Posts in exhale release
YES PURE (an ode to GHANA)
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Wild Moon Jewelry's 2018 YES PURE collection is inspired by the women that I observed carrying water in Ghana. Big bowls of pure water sachets balanced delicately on their heads, providing sustenance to people with effortless grace. Between cars, and on their heads, they quench the thirst of anyone who wave for their attention. They call out “yes pure” to let you know they are coming. To me, it felt like a life truth whenever I saw them pass me by.  Women, a woman, givers of life, carrying and giving life again, every day. 

Flashback to someday in September 2017: I tried to relax into my seat on a packed tro-tro (public bus in Ghana) and drank the cool purified water I just paid 0.50 cents for. I was uncomfortable, not just because I was cramped and sweaty, but I sat with the fact that my temporary need for water on the go was contributing to the pollution and impurity of the whole world. I thought to myself: how to reconcile this through art?

As an artist I feel it necessary to look at life with a critical lens, finding my way to serendipitous and satisfactory “I don’t knows" as answers to the fundamental moral challenges that stir my soul. In this collaborative collection, I wish to draw your attention to how you consume, and how it plays into the interconnectedness of Mother Earth.

The new Wild Moon Jewelry collection uses a combination of recycled material, focusing on repurposed brass and glass beads with signature WM silhouettes that I am used to and love to re-create. In this collection I wanted to consider the concept of purity. Pure is defined as "free of any contamination" - a state of being that many of our essential water supplies cannot claim anymore. I pondered this truth as I designed each of these pieces from the seat of my soul.

The Kokrobitey Collection features one of a kind jewelry pieces made of recycled and repurposed materials during my artist residency at the Kokrobitey Intisutue in Accra, Ghana. Here, I explored ways of using inner tube from car tires, electrical cables, washers, recycled glass and cow horn. All recycled materials were collected from becoming waste, and I wish to allow them to live again as adornment.

The Biakoye collection is the second collection developed by the Obrapa Women’s Group. I spent most of the last year in Accra, Ghana working with my colleague Sunshine to develop a Women’s Empowerment Program that is inclusive and informative, linking women to personal development opportunities and local / international economic opportunities. This collection also features recycled glass beads and traditional African beadwork techniques that are ages old. 

My sincerest hope for this collection is that you enjoy the pieces, and move through the world honouring the water that is essential to life. Remember that BEAUTY IS U.

SPECIAL THANKS TO all the creatives who supported the process including Mecha Clarke, Anthony Gebrehiwot, Sunshine Duncan, Jade Lee Hoy, Sierra Nallo, and Ruth Titus. Models Sierra Nallo, Kate Dawson, Liane Clarke, Paul Ohonsi, Nzinga Wright, Emmanuelle K., Virgilia Griffith and Vida Mensah. 

SPECIAL THANKS TO all the organizations who have helped me put together this collection including The Obrapa Women's Group, The Kokrobitey Institute,  Ontario Arts Council, Crossroads International, Pro Link Ghana, United Nations Association of Canada and The Blacklist Media House. 

<< Photos by Sierra Nallo.

BECOMING / The Wild Moon Theories

A few years ago, I wrote the Wild Moon Theories. I shared my thoughts and ideas with Jade Lee Hoy, Virgilia Griffith and Nayani Thiyagarajah, and we put together a grant to Sketch Working Arts for the show. We were funded to run the first show - an interactive jewelry experience that animated the pieces made to illustrate the story and importance of jewelry as a cultural artifact in my life. We have since expanded it to a screen play and short film, with the help of our amazing team Ruthie Titus, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Brian Woon A Tai, Gein Wong, and Dre Ngozi. I'm so proud to announce the theatre debut of BECOMING / The Wild Moon Theories at the Progress Festival, from February 14 to 18th, 2018. Our play/installation will be showing as part of the Contemporaneity 2.0 show at Anandam Dancetheatre.

Our process was documented by Kumari Giles and is quoted below. To learn more, check out the

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As written by Kumari Giles:

The process of BECOMING –

In rehearsal, we sit on three of four sides, leaving one for the ancestors. Spheres of spirit, fitting circles into squares. How do we relate to this land? To the water? To spirit? How do we honour our ancestors, when we don’t know where they were, where they travelled through to get here? Who are the caretakers of our spirit? In what containers do we live? How, now in the chaos of the world do we find time to nurture ritual, spirits, ancestors, our spirit, the land? In the sacredness of being together, how do we bring back language and spirit?

BECOMING, is the creation project of Asia Clarke, Jade Lee Hoy, Gein Wong, Ruthie Titus, Dre Ngozi, Brian Gregory, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall and Virgilia Griffith, in Jade’s words - a collective made up of artists, dreamers, make it happen types and some kick-ass BIPOC* Queer folk. Through BECOMING we experience the journey of a women, ancestors within her – as she connects across time and space. I am honoured to have spoken to Asia, while in Ghana, Jade through e-mail and shared time in rehearsal with Gein, Ruthie and Virgilia to chat and observe the process.  

The starting place of this work is the Wild Moon Theories, written by Asia, that connect ancestors, ritual and land. The theories are an  ideology that informs authentic co-creativity with the ancestors. The theories ask an individual to position themselves in a lineage, holding your ancestors’ hand within you and knowing that you stand not as just one, but as ten thousand. The theories spotlight our responsibilities as diasporic peoples, and in our search for knowing where our ancestors came from we must not forget that we are settlers on this land, and need to acknowledge and respect the indigenous ancestors on the ground which we now stand. They ask us to make new ritual and cultural artifacts, because colonization has left an imprint that can only change from where we are now, using our own creativity.

Holding these questions, the artists work on being in relationship with one another - the process takes time – playing, sitting with each other, crafting, shadow play, video, proposing ideas.  “It's an extraordinary thing to be able to vision something and allow it the space to transform and be reimagined over time without limitations of a predetermined process”  Jade explains. They talk about dreams, ancestors and spirit, and how spirituality had been forcefully erased starting from contact.  “It is a decolonial process to know, value and create access for spirituality centering indigenous ways of being and doing spirit work” Gein says. Asia has spent the last 6 months in Ghana and is still there, her spirit is deeply woven into the piece and states “It’s a profound experience to have the vision live within the process and each of the artists. It has taught us the importance of trusting one another, and trusting the universe and ancestors to guide us to where we need to be.” Their team has experienced the joy of working with people who are individually amazing and by being with each other, a deep knowing, a listening ritual and a place to start reimagining their place in the world is formed.

This interwoven, multidisciplinary work began three years ago, when Asia brought together Jade Lee Hoy and Virgilia Griffith to launch their first show called “The Wild Moon Theories”, an interactive installation for her arts-based business Wild Moon Jewelry. The jewelry show became a response to heal intergenerational traumas of the transatlantic slave trade and create an “opening for us to imagine leaving artifacts for our future.” As an artist of African-Caribbean descent, Asia names that there has been “a disruption in [her] personal history due to colonialism and the slave trade”. Similarly Jade, who is a descendant of East Indian Indentured laborers, West African slaves, a Chinese migrant, and mixed race Arawak/Venezuelan peoples on the island of Trinidad, names her herstory has “largely been misplaced or erased from history books”.  BECOMING is a “shout out to the world” that intergenerational healing is possible while providing an “entry point for those of us who were birthed out of a legacy of colonization to begin to have conversations about how we reclaim ourselves, our past and reimagine our futures.”

This iteration brings together Wild Moon theories through film, embodied performance and space creation. It a space where there are no composite parts but they all lend to the performance experience. The set evokes multiple spheres of being, all in the same moment of time and space, becoming whole, connecting and connection.  Live prompted projection feeds in constant response to the movement, guiding and offering multiple experiences at once.  A soundscape that feels like the earth calling to you, breath, beat, bringing you into the world.  And movement that guides your experience through varied sections from slow dream worlds to waking awareness.

The movement in this work is held by Virgilia, and was created through improvisation, play and eventually carving out the structure. Gein notices respectfully, then asks - what are you thinking? A back and forth dialogue ensues; teasing out questions, dreams, and discomfort, identifying where it lands emotionally/physically and moving when ready.  Jade calls this process for what it is: “Revolutionary. It's like being inside the womb, feeling safe and held, it's nourished and strengthened my intuitions. We all work within our capacity. We all acknowledge self-care and each other's individuals journey and superpowers.”  Thus, instead of form and shape placed on top of the dancer, Virgilia moves from the intention to “connect to her deepest self, working from the inside out”.  When Virgilia and I speak about movement and choreography we talk about past traumas of formal dance experiences and now, owning our inner rhythms and being unapologetic about the movement we create and how our bodies move.

And so, the urgency of spirit is the remaining question. How do we return to our bodies and our spirit? How do we approach that with forgiveness? How does the narrative from loss and trauma shift to a narrative of creating the space for the future and present? What strikes me is the compassion and generosity of the offering. In closing, Gein shares “Everyone is on their path, and as we are on our paths, we as people and the world grow and change. With the resurgence and raised awareness of land and water protectors and Indigenous sovereignty we are heading towards a better position to support, and to reimagine our world.” Asia wants us to remember that “This is not all that there is, so if we can position ourselves in knowing there is more, we can find happiness here.” She “hopes the show inspires people to assess whether they feel trapped in the now, and how they can use ritual to help them see and feel beyond - and hold the hands of their own ancestors.” This is the process of BECOMING, honouring what our ancestors fought and paid for and a reminder that we are still alive.

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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. 

 

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.