EVAN IFEKOYA: A BLISSFUL ENCOUNTER

Transcript

B L I S S episode extracts transcript 

Episode 1

Evan Ifekoya: You are listening to conversations on BLISS, with me Evan Ifekoya, a.k.a Oceanic Sage. I am an artist and energy worker, currently based in London. BLISS starts with the question, “how should I speak to those who are ready to listen?”. BLISS calls in the tools our ancestors left us, to do this work. Each episode is structured around a particular word, and I invite contributors to speak to the term as it relates to their own practice. Tuning into conversations on BLISS is you making an investment in yourself. We invite you to lean into BLISS, because BLISS is your birthright. 

EI: You mentioned 432Hz as the frequency that the music you play was tuned to and you also mentioned a listening session that happened earlier this year. Are there any other ways you’ve been working with that particular frequency in your practice?

Hannah Catherine Jones: Yeah, quite a few ways. It’s funny, it’s a nice cycle, us chatting about this in a podcast context because back in June 2018, you come[sic] on The Opera Show. It’s a great show, it’s in the archive!
It’s a great show, and we were playing each other tracks. I think I’d just started to be working with (frequencies), and so had you.

I played this tiny little clip of an excerpt of.. if you search 432H, the first thing that comes up will be a multitude of ‘new age’ imagery videos. There’s just an absolute abyss of those, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s very much like it’s packaged in this way that it’s only that, that’s the only way you can access this kind of frequency. It’s wrapped up in those sounds which is fine, but I’m trying to think in my research I’ve found that there’s not much out there or I’m struggling. The only composers or musicians that are really associated with it as people who intentionally try to make music that leaves the instrument in the moment in that frequency are Mozart, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Prince, who posted about 432Hz, 2016, a couple of weeks before he passed, on Facebook.

I’ve been trying to figure out who’s actually creating music at that frequency. I’m sure the answer is loads of people, and talking about what’s accessible to us on the internet, we haven’t even started to think beyond at the moment. I was just diving through all the things that are on youtube and finding that a lot of people have been, like myself, converting pre existing tracks, from 440 to 432. There’s lots out there, there’s a nice selection of things. Erykah Badu certainly, Jeff Buckley ‘Hallelujah‘. I’m just listing the ones that exist and then I’ve started converting them. 

Also, I can tune the theremin to 432Hz from the get to and I’ve been experimenting with that, but to be perfectly honest I haven’t mastered how to get the full multi-instrumental set up to all be at 432Hz in the moment whilst I’m making it. I’m sure there’s a way, but I don’t know yet, so at the moment I’m mainly making music, that is, it has to say what I need it to say, express the urge of what it is within my practice. But at the same time, meditative, the music that I make is often looping, cyclical, it builds and it goes where it needs to go. I think that what I’m trying to do anyway lends itself quite well to this music, to this frequency.

And of course the other big body of work I’ve been working on that I don’t want to bang on too much about, because I’m a bit saturated. But my actual PhD writing is a broadcast. It slips in and out of 440 to 432 depending on topic, voice, mood. It’s something that I’m using as, in a way, a kind of rhetoric, a frequency rhetoric in some ways to get people to stay with me, so that I can reach them now where we’re not really spending that much time together. We’re not able to go see live music, so how can I reach the person that I’m trying to engage with in a kind of bodily way.

It starts to sound a bit creepy and controlling but I’m not meaning it like that. It’s more like, how can we have this experience that does something to us like when you get goose pimples because you’re in the room and Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s singing? That was the last gig that I saw, and it was with you. Do you know what I mean? How can we try and have that shift of energy that has felt sacred to live performance, you know?

EI: Gosh, wow. So much to say on so many points that you mentioned, but something that comes to mind for me immediately is thinking about this practice as an offering for a new possibility. A new way of being and experiencing, and how, of course it’s hard to really quantify what the impact or results are, but I think just the potential of it, for me is enough. That it has the potential to do this.

Or when I think about what drives me as an artist, it is this desire to be yourself. For the work to be an offering, to open up a new way of orienting or directing, and what i really love about frequency is this offering of a possibility to attune to a specific kind of energy, a specific emotion, a specific frequency. Just to open that up as a possibility. I know that you also mentioned 528Hz, is there anything you could say about that, or any other ways you use that?

HCJ: I don’t even think I fully mentioned what is the relation between 440 and 432, because I was thinking about previous times I’ve said it, and I’m a bit all over the place. Maybe I’ll just outline it.

440 is the frequency that is set to the pitch A. I can’t remember which A, but (when) the orchestra tunes up, they all tune to that A. That is the reference point, a piano in Barbados is the same pitch, it feels the same, it sounds the same as a piano in Nigeria. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know why I’m using those examples…

It’s a standardisation and there’s loads of information out there on different points at which they tried to standardise that. Different theories all wrapped up in different things. I don’t even want to go there. Let’s just say there’s lots of theories about how 440Hz got consolidated and then the 432Hz is just a tuning down, almost like, imperceptible, but felt. The reason 432 is said to be more resonant with humans is that if you work back from 8… with all of these, there’s variations around them, but 8 is the frequency of the human body, the earth, it’s the frequency of nature, 8.

EI: Human resonance

HCJ: Human resonance, yeah. So if you then work up the scale and work your way up, multiples of 8 leads you to 432, which makes sense. It makes sense across a whole load of artistic, scientific, across the board, there’s loads of points where it’s just like ‘why is it not that?’.

Like I was saying earlier, maybe it is the fact that it’s just different, but for me I have a physiological reaction to it, and I also have, I have, had, it continues … a physiological, positive, reaction to 528Hz, which is a frequency that biogenetic researchers use.

They play that frequency because it scientifically heals, it repairs broken DNA. I’m thinking, and I know you’re thinking, if we can have those sounds around us all the time, as peoples who are under constant pressure, strain, stress, in this way that takes years off our lives …

If we can absorb music at a different frequency and that’s going to have some kind of positive affect, effect on our wellbeing, then we need to scream it from the mountaintops! And I’m so pleased to be podcasting, broadcasting, everyone needs to know, tell your mates! Get a 432 converter, you can get free converters online and all that. And that’s just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.

I want you to tell me about which frequencies you’ve been experimenting with and listening to. I’m playing with them at the minute, but it’s a whole world.

EI: Yes. It really is. Ritual Without Belief was the first time I used it within an artwork and that was the Schumann, it was the earth, sort of grounding. The work… I don’t really want this to be about me, but just to also contextualise, the work that I made… There were two shows that I did last year where I made a trio of works, and I used the main space for the Transformer show was 528, which is the Hz I’m now most focused on in new work. There’s a film I’m making which is called Undercurrent 528, [Laughter] and that trio, I use 528 for the main space. Then I did an iteration in Venice where I used the forgiveness frequency, is it 417?

HCJ: I think it might be, yeah.

EI: Yeah and then in the entrance space to the London show I used a grounding frequency, what was it? Three-something.

HCJ: It might have been 8

EI: Yeah I can’t remember off the top of my head, that one, but it was a grounding frequency. I’ve been experimenting and I’ve been researching. That’s where again I was like ‘Wow!’ We’re actually doing…I think the output of the work is quite different but we’re both working with frequencies quite explicitly in our work. That’s why I wanted to have a conversation about this, because like you said, we need to be shouting from the rooftops…

HCJ: I sent that playlist, the ICA playlist … I never released the ICA playlist and then the Owed to Perpetual Healing I think is framed within. When we started talking about it I could almost feel myself remembering that script or remembering the heart space I was in when I wrote that, which was ‘white people need to listen!’. If they’re going to be listening for the frequencies, I want to keep their interest.

I’m being a bit generalising, but diasporic folks, black folks, this is for you to heal. White folks, this is to keep your attention, so you can have a think about what we are saying, have a think about that.

And just remembering how, it was my mum who sent me the 528 frequency. (I was) just so ill with anxiety and depression and nothing was working, and she sent me that and I had such low expectations based on the imagery, based on the link. No offence mum, I love you, you’re amazing, but of course, I listened to it and I was like [vocalising vibration], shoulders, down, tension in the body, down, jaw, relaxed. Hadn’t felt anything like it, it’s amazing. Even if 432 might not work for you, 8 might work, 417 might work.

This is the thing, and I know this is what you’re doing, this is what we’re doing … There’s a lot of talk about frequency and I am very much interested in and absolutely going about my business using the language of music, music technology, everything to try, and, you know, musical metaphors as ways to look at the world.

If it’s an installation, it needs levelling out. Look at the world. It’s whack, it’s totally not ok, there’s too much white noise, there’s not enough bass. Do you know what I mean? And everything in between I don’t know, there’s this idea of equalisation of this huge track and equality. Maybe it sounds quite basic of whatever, when I’m putting it out there, but it’s a way of seeing the world and then using those metaphors as ways to fix it… not fix it… ease off some of the tension there and amplify this thing over there.

This language is important and I think we have to get into our abstract imaginations to even begin to tidy up the mess you know? Of the body, of the communities, of systems, and just thinking what would the world be like if they were pumping out 528 frequencies in hospitals? What would it be like? I don’t know. 

Episode 2

EI: Ooh… [laughter] I feel that. I do. Thank you. Thank you for that energy, honestly, for that vibration. Yeah. In case you can’t tell right now, the vibration is high, okay? It is very high. [laughter]

I wanted to firstly talk about your ongoing project, To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering. I know that you’ve been working on it for a while, creating workshops, ceremony, and most recently, an online residency. Could you tell us a bit about that wider project? Do you have a sense of where you might take things next?

Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson: The wider project. This is straight in there you know!

EI: It’s a big question! Come on now! [laughter]

LDLH: Thank you for that. Thank you for the invitation to be in it. Speaking to and from, and within the wider project. I must start from the place of reckoning, that the project itself was not a project. It was a need. It began as need. I needed space to exist. In a way that meant the reclamation of my creative and artistic practice, as a spiritual behaviour. As a human way of being. In relationship to myself, and others, and the world, through the land. I needed space to bring it all. From that place of need, I have been following it. The project came to me before the name, To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering.

I had to first remember. I first had to be in ritual, to be able to go, ‘ooh, it’s a space’. It’s a space. It’s a project space, but it’s a space that lives within us. No matter how much suppression, and oppression, and dissociation has happened within my life, in my lifetime, and my ancestral lifetime. To sit, to entrap me into thinking it’s not there. It’s not a space. This space isn’t my own. I guess what I’m trying to speak to is that I…

Let’s rewind to where I feel the first beginnings of this project took root. The seed of it. It began when I was in my mid-twenties. I’m thirty-one for reference. When I was making work, within my theatre company at the time. I have a theatre background. In one lifetime I was, still am, kind of, an actor and theatre director. A space-maker. An installation-maker. A creator of a world. That’s what theatre is. And in that world we arrive into a collective consciousness. We beat at the same rate as one another when we share the communion and vibration of a story. The project of To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering, began at a point where that world, that vision of myself as an actor, as a director, as a writer, started to shatter. Because the work that I was creating as a theatre-maker, could not be held, at that time, in that current framework, of theatre-making, that I was a part of.

There’s a whole conversation that I can go into as to what that was, and is. I’m sure the listeners will know, I’m sure you can understand. That shattering, when I was in residency at a huge institution that I will not name… [laughter]

Because I don’t want to give them power. It was at a moment where the love started to come to me, what I actually was doing. I was conjuring, I was summoning. I wasn’t just arriving into a predetermined role as a creative practitioner, and my needs were not met. My spiritual needs could not have been met in that institution. In that way of working. I had a massive break. I completely broke down, I couldn’t do anything. Getting up the stairs was too hard, for a very long time. And in that break, that shattering, and that dismantling, and that pain, something started to grow. I was starting to re-remember the reasons why I first went on this path, I first got called to this path, as a child. Into stories, into making space, into opening and breaking space. From the core of my being, which is the space of anointing, [laughter]

It’s the ancestral anointing. That was the story I was protecting. That was the space I was making and creating, and that’s the world I was craving. And I went through, and I’m still on it, because it’s ongoing. Healing is an ongoing process, a practice of liberating it for myself. Not in relationship to another, and not in relationship to whiteness, which is, [laughter]

Not in relationship to anyone other than my own selves, plural. The project took up space. It was a healing, and I started to feel into the need, for myself, to reclaim all the aspects of my being that I needed to communicate in the world. Then, from that place. I wrote, I wrote again, [laughter]

I wrote ideas for workshops, I wrote ideas for retreats and ways of being. I took myself on retreats [laughter], and ways of being that were actively about the healing of ourselves, as a decolonial action, as an ancestral remembering. That meant, with this new information, with this new knowledge, that I could then return to myself as a maker, as a conjurer. And that’s where To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering— that’s when I gave it permission to exist. That’s when I gave myself permission to manifest it. Yeah I guess that’s the real answer. There’s another answer, which is, I went to LADA, and I said, “hey, I’ve got an idea.” [laughter]

Live Art Development Agency, and they said, “this is a great idea, here’s a very small amount of money to make it happen.” I called in good friends, called in artists that I’d never even met in the physical realm, but I’d met them spiritually, upon application, to come and join me, for a three-day retreat, a residency that I led. With the invitation of two others, to co-facilitate, but we were all creating it together. There was fourteen of us in total. This was in 2019, in Folkestone, at Performance Space. We lived, we created community for seventy-two hours as an immersive experience. I use that term, but the other term is that we were in conjuring together.

And from that place, I moved. I moved with it, to never forget it again. And that’s why I called the project To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering, and that’s why it has many iterations. The most recent one is the online curation residency, which was essentially a communion of folks, to come together, across international time zones and timeframes, to share and visualise the tools that we need to be able to show up and exist and move and heal and rest! Actually.

And for the future, I’m having to close my eyes. I’m having to really search, and allow the answer to come through me because I know the power of manifestation. And when I bring it out it’s there. It’s happened hasn’t it? It’s been said, it’s been written. And I want this space of To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering to grow into a school, a site, a realm, a place, a destination that is within, but is also externalised. I want  to visibilise it, I want to visibilise these practices, and I want to make them as accessible as possible. I want it to be literally in the city. I want us to be bold enough to say our healing, our ritual, our remembering, can exist, literally here. Because we exist here, don’t we? We exist here. I’m figuring out. I’m in conversation with various people to figure out how possible that can be. And understanding the limitations of that as well, in the sense of ‘can it be?’. Can this actually happen here, in this city? Can we really do this? Here? The fullness of remembering here? I guess that will also look like a space where there’s space to grieve, space to create, space to manifest and conjure, manifest to grow. Work with the land, be the land, we are it. To dismantle policies, to be a force. And to create new ones, that don’t police us. How can we create a physical site, a structure, or a building, that does not construct? Those are the questions that I’m applying into To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering, because I do believe in what it means to manifest and visibilise space that lives within. So that it can be named. There’s a lot of things that I’ve just said there and I’m hoping that’s all, [laughter]

EI: I mean, wow! There is just… there’s so much to say in response to what you said. I’m still so deep in the feeling, you know? Of awe, but also of, feeling very, I’m simultaneously feeling held, witnessed, mirrored, so many different sensations, and it’s really warming. To know that in this moment we exist, and we are here, and we’re doing it. And we’re asking these questions, because we believe that, that is why we’re here. Is to ask those questions. I think for me it’s more the work is the questioning, rather than trying to have the answer. Or solidify the answer. I want to stay open to the answers shifting, and morphing and adapting. I really want to be with that, and the energy of that. Yeah, just wow, again, thank you.

I was fortunate enough to experience, to witness, to again, be held, with the closing ceremony for To The Ritual Knowledge Of Remembering, for the online series of events that you put on. I wanted to read some of the event description, if that’s okay with you? Because it really resonated for me. You said the space is, or would be,

“an online creative circle, sharing and gathering space for Black people with marginalised genders, actively creating generative healing, imagining, and energising space, for and by, black, trans, non-binary, cis, women, femmes, gender non-comforming, transmasc* people. That you may identify or feel outside, of the white supremacist construct of gender, and may speak to African heritage, Indigenous diasporic perspectives, positions, and spirtitual formations of gender identity. You are welcomed. Holding space for these creative, spirtitual, queer contributions and experiences, to be in liberatrory, portal, time. Recognising the beautiful insights, activations and survivals, that are visions, dreams, and art, bringing forth in transforming this world.”

And I just want to reiterate, for me, that resonated so deeply because I really understand the importance of really naming and making explicit who a space is for, who it includes. In particular, in spiritual and ritual spaces, sometimes can recreate and perpetuate in much the same way as the spaces we move in, in our everyday realities. And I expect more from these spiritual spaces. Often I’ve been expected to leave my 3D self, the material reality of what it is for me as a Black, queer, non-binary person. To kind of inhabit and move through the world, I’m often expected to leave that behind. it calls to mind for me the importance of creating, cultivating, nurturing the spaces where we can be seen and met as we are, in our truth. And where the light of that truth can shine bright, and not be diminished.

Can you say anything more? I know you’ve already touched on what the naming and the language means to you, but how a statement like that came to be?

LDLH: Listen [laughter], that statement came to be because it affi come to be! It came to me! That’s how it came to be. Listen, when you said that, when you called in my own words, I cannot even… even writing that, I was in an incantation. I had to sit myself down for four hours to write through what this space is about. To ensure its protection and safety, and it’s because… I also got three friends to offer to bear witness to what it was I was writing and to be like ‘how is this language moving through your body?’. One of them was also a practitioner, my friend Danielle, who was a part of that. Of the ceremony.

Because let’s be real, as a human, as humans, as people, we have been on the shittiest end of when spaces have been, we have been told this space is for us, and it ain’t for us. I cannot tell you the number of times I have entered into space where it was apparently for me, even created within a Black liberatory space, and those ones hurt the most, actually. Those ones hurt the most. And I had to move away from certain spaces, my own kin, my own people. It’s really complex and I don’t want to get separatist as well, because I think that’s a reenactment of the violence that we have been on the receiving end of. When I start to do that to myself, and I start to go, okay you have been socialised and gendered similar to me, therefore we must move together. And it’s like, ‘no, we’re not in analysis, and self-enquiry, and in healing of how these systems have been, how we are also in them, and we are not immune to them’. I don’t want to replicate the same violence and harm, that we are essentially trying to liberate ourselves from. It has to go hand in hand. I guess the way I arrived at that language is because I had so many experiences, traumatic experiences. One in particular, a few years ago, that was the feeling of– the feeling of it was our liberation, the feeling of the space, the spirituality that was happening, that was unleashing, and unearthing, and resting in our bodies. As we moved, and we danced in the space for a long time together, in a community that we really built. We channelled. It literally started with four people and it’s now hundreds and it’s all over the world. But the very foundation of it, the very energy of it, wasn’t protected. We weren’t protected.

I, in the way that I move through the world, socialised, and gendered in the way I am, as a Black woman. I move through the world as someone who’s gender fluid, but I also have to call in the woman [laughter], that was wounded in this space due to patriarchy and the way it was manifesting itself, in behaviours. In behaviours, that’s the thing. It’s in action, it’s in how we move, it’s in how we behave.

Because of the wounding of that space, I had to, I needed to go through a place of repair, and go ‘what was it that I was also ignoring? What was it that I was dismissing and not naming by also participating in the space?’. And even when it rubbed up against my spirit, even when I knew there were things not being named, even when I knew that we weren’t protecting the very people who it’s meant to be for. Queer people! [laughter] Women! Black women were not being held and supported in the way that we deserved. And I couldn’t overlook it. My spirit could not overlook it.

And then eventually it got me. The very things that I was trying to repair, I was wounded by, because it turned on me. I needed to be real. I could have just said, I have to sit myself down and read some books and write that language, but no, I had to live the language. I needed to live the embodiment of what it meant to be safe, or what was necessary to call in a space, where the naming of ourselves, was actualised. Where it could be absolutely said from the get-go. And let me tell you there were still people coming into that space who did not identify in the way, or did not move through the world in the way that was written in this language. Even when it was explicit. Even when it was named. That is how much it takes, that’s how much it takes, because the attention to detail is where the liberation is, right? Is where we can free up… free! I will never– literally, it’s as if some people have just come out of nowhere, because I only started using Instagram, and putting my tings out, literally one year ago. And it was during the pandemic that I felt called to name, and visibilise myself, and show up. And it’s because I needed to take the years prior to that to arrive at the language, embody it, and go, ‘this is not just language’. This is principle. This is discipline. This is prophecy, actually. This is prophetic ways of speaking and calling for space. This is me, Lateisha. I stand in this. I stand in the knowledge that I exist, when I wrote that.

And I had to, [laughter] and to just put that out there literally. [laughter] That’s the copy, I ain’t apologising. [laughter]

And actually, the people came, the people who needed it, and felt it, and who it resonated with, and connected, and saw themself, who saw themself in those words. Listen, it’s not even about the words, it’s the feeling. It’s the space that the words point to. The space is something else. That’s my job, is just to point to it. So that we can be in it, and arrive. Yes. There are three answers in that response [laughter], to that question about the copy, the invitation, the offering. What I was saying was necessary. [laughter]

EI: Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness, “the attention to detail is where the liberation is”. Did you catch that? Honestly, that is still ringing in my ears, Lateisha! Honestly, thank you source, for you, honestly, thank you. We are grateful. Again I feel so held by this, so held by what you’re doing. 

Episode 3

EI: You did talk a little bit about it in your response but I wonder if you could give us an overview of what having a session with you might look like and feel like. You did name some of the modalities but maybe you could run us through that.

Rambisayi Marufu: Yeah sure! [laughter] Having a session entails you coming, normally we would have had a short conversation prior, about why you’re coming. When you arrive, we make space to go into that first so that I know exactly what’s brought you to me, I have an understanding of your expectations, of your needs, of where you’re at in that moment. We have a conversation about this and then you tell me what it is you’re expecting or needing from the session. Depending on that conversation that’s what then determines– and obviously at this point I’m also calling on help so that I’m guided to be able to provide for you, what you need on that specific day, and on any given day we need different things. I’m just trying to channel whatever it is, from both our guides so they’re there with us, so that you receive what you need at that time. It could be that you begin with some breathing exercises to allow you to settle into the space, and then I might then go into some chakra balancing so that I know what points to focus on. We might decide that perhaps you need a massage here or there. That we incorporate some of the reflexology. Throughout I also use essential oils, I make a special blend for you, for that moment. I cannot go through the entire thing, but that’s sort of what happens. And then at the end we have another conversation and if anything came to you during the treatment, any thoughts that you had, any sensations, any feelings. We talk about that again and we close the session together.

EI: Mmm, gosh that sounds like a really beautiful experience and I totally get you on not offering out everything because ultimately each session is unique and it is a sacred experience right? The sanctity of that should very much be honoured. I guess there’s also something about naming certain aspects for people who maybe haven’t experienced an energy work session, who don’t really know actually what the benefits of these kind of sessions can be, you know?

RM: Yeah!

EI: On all the levels. Spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, you know? I just wanted to highlight some of that. Alongside your energy work practice you are pursuing an academic career as an anthropological researcher. I’m really interested in how these different aspects of who you are intersect. With that in mind could you tell us a bit about your recent curatorial project, Weaving Archives, which was created alongside your colleagues at Goldsmiths, University of London. And its investigation into healing spaces and the idea of radical love in relation to hair?

RM: Yeah. I am doing a research masters in Visual Anthropology. My medium is– I use hair to think about different aspects of life– of lived experience. I’m thinking about gendered lived experiences, I’m thinking about racialised lived experiences and just using hair as a medium through which to think about these things. I’m focusing on spaces of haircare, because I think a lot of things happen, for us as black people, around our hair, and therefore in the spaces that we turn to for our haircare. There’s a lot of– almost I feel like our hair is an archive of so many different emotions, of so much history, so many stories are held in our hair and that’s why I find it an interesting side to think about different things. We all know about the racialised – our hair is a site of particular racial oppressions. But I’m also trying to think about it as also a site of possibility, a site of creativity, a site of hair and potentially healing. Something about the conversations that come out of the time that we spend doing our hair, getting our hair done. And how these relate to our healing, and our care, and our sense of community. I’m thinking about this as a space, as a communal practice. What was the question? [laughter]

EI: I just asked you to tell us a bit more about that project, what it looked like, what was the experience, some of the media that was on display?

RM: Weaving Archives is still up at Goldsmiths’ University in Kingsley corridor, because of Covid-19 it’ll stay there for longer than it should have but I’m receiving it as a blessing that it’s still up. It is three of us together. It’s co-curated with one of my professors and also an artist Farrah Riley Grey whose work also focuses on hair as a site of thinking about misogynoir. Farrah does sculptures. They construct large sculptures using synthetic hair and use this space as a space to think about community, to think about gendered craft. To think about misogynoir. And my work is also thinking about hair as a site of intersecting structures of oppression. And also as a site of care, as a site of community as well. We have film in the exhibition. We have sculpture, we also have photography. We have sound as well. It’s an experience, it’s a very joyful– but also a space that encourages reflexivity. It’s really difficult to describe. 

EI: That was an amazing description for sure, yeah! Even as you were talking I’m getting a sense of all these different aspects. I wasn’t familiar with Farrah’s work but it sounds amazing. I definitely want to check that out. I can also leave a link to their website as well in the show notes. If anybody else wants to check that out, they should. 

Voice 1: It’s for the parents. My auntie used to come into the house and say ‘why have you done this to her hair? Why is it all tied up? And she could see my try to take it out. And I was only a baby, so you can see, it’s a violation.

Voice 2: With the opposite as well. When you tell all these white parents with adopted children, that their texture was kinky. Their hair’s looking an absolute mess.

Voice 1: Fuck me, I can imagine.

Voice 2: And it’s sad, I would rather go through the pain of having my hair…

Voice 1: Looking like a mess!

Voice 2: Because it’s like they’re going to school with a bunch of white students and they just think that’s their hair, it’s like already giving teas for not allowing a freer sense of beauty standard but also not even feeling beautiful, like your hair’s combed through, moisturised, taken care of. It’s looking ashy and dry. 

Voice 3: These parents should learn if they’re going to..

Voice 2: Or spend– they need to spend money and go to a class.

Voice 1: Even I can’t do hair but I can pull off some singles.

Voice 2: My mom’s learned. I’m not acting like my mom doesn’t have flaws, but at least with hair, she gave me a book that said, ‘I love my hair’, and it was about how this black woman could wear her hair out, and then it shows her with– I can have it cornrowed, like the rows of corn. There was all this symbolism and she was happy, and there’s illustrations by Black American authors. Her skipping with her bobbles clicking, and she was like, ‘when I skip my bobbles click against each other’ and I never thought– by the time I was eleven I wore my hair out. I was dancing so I had to put my hair back in a bun, but I remember I wore it out the first time in sixth grade and the kid behind me was like, ‘teacher I can’t see, her hair’s in the way’…

EI: In the research and planning for our conversation today, I came across an interview that you did about your project, Tirivamwe Crown Stories, where you’re quoted as saying, “your head is your highest point of existence. It is the part of you that houses your consciousness. When I cover my head it is a constant reminder of my connection to my environment and my part in the circle of life”. That really resonated for me. I’ve been on so many different hair journeys in my life. As somebody who really enjoys the process of shedding and reinvention, changing my hair allows me to tap into different versions of myself. Earlier you talked about the hair as an archive which actually, I’d never really considered before but I love that as well. Could you tell us anything more about this project and the intentions you had for it, and perhaps the role it’s played in your ongoing work now?

RM: Yeah, this project – I think it was three and a half years ago, and I remember because my grandmother passed. She was ninety years old back home in Zimbabwe, and she is my father’s mother. That was a tricky time, but my grandmother was a very spiritual person and she always covered her head. I barely ever saw her without a headwrap on, like ever. Only if she was going to bed or– if you were with her during those kinds of intimate moments, that’s when you got to see her hair, which she always kept short. But she always works a white duku we call it, which is a Shona word for headwrap or headscarf. And it was a spiritual practice for her. When she passed I wanted to do something to honour her. I was in mourning and I really just wanted to celebrate her instead of just grieving. I wanted to celebrate as well as grieve, and this was the way that I was inspired to. I’ve always loved wrapping my head as well, but at this particular moment it was really about connecting that practice ancestrally. I did this thing called one hundred days of, what was it called? Was it a hundred days of crown… how could I forget? Terrible. Anyway, it was a hundred days and I started by posting every day, my own headwraps. I’d post every single day and then as I went along I started to ask other people to send my pictures of their head wraps as well so that people that were also engaged in the practice, and I started to post on my social media, other people who were also engaged in the practice, and asking them to tell me what it meant for them. What their crown meant for them. As for me, wrapping my head is about connecting myself with all of those people. All of my ancestors, all of those people that I grew up seeing, that did the same thing, and knowing that I am also part of that line of people who engaged in this practice. And feeling like I am actively continuing if that’s a thing, continuing, just depends how we’re thinking of our time, and feeling like it’s a way of connecting with them. And also for me it’s a grounding practice as well. When I cover my head, I feel rooted, I feel protected, I feel grounded. I have this reminder of the fact that I am one of so many and that whatever it is that I’m doing, it’s not new, it’s been done before, and I have been given the code for so many things. And I can access this, and I find that really really comforting. And I feel like our head, our crown, is a point where we receive so much from outside, so also covering it, as I said, is a form of protection. If I’m going into a space where I’m not quite sure what’s happening there, if there’s a lot of people, if I feel like for some reason, I’m unsure of that space, then I just find myself wrapping my head. Or if I’m wanting to go into a particular time of contemplation or meditation, then it’s also a practice that I engage with for those kinds of reasons. It’s very grounding. That’s why I did it, that particular project, in that way. I just wanted that concentrated, a hundred days, to honour, to celebrate my grandmother and everybody else that engages spiritually with that practice.

EI: Mmm… That’s gorgeous thank you for articulating that. The fact that to cover your head, it’s protection, it’s grounding and it’s also– I definitely feel that… often when I’m out it’s a way of just making sure I’m not taking in all the external energies and goings on. It’s kind of a shield in a way. People think it’s just a durag but…[laughter]

RM: You’re totally right. Yeah, did I cover the entire question, was there something else to it?

EI: I think you did. I guess there’s a point in the role it’s played in your ongoing work, maybe you could come back to that?

RM: Yeah. I suppose I’ve always thought about the head as a site of so many things [laughter] so it was only natural that I connected to hair as well because I’m always doing different things with my hair. I’ve always loved experimenting with my hair. I see my hair as part of my dress, it’s part of my clothing. As much as– also with a headwrap, as much as it’s also a form of grounding, protection, all of those things. Also it’s fashion as well, it’s also about creativity, because thinking how am I going to wrap my hair? How am I going to do my headwrap today? Also is about tapping into some kind of creativity and thinking ‘what colour should I have it? What fabric? What texture? All of those things. I think about my head the same way. How do I want it? What colour do I want it? It’s a material that I use as an expression of my own creativity, as a means to communicate that, communicate how I’m feeling. To communicate where I want to be, all of those things. I feel that the practice of head wrapping, and thinking through our hair just felt quite– it felt like a natural connection. It felt quite natural for me.

EI: And also for context I should add that your hair is currently dyed a really gorgeous shade of pink, listeners, just to give some context of how Rambi be rolling with them colours [laughter] honestly it’s gorgeous

RM: I don’t know how long it’s going to last but thank you [laughter]

EI: The next time I see you it could be somewhere else, who knows, but I’m up for always being surprised. 

RM: And that is the gift in our hair as well, that we can do all of those things. I’m really not someone who’s attached. I am attached to my hair in the sense that I’m always thinking about it and what to do with it but I’m not because I can quite easily just wake up tomorrow, shave it all off, or completely change the colour, or whatever, and I find liberation in that.

 


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Posted on October 8, 2021
Categories: Arts, Health & Wellbeing, O N C A Projects
Tags: , ,

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