Embodiments is Narration Group’s third research project.
As part of Narration Group‘s Embodiments project, Tabita Rezaire, an artist working with screens and energy streams, led a series of mediations with Narration Group entitled ‘Dancing With The Five Teachers’.
The gathering called upon the wisdoms of the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air and Space, to nourish our capacity to connect. Through dance, breath and conversations Narration Group were invited to nurture intimacy, with themselves, each other, their bodies, their ancestors, the earth and the cosmos.
To envision the revival of the spiritual technologies, they needed to dive into themselves, open up their hearts and surrender to the forces of creation.
The series of mediations was documented through a transcribed conversation between Narration Group members Ese Onojeruo, Olivia Barnett-Naghshineh and Shamica Ruddock.
Tabita Rezaire is infinity incarnated into an agent of healing. Her cross-dimensional practices envision network sciences – organic, electronic and spiritual – as healing technologies to serve the shift towards heart consciousness. Navigating digital, corporeal and ancestral memory as sites of struggles, she digs into scientific imaginaries to tackle the pervasive matrix of coloniality and the protocols of energetic misalignments that affect the songs of our body-mind-spirits. Tabita is based in Cayenne, French Guyana. She is part of the artist group NTU, half of the duo Malaxa, and the mother of the energy house SENEB.
Tabita has shown her work internationally: Serpentine Galleries, London; Museum of Modern Art and New Museum, New York; Gropius Bau, Berlin; Moscow Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; House of Electronic Arts, Basel; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; V&A, London; National Gallery, Denmark; The Broad, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, New York; Tate Modern, London; Museum of Modern Art, Paris.
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund
Olivia: Hello I am Olivia.
Shamica: I am Shamica.
Ese: And, I am Ese.
Olivia: We are meeting today to talk about a workshop that Narration Group took part in with artist Tabita Rezaire entitled ‘Dancing With The Five Teachers’.
So we started with meditation didn’t we…?
Shamica: There was the whole thing of feeling the hand of your Mother or Father on your left or right shoulder.
Olivia: Yeah, Mother on the left, Father on the right shoulder.
Shamica: Yeah, and then the Mother, your Mother’s-Mother and your Father’s-Mother, and then your Father’s-Mother and their Father’s-Father and their Mother’s-Father.
Ese: You don’t really think about your ancestors that far behind. l guess like most people, I don’t even know my parent’s parents that much ’cause they live in a different continent.
Shamica: I grew up essentially with just my Mum. Due to history and the way things are, I had to grow up very detached from my family’s family. In meditation, at times, I felt quite lost…
Ese: I can understand that. I think it was quite nice to see how Tabita could project herself that far back and feel connected with that long legacy. I thought that was quite empowering in a way, and interesting when she went on to talk about how, that’s a way for you to feel fulfilled, ’cause by remembering how others have walked in your footsteps you can borrow and share from that knowledge, even though you may not know them, you are connected to them.
Shamica: But I do wonder…if I had done that meditation and been born – say, in the country where my parents are from, and, if I was more embedded within…, I wonder, would I have experienced the workshop differently? …and I guess it’s not necessarily about the physical being able to ‘know’ – by face and by name – who each person and their parent’s, and their parent’s parent’s, and parent’s-parent’s-parent’s are. But yeah, I don’t know…?
Olivia: Mmm, I reflected on that quite a lot – I think on the one hand we exist because our ancestors have managed to survive various things over the course of human history and there is something of our ancestry that’s in all of us.
If you think that we’re all on a path and that our ancestors are there, to some extent, guiding us and giving us indicators and feedback, and supporting us, regardless of whether they’re people that we ‘know’ or have known by face. It shifts the idea that we are the ones that have all the agency, that we are these individuals making choices. But instead, there are particular reasons that we are who we are, and we do the things that we do.
I like that spiritual metaphysical aspect of ancestors, or the idea of ancestors, but I think that that meditation was definitely easier for me now than had I done it maybe five years ago because I have been exploring and investigating generations and asking questions and speaking to my grandparents. And so I have built a visual representation, an idea of who the people are of my parent’s grandparents. And certainly, listening to you Shamica, I appreciate that I have had the opportunity, particularly over the past few months in lockdown to spend a lot of time with my grandfather and hear stories of his parents. It meant I had a way of locating myself and thinking through all those people and imagining them, visualising them, their hands on my shoulder and then I could extend this visualisation further back in time to previous generations.
So, I guess without the visual memory, without even just hearing about people then it becomes something that you have to just imagine.
Perhaps it is better to think about ancestry in a more abstract way so you are not necessarily trying to visualise those specific people but thinking more generally about the fact that we do exist because of all of those other people that have managed to exist before us and that are connected to us.
Shamica: Yeah. I get that and I think it is nice to recognise that connection but for me, trying to visualise people where my ancestry is, is of people who have been colonised and what are quite dramatic and painful experiences. That’s why I think I had some trouble with it, it is not what I anticipated as being a nice relaxing meditative experience.
Olivia: I understand that.
Maybe the notion of thinking about and connecting with our ancestors comes from indigenous ideas around relationships. In New Zealand (where I lived for while), Maori do often know their whakapapa (or ancestry), they know what lineage they come from, who is related to who, what waka they arrived on, how they arrived etc. but there are also Maori who live in urban settings who don’t have that knowledge or who have been cut off from their family, often because of colonisation. So there is definitely the potential for visualising connections to ancestors to be painful I guess. I think Tabita recognised that too, as she said to us that there could be possible pain, disconnection and it could feel hard. But definitely it makes a big difference to have something to visualise.
Tabita also asked us to think about the four elements, Earth, Water, Air, Fire and our emotional connections to these. She wanted us to consider how these emotional responses could be our ‘teachers’ and how we could use this knowledge to guide us and make us stronger.
Shamica: Yeah, each element had something that was negative that needed to be recognised and overcome, for example, greed was the ‘teacher’ of earth, lust was the ‘teacher’ of water, attachment was the ‘teacher’ of air, anger was the ‘teacher’ of fire and pride or ego was the ‘teacher’ of space and this could be utilised as a form of healing especially through physical movement such as through dance.
We were invited to dance or move in some way that could speak a thought or a feeling, which I really enjoyed.
Olivia: I agree. By thinking about those ‘teachers’ that we all experience and have inside of us and the elements (earth, fire, air, water) we could tune in to our own weaknesses and through dance we could find a way of channelling our minds and bodies to counteract that weakness of negative emotion.
Shamica: True, plus I say ‘negative’ and actually she was encouraging us to reach a balance, to reflect.
Olivia: Agreed, we had different responses to the words, for instance ‘Greed’. For me, I reflected on the things that I had been ‘greedy’ for recently and I felt like it just highlighted how needy I am for human connection and what was great about the format of the workshop is Tabita created the space for you to say what you were thinking out loud and allow it to sit in the space without there being a backwards and forwards conversation about it. I found that a really nice and different way of opening up a space for reflection and sharing. Do you know what I mean?
Shamica: Yeah, no, completely. In a sense you were allowed to speak your thoughts in to a space and to realise them in to words whereas sometimes you start speaking in ‘real-life’ and people start adding their own opinions and soon you are going in circles, really indulging, going on a massive tangent and putting way more energy into being annoyed. Whereas Tabita encouraged just to speak it (the emotion) and just acknowledge that it is there.
Olivia: …yeah and to dance to inverse the negativity of that thing.
Olivia: It was…it was like a release!
It was like you stated it, you put it into the space that all of us were holding, like all of us were listening to each other, holding space for each other’s things, and then she’d be like, okay so how about the counter to that, like I want you to think about compassion and we are going to dance compassion!
How did you find that part of it, like how did you find the dancing part?
Shamica: I really like dancing so…I always find dancing quite…you just get into a zone and you just do your thing and it’s like whatever.
I always think dancing heals.
Shamica: You can never really go wrong with just like…
Olivia: Did you think that dancing on a particular theme or a particular emotion was different to how you might normally dance?
Shamica: Yes. If I’m going out I’m being caught by a beat, it feels very different to dance to an emotion.
Tabita tells you, “let go” and it’s like I am letting go but I feel like ’cause I’m embodying some form of counter emotion it limited my movements more. I’m trying to recall how I danced for each one.
Olivia: So am I! I was trying to move with that feeling in my mind. I think I’d like to do it again with people but know that perhaps I would not be able to focus or channel that feeling in the same way.
Olivia: What were your thoughts on the emotion lust? Tabita asked us if it is always linked to sexual desire in English?
What did you think Ese, how do you think of lust?
Ese: I feel like when I’m lusting, you can lust over food, I feel like if I see something I really, really want to eat it’s almost like a sexual feeling, if that makes sense?
Shamica: I do think lust relates to desire. And I think desire isn’t only sexual and I think you can lust over objects also ‘cause lust has this idea that it’s not actually necessarily available to you as well. And that’s why the lust for me, feels, almost like there is something you have to do in order to get it, it’s not easy, you can’t just reach out and take it. And that’s why you lust after it, there’s almost like a barrier between you and that thing.
Ese: Like the forbidden fruit, you want it but can’t have it.
Shamica: Lust can become a task of how to ‘negotiate a person that has a thing that you want,’ so therefore there is that barrier there in that sense. I think lust in that way, it’s something that is usually placed in sexual terms but it actually goes a lot further than that.
Olivia: Thinking about the difference perhaps between desire and lust, I feel desire would be, this is going to sound a bit wacko, about a desire I feel, like, it’s more cognitive and it’s maybe located in my head and maybe a little bit in my chest.
But when I think about lusting for something, like when you have a craving or an urge or a need and you need it, you really almost smell it and you ‘want that now’, that lust. I feel that that’s an energy that really comes from your groin. And it’s not necessarily sexual, but like, I feel a deep want for that meal or like that’s the thing that I need to have right now. And it is like a more embodied move to action.
Ese: I’ve just googled it and it does say, strong sexual desire. Maybe we combine your definition as ‘lust is from your groins’ and ‘desire is your head’.
Shamica: I’ve just googled it again, as a noun it means sexual desire but as a verb it can also mean to have a strong desire for something.
Olivia: Reflecting on the workshop as a whole, what were your thoughts?
Ese: I think it was really good. I do wonder, is it possible to let go of the traumas of ancestors?
Shamica: I don’t think trauma is something you can let go of if it’s something that’s almost within you. If that makes sense?
Olivia: There is something that forms us and we have to reconcile and face it every day. Maybe it is always going to be that bitter sweet thing; acknowledging that we are here because our ancestors survived crazy histories but that we are not really connected with the land that we’re on or the cultures that we’re in or whatever.
Ese: Going back to things that I’m greedy for, like lust, I know I’m in this long line of history of people who have maybe struggled and I’m always trying to make sure that my life lives up to that. I feel like I’m always conflicted about those two things, so it’s like I don’t want to have that additional pressure of being like making sure that I live the best life because so many people have really struggled for me to have the life I have.
Shamica: I enjoyed being self-reflective and being invited to collectively think about certain things (elements and emotions) that we do certain behaviours that we have that we don’t mean to do and can’t help, but they are there and perhaps sometimes these elements or behaviours are things that hold us back.
And I liked being able to express and share things as a group and to each other.
I did come away feeling lighter.
Olivia: Yeah. I think I definitely felt the most light at the end of that workshop.
How was that (the workshop) art?
Shamica: Tabita was sharing her practice with us, like her way of thinking. Like the way you might write articles and papers Liv, she was kind of showing how she has thought through things that have informed her practice. And was sort of showing us her way of thinking, I think.
Ese: I guess it is about thinking about things differently. Creating a space where we are all ready to listen to each other; we are all ready to not judge each other and to experience things differently.
Olivia: Ah, it becomes a praxis of thinking, which I like. It’s like this is how, this is a way of thinking, I’m going to create that for you guys in a way that’s quite collaborative and collective and because it’s embodied and it’s emotional and it’s personal and intimate, that whole experience, for me, it will never leave me.
It will be something that is always in my mind because I will remember sitting there listening to you guys, then standing up and dancing, and then sitting down again and listening and talking again and getting up and dancing.
It definitely made quite a big impact and I think you’re right, even the idea of there being these emotions that we might all feel guilty about having and we can cultivate a counter emotion.
Ese: Shall we stop the recording here?
Shamica: Yeah, go on then.
END OF TRANSCRIPT