DEEP WORK / DOWNLOAD

Faces are what I used to distinguish an identity. Two eyes, nose and mouth - like a mathematical equation that equals an ancestry. A friend of mine never met her father. I asked her, would she rather him have been around and abusive, or as absent as he has chosen to be? Her answer moved me: "I would have liked to understand my face."

But lineage is a tricky thing. The research for the WM2017 "The Download / Deep Work" Collection has given me more questions than answers. In a sense, we all come to earth and receive a download. From the abyss of yet-to-being, to a moving thing with a soul + identity. Our cultural identity is software that we download when we enter the system out from the womb.

This software is what I (and many others around me and before me) am trying to disrupt, deconstruct so that we can be free. This software tell us what time is: the year of our Lord 2017 or w/e, that there are 12 months in a year, that a day starts at 12:00am. All of this affects our perception of life, and has been a result of colonization process that started a long time ago (we use the Gregorian/Roman calendar). In my previous collections (WM Theories + Cascade Collection) I explored time as non-linear, and visualization as a super power. Thanks to my Yoga Teacher, I was informed about the measurement of time of the Dogon Tribe, which supported me with an even better articulation of what it means to rethink our perception of time.

I am unpacking the notion of linear time in order to more clearly experience the present. I want to experience new ideas and realizations about the life-death-life cycle, ones that place me in a continuum instead of a start-finish ideology. I want to view my face as a portal to my ancestors, something I can see through, so this is an ideology I can use to more easily access my greatness.

When I was younger, I felt and took on my mother's frustration and my fathers posture. Habits, and the way I've responded to situations in my life were based on trying to please my mother, or remain in the favour of my elders. From my Father, I absorbed a sense of aloneness, and sensitivity. I became self-critical, self-absorbed, and an over achiever. Like all parents in this imperfect world, they carried their trauma through their lives and it permeated their parenting. Their parents did the same to them, and this pattern goes back and back and back. I am so grateful that my parents realized the abuse they experienced as children must stop with them. Thanks to their effort, I now have a more solid ground to stand on; I have grown to find my own way to inner peace. I can choose empathy instead of judgement, and I can forgive others, knowing that in turn I forgive myself.

Knowing/learning what I know now about trauma and abuse, the choice to remain hurt is my own. Each present moment is a chance for me to realize that suffering is a part of life that I can learn from. Also, I know that this intergenerational violence is a direct result of violent colonialism, slavery and racism, and toxic masculinity/patriarchy. Therefore I cannot even fault my grandparents, or my great-great-great-grandparents - violence as a form of discipline is all they knew, and it was true for them.

Fortunately for me, I was manifested in this now, 'a womyn of colour' in 'the queen's Canada' in the 'most multi-cultural city in the world' as a 'millenial' with the agency to make all sorts of self-discoveries and realizations. What I experience now is the sensation of choice. Not just who/how I want to portray myself, but how I want to experience time, and what I want to feel, from moment to moment. All of the choices are mine - how to react to challenge, how to face my fears, even how to view history. 

I am learning to meet my suffering with acceptance and empathy. I feel that every time I dive deep into my pain, my intergenerational trauma, I am able to uninstall the software, and return directly to the source of peace and love.

It is with this energy, and a consciousness of respect for the natural environment, that I present Wild Moon Jewelry 2017 Collection "DEEP WORK / DOWNLOAD". An eco-conscious collection that incorporates recycled beads and recycled silver as a celebration of respect, integrity and unconditional love from the source of life energy, Mother Earth. Big thanks to the team who helped to develop the imagery and inspiration around the jewelry especially the Womb Circle group members, Mecha Clarke, Ayisha Gariba, Rais Clarke-Mendes, Anthony Gebrehiwot, Knicco Hodge, Jade Lee Hoy, and all my fam & friends who supported me to grow this year! In addition, special thanks to the United Nations Association in Canada Green Corps Program for supporting this collection! My heart overflows with gratitude for you all who have contributed in your own ways to this soul translation.

 

Talk to the plants, as them what they think about the world. Talk to your body, ask it what needs to change. Life force is everywhere - running in lanes we don’t see. The litter blocks the flow - the litter in the rivers, in the underground water ways, like emotional blockages - preventing us from realizing the full potential of our lives. 
Asia Clarke
THE HYPHEN - My Story in CBC Radio's Celebration of Canada 150

I was very proud to be asked to share my story of what it means to be Canadian, amongst 149 other amazing creative, resilient and beautiful women of colour. My piece titled "The Hyphen" dissects what it means for me to be a -Canadian, and how my formative life experiences helped me create and transform my own identity; which is still evolving.

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THE HYPHEN by Asia Clarke

My experience of being ____-Canadian is about the dash. The thing that implies duality, connection and disconnection.

I grew up in the 90s in Malvern, a former priority neighbourhood in northeast Scarborough, Ontario. I went to an elementary school with mostly kids of colour. I went on to a very diverse high school, where my three best friends were Trinidadian, Filipino, and Tamil. Even though we were born here, we knew we were hyphenated Canadians. Being Canadian for us was always an addition. As a kid, I remember noticing that all my friends were people of colour, but it was hard to spot commercials with people of colour in them between episodes of our favourite cartoons. I was young when I realized that people of colour were an afterthought for mainstream Canadian culture.

I was born in Canada, but I was always asked where I was from. My identity, therefore, became one of explaining lineage. I was and am proud of my Trinidadian, Bajan and Dominican heritage. I know my lineage is one of diaspora travelling from place to place. Some travel by choice and others by force. I know I am mixed race - African, White, Indigenous/Arawak blood all runs in my veins. I remember once being told by a Somalian friend in high school, "Oh, I thought you were an African. You look Ethiopian." I remember thinking, but am I not? I realized then then that Afro-Caribbean people were an afterthought for many continental Africans.

I entered York University's Environmental Studies & International Development program when I was 18 years old. I chose this Bachelor's degree only because it didn't require me to take Grade 12 biology, chemistry, or algebra. I was one of those kids whose guidance counsellor discouraged from science and math.

When I entered York, I remember being told by my first year humanities instructor, "I would like for us to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations communities and we would like to honour them here today." Until that point, I had never been taught or even had a clue to acknowledge and respect the First Nations communities that called "our land" home for thousands of years. Until that day, my summary of Canadian history was The Hudson Bay Company, Vimy Ridge, and global peacekeeping efforts. And hockey. I realized then, that cultural identity is the soup that we are in and that we are fed every day. I realized then that the education system I grew up in fed me a Canadian history from an uncritical and colonial lens.

Since graduating from York, I began working in International Development field. In 2013, I became Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor with CUSO international, where I developed and facilitated business development, micro finance and business plan workshops for youth in Roseau, Dominica. There, I met a young man who wanted to start a car detailing business, but who could not secure a loan from the bank. His family did not own property and he did not have community support as a guarantor for a small loan. I remember him telling me, "There is no opportunity for me here. If only I could get off this island." He wanted to come to Canada for other opportunities, but he couldn't get an entry visa. While my Canadian citizenship plus my privilege of financial stability meant I did not need a visa permission to enter Dominica, a youth born in Dominica, differing from me only in social status means, did not have the same freedom of movement as I did. I realized then that Canadian citizenship provided me a real privilege, that my passport guaranteed for me an opening of life opportunities.

As an African-Canadian, I always dreamed about my first trip to Africa. So when I got the opportunity to visit Accra, Ghana, for a Women's Entrepreneurship Advisor position with Crossroads International in 2016, I was overcome with excitement. I would be the first to "go back to Africa" in my family for generations. My own personal identity had been missing a puzzle piece, and I yearned for an authentic African experience.

Once I arrived in Accra, I began working with HIV/Aids Peer Educators (Obrapaa Women's Group) on an arts-entrepreneurship program. I introduced myself as being a Canadian, from African descent via the Caribbean. None of the women had ever heard of Trinidad, Barbados or Dominica before. I was taken aback — there are so many Africans living outside of Africa that they didn't know about. They themselves didn't identify as simply African; they were Ashanti and Fante. They were from tribes; their identities were wrapped tightly in Twi, one of the most common local languages that they spoke amongst each other, which I couldn't understand. In an attempt to create a space of inclusion for me, they named me Sister Abena; "Abena" means Tuesday, the day of the week on which I was born. To tease me, one of the women said "Ahh yes, welcome Sister Obroni!" Obroni means white person, or foreigner. It was then that I realized then that I was indeed an African-Canadian, and not an African.

Being Black-Canadian/African-Canadian/Caribbean-Canadian indeed has its challenges, and its privileges. My identity is about the hyphen, and I've realized it is mine to define and to claim. The hyphen for me now represents the building of a bridge; a space for me to determine my post-colonial African diaspora story, one life experience at a time.

Introducing the BIAKOYE collection by the Obrapaa Women's Group

SPECIAL THANKS TO: The Obrapaa Women's Group, Crossroads International, Pro-Link Ghana, Sharifah Issaka, and Sierra Nallo.

 

I am truly grateful and excited to announce that the BIAKOYE collection is now available at wildmoonjewelry.com!

When I first stepped off the plane in Ghana, I did not know what to expect. I knew I would be working on women's economic empowerment through jewelry, which seemed like an exciting challenge. It turned out to be so much more. I learned so much about Ghana's culture and aesthetic and the unique point of view and lived experience of the Obrapaa women. I also learned so much about myself. They taught be a new form a jewelry, while I taught them about the opportunities of e-commerce and about branding for their vision of a jewelry business. The result is the BIAKOYE collection!

Working with the Obrapaa Women's Group gives me so much pride, I knew I was in the right place at the right time, doing the most fulfilling and meaningful work I've ever done. I look forward to continuing to support the Obrapaa Women's Group fulfill their vision and build their brand, while contributing to their economic self-sufficiency. 

 

Post-Ghana Post: Eyes Open Wider

How do I explain the shift I feel? Or is it just the moon?

Here is a list of my changed perspectives:

  • I am a woman who is resisting patriarchy and colonialism. This means I will have to redefine my own values to reflect this resistance. I want to be a spirit in woman form, free to feel any way and not judge myself or others on their life choices. (Never mind my harsh judgement of the Pastors on the ads in Ghana in their poses looking like a Boys 2 Men concert poster... *steups*). Its going to be hard because we live in a society that imposes a norm upon everyone - no one is immune, and its hard to escape the ways we are told to feel about relationships, sex, our selves, physical and emotional attributes. A lot of picking and choosing feelings, a lot of not taking things personal, a lot of suppression of negative self-image and quieting negative self-talk. Its going to be swimming upstream but now I see how necessary it is now.
  • Women’s work worldwide is so undervalued. I’ve decided this is my call to action - this is the problem I want to work on solving in my life. In my life I hope to improve the economic inequality that exists for women in developing economies in Africa and the Caribbean. African Women’s Economic Empowerment. I want to expose women to the possibilities of e-commerce and improve digital literacy to increase economic opportunities.
  • I must do me. I must live out my dream for me first. I may end up disappointing my family and friends at times because I choose my strange solitude of travelling alone, I choose independence. I’m still negotiating my needs and wants; the things that give my life meaning vs. the things that I want to acquire. I didn't know I could really compromise one for the other until this trip to Ghana. I feel pulled at both sides; but I think I will just breathe.
  • It has been revealed to me that my Africanness is up for discussion. Yes I am black, I am of African decent but to many Africans I am not African. Yes I am African, I would explain, my family is from the Caribbean, but some people had never heard of Trinidad or Barbados or Dominica. It hurt kind of, to have to explain myself to anyone who asked, or anyone who called me “Obroni” (Twi word for white person or foreigner), that I came to Ghana to connect deeper to my Africanness, to affirm my Blackness and to belong. I had to take it all the way back sometimes, “Yes Barbados, you know Rihanna right? My ancestors, like hers, were Africans sold as slaves and settled in the Caribbean, and then eventually my parents immigrated to Canada.” It gave me another layer to my identity, like a filter through which to understand my privilege of having risen from out of ancestors who endured slavery to becoming an educated young black woman facilitating entrepreneurship workshops in Africa.
  • My eyes opened wider in Ghana. Its a sensation that is hard to explain. I am present, at the front of each moment, so deep inside myself and entirely outside of myself at the same time. 
  • So many butterflies are there. They move me, the sight of them shifts me from small minded worry into joy, laughing gratitude. An ease in my chest and step.
  • I thought that when I had kids I’d start going back to church, because my experience there really was not that bad and there are good values to be had there. Now? Nope. Never me, not again. I see how it has completely changed / adapted African sensibility. As people became enslaved, the bible was used to help them to transition into content servants. In Ghana, every second ad by the roadside is for a church. And the names are all variations of each other: “The Gospel Sanctuary of Christ” or “The Fellowship of Jesus Church” or “The Lamb of God Holy Monastery”. Even food stalls will be called “God’s Way Tilapia & Banku”, or hairdresser’s salon “The Hand of Jesus Braids & Weaves”. How, on a continent with such a rich history of spirituality spanning millennia prior to this day and age, has white Jesus come to be on the side of many Tro Tro buses? At least in Toronto sometimes I had seen a black Jesus, but in Accra, every Jesus depiction was very white, blue eye blond hair white. This matters! The image of the one who gives salvation is a white man? Does anyone else see something inherently wrong with this or am I over reacting?

I think now, who do I think I am supposed to be vs. who am I really? I am observing - my self, my surroundings, my dreams, my desires - Even my goals of a nuclear family home, heteronormative relationship, home and car ownership can be a product of capitalism… I think I have uncovered some things about myself, I like it, and I find it hard to articulate. But I see so much potential.

Special thanks to Crossroads International and Pro-Link Ghana for facilitating this journey to Accra, Ghana and for introducing me to the Obrapaa Women's Group. It has been another fate-felt inspiring connection which has resulted in beautiful art which I look forward to sharing with the world. 

 

The Diaspora Homegoing // Pre-Ghana Blog Post

Since returning from Trinidad in June I have been working on developing this passion project - the Women's Entrepreneurship Program. A program that teaches entrepreneurial skills, shares useful tools for business automation and e-commerce, while also touching on personal leadership exploration tailored to women / womyn identifying individuals. The idea was inspired by my work as Entrepreneurship Development Advisor with CUSO International in Dominica in 2013, where I learned how to use anti-oppressive frameworks to build capacity in disadvantaged communities within emerging economies. I've always wanted to visit Ghana (anywhere in Africa, for that matter) and I am excited to do so in the context of furthering my career goals.

This time, instead of staying for 6 months, I'll be staying for 6 weeks. The Women's Entrepreneurship Program is supported by Crossroads International, will run for 5 weeks and will take place in an area called Agbogbloshie, in Accra's city centre. Agbogbloshie is infamous for being one of the world's largest e-waste sites. It is a digital dumping ground on top of a former wetland, where more developed countries like ours send our computers and cell phones to die. Add that to the fact that socio-economic and environmental disadvantages disproportionately affect women in developing communities. The group of women I will be working with live there, an area which so blatantly shows the unseen (by westerners) implications of a technologically advancing society. The new iPhone replaces the last, which only came out last year, and through such effective marketing we are implored to purchase. The externalized cost of our phones, computers, and other devices are paid by other communities, exposed to the toxicity on a daily basis.

The women there have started a collective called the Obrapaa Women's Group. As with many people who become entrepreneurs, the Obrapaa women's group have amazing artistic talents. Their talent and passion, by fate or by chance, aligns closely with mine. They create jewelry which they sell in local markets. Crossroads International's mandate, as aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals aims to promote gender equality, reduce inequalities, promote decent work and economic growth as well as promote responsible consumption and production in the countries they work in. My program aims to build capacity and improve economic empowerment, by sharing how I go about planning, organizing and releasing jewelry collections in a business format. We are going to collectively design, test, manufacture and brand a jewelry line that I hope can reach more local and international markets. 

I don't intend to give false hope - the jewelry industry is a hard one. It is very saturated and your original hard work can be easily ripped off. But I do intend to impart a sense of personal leadership as well as introduce opportunities for e-commerce that can provide an alternative form of income for any business idea, not just jewelry. I hope that we can re-use non-toxic e-waste and create great art in the form of jewelry. I hope we can learn together through an engaging experiences, inspiring each other to use the entrepreneurial tools to our advantage.

I hope to learn so much from them. I was given samples of their jewelry - beautiful beaded jewelry and bags that show they are artists at heart. Our challenges are many; one, the bead market is flooded by beads from China that are expensive, and some of the women have childcare to balance with any extra curricular commitments. Depending upon the interest and availability of the members of the Obrapaa women's group, I hope that we can start a social enterprise that can support their economic livelihood and personal development.

Fitting well with fate again is the upcoming NEW AFRICA Fashion Presentation on Friday Sept 23rd, 8pm-11pm at Rally Ossington, It is a collaboration with Ghana based clothing line Barkers-Woode, focusing on presenting new images of African-ness, one that includes diaspora, and one that celebrates our blackness. With all the anti-black sentiment in society and in news coverage, I am excited to be part of an event that celebrates, uplifts and exemplifies Africa and African heritage. This will also double as my going away send off, so to RSVP please click "Going" on the event page!

I will be blogging regularly to share my stories and insights - returning to Africa after generations. 

 

Afropunk 2016

Sweat. Face paint. Tall hair. Beauty in all its forms. 

Afropunk Weekend in BK 2016 was such a beautiful experience, yet again. This was my third year there in a row, and to be honest, I barely paid attention to the performances. I was swept away by the relentless individuality and the style innovations. Everyone in their Sunday's Best (literally). My boyfriend, cousin and I set up our blanket and people watched. Although many connections with others people were made, I feel that the most important connection was us, all of us, to our African roots: expressive style and graceful uniqueness. The sun fed our melanin and we sparkled like stars in the cosmos.

See Afropunk photos by Anthony Gebrehiwot here.

 

Here comes my soul

Am I living, or am I loving? I turned 27 last week and I felt full of love. I did not celebrate with a party, I stayed home most of the day, working on my website and hanging out with my Mom and Grandmother. My best friend and boyfriend joined us for dinner, and we shared a cute small chocolate cake that my mother bought at the grocery store. I went to R.I.S.E Poetry Slam Night with a few longtime friends and listened to young people bravely pour out their souls.

Since I have just come back from 8 months in Trinidad, I have been taking time to adjust back into (North American) city life. It is not moist or tropical or steaming like Port-of-Spain, but it is familiar. In light of the recent mass and racially targeted shootings and the BLMTO activism I've been trying to breathe deep, and vision a better way forward. As a young person acutely aware of her blackness and diaspora identity, I want to be aware of and define how my Africanness travels with me.

Over the past few years, travelling has helped me to understand the many forms of wealth. Recognizing my god given talents and strengths and how they shine through my life experiences. I have learned to be aware of how I am received in spaces - picking up vibrations - where I find love vs. where I experience otherness. I want to deconstruct all my hurt, contempt, mistrust and accept the truth that everything is within me. I want to deconstruct tradition and reconstruct a new African/Human sensibility, through the creation of artifacts. This is my talent and I offer it up fully to an afro-future that resists, and that stands the test of time.

Wild Moon Jewelry's 2016 collection is the beginning of this journey to a new self-love and a new self-story. It examines reconciliation and finds the space for conversation about how we hurt and therefore, how we hurt others. Honest conversation about holding hands with our pain and drawing out a new conclusion that puts empathy first. 

Wealth is made of many layers. Mother Earth doesn't care about the followers, the gossip or the egos. From a plane at 40000 ft up I was witness to Her expanse and her ability to provide abundantly for us all. I realized how Mother Earth cares for us, we must also care for each other, especially in this changing time. I realized how small we are, and then how our egos must be much smaller, egos made even more minute by their non-physicality. I therefore commit time and space to imagining a better future, one that is as radically inclusive and non-discriminatory as the elements air, earth, water, and fire.

How to apply these realizations to my every day thought process? by naming each new wild moon piece for places, people and feelings that return me to my core, and by using recyclable and environmental friendly materials as much as possible. How to commit to a new way of believing in myself and the power in my insignificance? be proudly humble, and bravely honest, walk with your olive branch. How can I reconcile more fully, and more proudly? step past forgiveness, past what first meets the eye and into the cell, where we bear witness to the sameness and the uniqueness of our inner parts. 

The Wild Moon goes deeper inside her self for the 2016 Cascade Collection. It is a collection signifying the waves of difference, or newness that bring the magnifying glass on our faults and identifies the space for our redemptions.