Learning How to Fly
"Learning How to Fly"
2016 - 2022
Making Ourselves Known and Unknown
Lessons from an Ancient Tree and a Dolmen
An Exercise in Speaking to our Ancestors
Home is Where you Lay Your Head
The Origin of Water, The Origin of a People
Series of projects centered around notions of belonging and acceptance as they relate to identity and the process of recognition and oppression of minority groups.
"Learning How to Fly" is a series of projects started in 2016, initially focused on my mother’s identity as a Lumbee tribeswoman with no legal acknowledgment, the project has evolved into a narrative-building and research-based work concentrated on discovering my ancestral history and making myself receptive to the journey of introspection.
This project includes many iterations taking place in different parts of the world, topics include working with ancestors, homeland, and identity, exploring different ways of engaging with land, and designing workshops rooted in Indigenous knowledge with children.
Making Ourselves Known and Unknown"
Weaving together through words and photography my relationship between my mother and my mother's mother in both life and the after life.
"Learning How to Fly: Making Ourselves Known and Unknown" is featured on an online platform titled "Njihova tkanja" is for the exchange of ideas and thoughts about woman’s self-organization and woman’s maturing process under given circumstances.
"The most intimate conversation I had with my mom was a remark she made nonchalantly “Never marry for money, marry for love.” I regret not digging deeper into this remark, but at the time I was so sure of myself never to marry, "I said you don’t need to worry about that".
Only later after she left us, I realized how remarkable that comment was. It gave me so much insight into the relationship she had with my father. All the days and nights lying in the bed with headaches meant so much more."
Read the full essay.
"Lessons from an Ancient Tree and a Dolmen"
Red Door Magazine #26, The Resilience Issue
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A published essay with photographs documenting a conversation on how to live between myself, an ancient tree and a dolmen in Girona, Spain.
"Learning How to Fly: Lessons from an Ancient Tree and a Dolmen" is a short essay with photographs published in a printed magazine called Red Door, created while in residency at Fundacion Flacquer in Girona, Spain.
On the land of Masia del Flaquer, in Girona, Spain. I spent mornings with an ancient tree and evenings with a dolmen.
Within the tree, I accessed a portal of wisdom that lives deep inside us all, in which we spend a lifetime trying to remember. Together, we pondered the ideas of mutual understanding, harmonious relationship, reciprocity, the balance of give and take, and the art of remembering.
Within the dolmen, I connected to the essence of being, joy, love, and compassion. We wrote together instructions on how to live; 'Sing the songs, play the drums, use your voice, love without fear, laugh (it holds vibration), trust (stop asking for validation), be active and move the body, listen (really listen), join hands and dance, love thy body, connect to the earth, connect to the sky, eat well and live well, share, write and co-create, build communities.'
In conversation, we questioned; 'How do we connect to the land?’ 'How do we connect to someone else’s land?’ 'What lessons can we learn?’ The importance of knowing in order to know the other.
On the day my ancestors surrounded me on the island of the tree, I was reminded that I am a survivor and a warrior. I am the tree, and the earth supports me, and my roots dig down deep. In my mind’s eye, I see the season change, the water filling the low places with the dead fallen leaves for the cycle to begin again, for I too, begin again, again and again.
An Exercise in Speaking to Our Ancestors"
The Calvert Journal
Under the Same Sun, documentary
A public intervention and installation on ancestral relation to our land, our people and to our trade, as a way for us to connect to our past, our place and our future selves.
"Learning How to Fly: An Excercise in Speaking with Our Ancestors" was a featured project of first-ever contemporary art festival in Stepanakert, Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh)
During the festival, I set up a table at the entrance of the theater and asked visitors to write a private message on a piece of paper to an ancestor of the land, of their trade, or to their family lineage. Then together I showed them how to fold the paper into a paper airplane and asked them to set it free and let it fly. The following day I collected all the paper airplanes and added them to an installation made in one of the rooms of the theater. I did not read the paper airplanes that were left behind in the theater to remain as an ancestral homage.
Working with our ancestors connects us to our deeper selves, our values, and our intentions. It gives us the opportunity to ask for guidance, love, and direction and bridges the gap between the past and the present. Working with our ancestors can provide a source of growth and reclamation of who we are. Having this dialogue reminds us we are all interconnected. They speak through us but we also speak to them in the actions that we do, what we say, how we think, and how we see ourselves in the world. We have the power to command, create and imagine ourselves to be.
"Home is Where you Lay Your Head"
"Uproot" Exhibition, Smack Mellon
An intimate space, inspired by my stay in Standing Rock camp, to share my experiences around identity and home featuring photography, documentation, objects and maps.
"Learning How to Fly: Home is Where You Lay Your Head" is a public engagement project that focuses on stories of identity and homeland that includes an installation that features my photography.
I provide an intimate space (a temporary shelter, a home away from home) to share my experiences around identity and home from the perspective of a mixed-race Indigenous person, coming to terms with their relationship with their people while healing the past and forging a new identity for the future.
This shelter, inspired by Standing Rock while living in a tent at the camps, also parallels and references the refugee and migrant crisis happening all over the world in the present day.
My focus is on indigenous people denied identity, civic rights, land, traditional culture preservation, language, and opportunity from a hegemonic oppressor.
Through photographs taken over a span of seven years, my conversation will include the B’doul Tribe of Petra, Jordan who were forced to abandon their semi-nomadic life for the nearby settlement of Umm Sayhoun. Social interrogations also commented on are the Palestinian struggle for statehood, the impact of neo-colonialism on Greenlandic culture and identity post-establishment of Home Rule, and the historic gathering of tribes and allies at Standing Rock, North Dakota to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline. Lastly, I will touch upon my people, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and their fight for recognition by the U.S. Government.
This dialogue through photographic images with visitors will be an exercise in self-expression, which will strengthen and empower my voice. It is my aim that such a gesture will engage others to share their own stories around home and identity. It will also provide an opportunity to inspire new work based around these exchanges and topics.
This project had two iterations in Brooklyn NY. in 2016. Featured project at Red Hook Open Studios and "Uproot" exhibition at Smack Mellon.
"The Origin of Water, the Origin of a People"
A poetic, photographic and video diary connecting the Indigenous relationship to water inspired by the water protectors of Standing Rock movement.
"Learning How to Fly: The Origin of Water, The Origin of a People" is poetic, video diary connecting the Indigenous relationship to water in Ilulisaat. Greenland, in Pembroke, North Carolina, and Mandan, North Dakota.
"Like water, we spread deep and broad. Like water we travel quick from the North to the South, East to the West. Like water we cannot be contained."
"The Sun takes us. We join together as clouds and shift with the wind. We concentrate into ice and float on the sea, with no beginning and no end."
"When we are invisible we still exist. When we are in mass we cannot be ignored. Our weight is far greater than what appears on our surface."
"Together we move mountains. Welcome to the great expansion."
"Sacred Space Rituals"
Day 1: Alters for the Four Elements
A series of sacred space rituals on dreams, element alters, medicine wheel, and ancestors, designed for an intensive workshop program in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland.
"Learning How to Fly: Sacred Space Rituals" was a featured project for children from East Iceland at the Fish Factory Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland. I designed a series of three sacred space rituals that all the attendees were invited to participate in each day. Included installations with found materials, gameplay, and performance.
Day 1: "Alters for the Four Elements"
I placed altars in the room at North, South, East, West, and Center coordinates. All were invited to add to the altars. I shared my insight about the elements, and they shared theirs with a particular focus on Iceland. We discussed the characteristics of each, our natural affinity for a particular, and the wholeness of them all. Children were especially keen on talking about animals and the element that represented them. Over the course of the workshop, I photographed the altars.
Day 2: "Dreams"
I added a giant dream catcher (made from found materials and string) and a dream box and asked attendees to write down their dreams on sheets of paper and slide them into the box without writing their names. I discussed with the children the story behind the dream catcher and the importance of recognizing and verbalizing their dreams in sleeping and waking life.”
Day 3: "Medicine Wheel"
I added local crystals and rocks creating the shape of a medicine wheel that included the Earth, Fire, Air, and Water altars. I asked the children to come up with an animal for each stone that best represented its position to the alters in the wheel. For example, if it is a stone between water and earth to find an animal that possesses both of these characteristics, a polar bear (who lives both in water and on land). We also included animals from Icelandic folklore and stories.
Private Event: "The Spiral Dance Ceremony"
Coming together at sunset with a view of the sea, we joined together in a spiral dance – a meditation on the ghosts of our DNA. Together with the beat of a drum explore our inner DNA and the mysteries it holds with those that gave life to us and walked before.