follow the threads as I delve deeper into the complex and beautiful world of craft and it’s importance within all societies.

 

Saris getting ready for a steam which will set the color of the block prints.

Saris getting ready for a steam which will set the color of the block prints.

A block printed sari in process.

A sari laid out for block printing.