Lesson Plan preparation

In preparing the lesson plan for three intensive workshop days, I’m putting in the work that I’ve thought about and used in various iterations leading up to these series. I think about this as I finally arrange the lesson plans in the order that I have in mind.

When I first told Hodan Warsame that I wanted to create a space for BIPOC people to write and engage with story, I didn’t know at the time that it would lead to me creating a different way of giving a workshop. But it has led me here and I find myself feeling grateful for the opportunity to share this with the participants who will come to the workshop.

I think about the initial response in the small groups where I’ve tried out some of the things that are going into this workshop and I can’t help but feel excited (although I will admit it is also scary). The thing is, until the workshop happens, there’s really no way of knowing how a particular group will respond and how certain exercises will work. Will the time we’ve planned for each activity be enough? Will it be too much? Have I paced the rhythm of the workshop right so participants don’t fall asleep? Will we be able to shape the space in such a way that it feels welcoming and inviting?

And then, I also have to face up to my own unpredictable stage fright. I know I have to be prepared and so I’m writing as much detail as I can because I am aware that I have moments when I suddenly freeze and my brain just blanks. Not something you want to happen when you’re doing a workshop as that tends to lead to awkward silences or to me just mumbling about unrelated stuff or rifling through my mental notebook.

But I’m learning too to remind myself that it’s okay to have those uncomfortable and awkward moments and it’s okay to tell participants that ‘my brain got stranded for a bit’. In my sharing with the guerrilla writers, as I talk about my own struggles with my work, I realised that doing this, being open about how I don’t know or how I am uncertain or unsure about how to say things also helps fledgling writers as it removes the ‘mystery’ often associated with writing.

I may be a bit farther in the journey, I may have written and done a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean that I am the expert. I think of it this way: my role is to share what I know. But the experts are the participants. Because each one comes to the workshop with their life experience, with their personal history, with the sound and rhythm of their own language, their songs, their dance, with the embodiment of culture, they are the experts. But what I can do is share what I know and gently encourage them to launch out on their own journey. If we can built a support network while we’re at it, that would be fantastic. At the very least, I want to take this opportunity to let participants know that they’re not alone in their journey.

I’m smiling as I think of how we had lesson plan preparation included in curriculum at the conservatory. Back then, I really didn’t know what they would be useful for. Now, I’m putting that knowledge to good use. I can’t help but think of this line right now: Everything you need, you already have with you or you will acquire it during the journey. (I think my son who loves doing those quest games would appreciate that line. ๐Ÿ˜†)

If you’re reading this, I wish you inspiration as you continue on the journey.

An invitation . . .

Posting the flyer for a mixed media story creation workshop that I’ve been working on and developing with the migrant BIPOC community in mind. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of Hodan Warsame, we will be able to share this workshop with the people we had in mind when we launched our efforts a year ago. This is a project that’s come about through the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam and in collaboration with Dona Daria. There are still places available, so do send your application to Hodan. All that’s needed is an email or a text message. I do want to emphasise that this iteration is specifically for the migrant and BIPOC community.

After Other Futures

Other Futures Festival was a wonderful, colourful, thought-provoking and inspiring event. I’m glad I was able to attend both days and go to a number of sessions. While we had to leave by 11 pm (or else we wouldn’t make it to the parking garage on time), the sessions I was able to go to blew my mind in lots of good ways.

I want to take the time to write about my impressions, but my mind tends to fire off dozens of things on the day after an event. So, I’ll start by reflecting a bit on the Hybrid workshop which I presented together with Ellen van Neerven and which we prepared together with Rafeif Ismail.

It felt rather serendipitous that the day of the workshop happened to be the day of the climate march in Amsterdam. Our discussion centred around environmental racism, who is most affected by it, and how groups and people most affected by climate change don’t have a seat at the table where decisions are being made. The issues emerging from environmental racism are multiple and it’s clear that something radical needs to happen. Whether leadership is ready to take radical steps and whether wealthy countries and wealthy communities are ready to be part of radical change is a big question mark.

The workshop itself was an intimate gathering with a small number of participants in conversation with each other. Ellen joined us online from Australia and the collective work done within the space and within the time that we had felt somehow magical. For the making part itself, I thought of using the liwliwan as a template from which to launch the doing part of the workshop. This paired with the idea of blurring the boundary between forms worked as I imagined it could work. I’m thinking about what I would like to do with this experience and how I want to experiment with creating sessions for collective story and story building. Would it then be something like a spontaneous play? Would it be in the form of a performance? I rather like the idea of sitting down together in a circle, with our musical instruments close to hand–a drum, a xylophone, a Kalimba, a rhythm egg–these combined together to form a background rhythm for the speculative and visionary stories that emerge from those seated in the circle.

What would you call that kind of doing or making? Would more people be willing to take part in such a creative making?

If this making involved a bigger group of participants, would it be possible to create this sense of connecting and understanding and coming to conversation and dialogue regardless of what side we sit on when it comes to politics and social issues?

I loved working with Ellen and Rafeif on this workshop and I wonder what it would be like if we could be present in the same space with the three of us being joined by other participants. What kinds of stories and conversations would we have? What kinds of worlds would we dream up?

Earlier this week, someone asked me what I thought would happen if the existing systems and institutions fell apart (as they’re inevitably bound to do). It’s a question I can’t answer, but I think that if we can create spaces and means for connecting and feeling connected, if we can shake off alienation which has been imposed on us, we can survive such a scenario without tearing each other apart.

In any case, I am thankful for spaces like Other Futures which provoke me to think deeper and reach for more understanding.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the hybrid performances hosted by and coming from Kubra and Simon. I loved this exploration and celebration of queerness and of being trans. It felt so affirming and joyful and celebratory. And I am a fan of Miss BB whose joyful celebration of self made me want to shout: hurrah! Yes! More please.

Ah. I was so sorry to leave when we had to as I know there was going to be dancing as well. How many spaces are there in the world where one has the permission and the space to just be? To simply express your multi-selved you and not be looked at strangely? These kinds of spaces are precious and to my mind must be preserved just as we preserve spaces in the world which are sacred and precious because of what resides there.

I think of how we humans must change radically if we want to leave a good world for the next generation. Someone mentioned Ego during the Hybrid_Date circle talk and I think it’s a word we need to think about.

If someone is reading this blogpost, I want you to think about a number of things. Think about the things in your life that keep you from being present in the moment. Think about those things that give rise to alienation. Sometimes the change can be as simple as installing a filter on social media, dropping the habit of recording each moment as a thing to post on social media or share on your instagram or twitter. Take time to just be present in the moment, to reside within your body where it is in that space in time, to be silent in your head.

It can be as simple as looking at a familiar stranger and saying: we have passed each other a lot or lived on the same street for so long, so I want to introduce myself to you and I want to ask you about yourself. How is your day and how are you doing? It’s a risk because whether conversation happens or not depends on the person in front of you. But think about it this way: you make the choice to try and forge a connection. It may not happen right away, but these steps towards connection will inevitably bear fruit.

signal boosting

This weekend, I will be at Other Futures Festival in Amsterdam. The festival will take place at De Brakke Grond and I will be attending on Friday and giving a workshop on Saturday. Please do feel free to drop a line if you want to meet for a chat when I’m there. I’m open for conversation and look forward to meeting new people as well as catching up with old friends.

There are more exciting things going on at the festival and I’m sharing a blurb here plus the link for interested folks to go check out the site.

โ€™Very excited to be part of ๐•†๐•ฅ๐•™๐•–๐•ฃ ๐”ฝ๐•ฆ๐•ฅ๐•ฆ๐•ฃ๐•–๐•ค ๐•—๐•–๐•ค๐•ฅ๐•š๐•ง๐•’๐• ๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿš๐Ÿ™!

๐Ž๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซย ๐…๐ฎ๐ญ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž๐ฌย ๐…๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ

๐Ž๐งย ๐Ÿ“ย &ย ๐Ÿ”ย ๐๐จ๐ฏ

๐€๐ญย ๐๐žย ๐๐ซ๐š๐ค๐ค๐žย ๐†๐ซ๐จ๐ง๐,ย ๐€๐ฆ๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐๐š๐ฆ

Other Futures is a multidisciplinary festival with performances, film, music, literature, games and talks, with new perspectives on our declining world.

During the festival you can participate in critical talks about ancestral ghosting, watch beautiful films from South-East Asia, listen to weird soundscapes and futuristic electronics, play games, dance with the performers of Trans*formation and much more!

Come celebrate these weird perspectives of worlds in which all species (f.e. plants, insects, humans, spirits) live together on a healthy and entangled basis. ย ย 

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Check the line-up & get your tickets at www.otherfutures.nl

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7 minute free write based on a prompt

The following was a 7 minute free write based on a prompt from one of the guerilla writers. Very minimally tweaked, so it’s pretty much as it was when I shared it. It was fun and relaxed and the words just happened. While the prompt was something else entirely, I wanted to share an image to go along with this piece as we found mushrooms growing in our garden. Sprung up at the base of one of our baby hedge. It was an exciting discovery. They’re still there, by the way.

Falling down to the ground, the earth subsuming the body, taking the all that is me and I am taken down into the roots, into the deep, into the soft, mushy loam where the body, like compost becomes food and home for growing things, for mushroom and mold, for creeping and crawling things and all that earth needs in order to grow.ย 

Here, in the hollow of my chest, grow you, fungi. Spread through my veins, the springing out lines and roots of you, spreading and flowing from fingers where flesh melts away to soft mush, to become part and parcel of the network.

Burrowing in the hollows and the crevices of my skull, peek through the sockets where eye flesh once was. See and know the world as seen and known by you who creep and crawl about beneath the roots of trees and grasses and the world above.

I sink beneath to where there is no partition between you and I, where the border between my flesh and earthโ€™s flesh is no more.

I become, mulch and fertilizer, part of the network, one with the spores floating and flying on the air, blown about to various places where there are other bodies too. Simply waiting to be found, to be called, to be summoned.

Come.

I join my voice to the voice of the spores, to the summoning of the moldy leaves and the comforting chill of earth.

Come, we say.

Be with us. Be down under the roots. Be food for earth, for trees, for plants for fungi, for mold, for all that creeps and crawls. In surrendering to decay, be life.

7 minutes

I had a conversation while at the hairdresser’s about the work that I do and how my work involves writing, the teaching and encouragement of writers, and how that sometimes also includes one on one coaching. My hairdresser told me about how they’d always enjoyed writing and how as a child they used to write essays and little stories and how they enjoyed the act of escaping away into a fictional setting.

Someday, I would like to write a book, my hairdresser said. But I keep thinking that writing means I need to carve out lots of time to write and I don’t know that I have the patience to sit down for long stretches of time just to write.

She then went on to tell me of how she’d made this resolve to take along a journal during her holiday with the intent of doing some sort of travel journal.

Except, she said. At the end of the day, I would find myself quite overwhelmed by everything that I needed to write down. I just didn’t know where to start or how to write it down anymore.

It was a story that I recognised from others who were just learning to embrace writing as a practice.

I recently gave a fresh notebook to a young and upcoming writer and her first response was to say that she would take time to write thoughtful things in it.

To which I said: write everything in it. Write even your mundane grocery list in it. Write a to-do list or any random scribbling.

She said: Oh, then I’ll look for the perfect pen.

And then, she looked at me because I was shaking my head and she said with a laugh. I know what you’re going to say. Don’t wait to find the perfect pen. Any pen will do.

And we laughed together because she already knew what my next words would be: Just write.

In embracing the practice of writing, I think of the 7 minute rule. I don’t know if it’s a rule, really. It’s something that just came to mind and something that feels handy. 5 minutes feels too short and 10 minutes feels too long. But 7 minutes feels somehow just right. So, I gave the same advice to my hairdresser as I give to new writers who feel daunted by the idea of finding time to write. I said: find 7 minutes. Just 7 minutes. It can be shorter, it can be longer, but set your phone for 7 minutes if you’re sitting somewhere in between moments. Say to yourself: Okay. It’s 7 minutes. Just write.

It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t have to be poetic. It can be mundane. It can be anything. But just take 7 minutes to write. You just might be surprised.

one for the road

I can feel momentum in the wind. Like energy, rising and gathering as the universe opens doors to different knowings and learnings.

I’ve just arrived home from Amsterdam where I attended the Storytelling session and the reflection session for Amsterdam Assembly: Letting Go of Having to Speak All the Time at Framer Framed. Four stories told by people who shared not just their stories but also the process behind coming to storytelling and the process of finding voice and what that meant to them.

I think about the creation of community, about building bridges and connections and how by sharing something that’s personal or close to us, while being an act of vulnerability is also a very powerful thing. It requires trust on the part of the person telling the story as well as courage and I think that kind of trust should also be met with openness and trust and a willingness to accept and be vulnerable as well. In today’s social media society where everyone is busy talking over or alongside each other, to be present in a space and to be able to offer listening and being in the moment is a way of remembering that these circles of conversation are how we connect to each other and that requires making time to sit, offer your full attention and listen.

Later, during the break I had the opportunity to walk and converse a bit with Nneka Mora who is a storyteller from Nigeria. We talked about what storytelling meant to her and also about how story can be as simple as conversing with your mother and telling her what you did today. The conversation we had made me feel so joyful and I am thankful for Nneka’s words and insight.

If you’re reading this blog and are interested in watching the recorded sessions Framer Framed has the sessions published on YouTube.

There’s still one more day of listening and I’ve signed up for the webinar for tomorrow’s session. I think it’s a privilege to be able to sit and listen. To hear what’s being said and to take them to heart.

Signal boosting: Other Futures

One of the projects that’s near and dear to my heart is the Other Futures Festival. We weren’t able to push through with the previous festival due to covid, but this year, the festival is pushing through and will take place on the 5th and the 6th of November, although I believe there is an art exhibition which has a longer run date. Do check out the Other Futures site for details. (Click on the link and it will take you there.)

Brigitte van der Sande, who is the founder, artistic director and mover behind Other Futures is an inspiring force and her energy and passion for the work is contagious. I wanted to write a bit about Brigitte because her presence and her encouragement are important to my own practice. She doesn’t know this, but at a time when I was uncertain about how to move forward, her invitation and her belief in what I could do helped me to remember how much I love my practice and how much I love the work that I do. There are people in this world who inspire us and who have this gift of propelling us forward. For me, Brigitte is one of those important people.

Recently, Brigitte introduced me to Ellen van Neerven and Rafeif Ismail and we are working on a workshop for Other Futures. Ellen and Rafeif’s work resonates with me. To meet kindred spirits from the other side of the world is a privilege and I believe that this work of encouraging a multiplicity of voices is important and essential to the breaking down of walls and borders–indeed to the creation of new kinds of being and making.

The workshop we’re giving is scheduled for the 6th of November. Ellen and Rafeif will be present via internet connection and I will be present in the space where the workshop will be held.

To you who are on the journey, I hope you will embrace those other futures. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (see what I did there?) And yes, do check out the site.

to be unconstrained

I’m thinking of borders and permeability in relation to art and writing, in relation to making and to being in the world and I also find myself looking at nature, looking at what the various sciences also tell us about how nature and the universe works.

Related to this, I have to think about various conversations I’ve had with friends and journey mates. One thing I wanted to share was this thought that the borders between practices are permeable and as beings whose strength lies in our ability to imagine, there are or should be no borders.

Glissant, writing about borders advocates for permeability–for moving past seeing borders as a means of defending or preventing, but rather as a way to mark that one is crossing from one country to another.

Translating that into the practice of making, it makes me think of how I am not bound to only one form or genre of practice. It also means that the doors to various genres and forms of making need to be permeable and to my mind, we also need to make the threshold less imposing and more inviting. (Open the door, break down the barriers or walls and say welcome.)

I’ve often had people tell me that they’re not really writers because they’ve never been published or because they’re just starting to express themselves in writing. I’ve also spoken with people who practice art but don’t dare call themselves artists because ‘well, there’s a study you have to do for that’ and also ‘my work isn’t as good as’ or my work isn’t worth it because I don’t have the right background’. (Did the first cave painter have the right background, I wonder.)

As humans, we tend to be fond of creating labels. We say: you are a writer, you are a visual artist, you are a painter, you are this, you are that. Even when it comes to being in the world, we like to employ these definitive and concrete labels and breaking away from those definitive and concrete labels is often viewed as strange or weird. (Actually, it’s often brushed aside or denied because it doesn’t fit into how people like to see things.)

But we can’t put limits or borders around the creative mind and we can’t put borders or limits around being in the world.

I articulated some of my thoughts in this message to the guerilla writers. I wrote: I feel that as beings we are fluid by nature–maybe born with certain body parts, but that doesn’t mean we are limited to those parts. Those parts don’t define us or speak of who we really are and to my mind remembering that fluidity, remembering that freedom to just be–while it can be scary at first, it is most certainly a source of joy and hopefulness.

One of the writers asked me if I could share my experience of this and so I talked about how I slowly came to recognise and embrace this fluidity for myself as well as my thinking on it. It was for me, the first time I was able to say to someone that I was born in a body that I’ve often felt awkward in, but which I embrace as being part of me. To put to words that feeling that the self that lives inside the body, that pure self is one that’s not bound to societal parameters or social constructs, it was scary but also freeing. Having done that, I found myself better able to say that I am simply as I am–a being in the world. Unbound, undefined, but very much joyful for having embraced this knowledge.

To you who are on the journey, I wish you love and the joyful embrace of self and work that isn’t constrained by borders.