Tag Archives: women

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!

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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.