Welcome to the first blog post!
Within our multiple lines of work/roles within society, we can be ensconced in intense struggles. Especially during these times of civil unrest and upheaval creatives and visual activists can experience extreme challenges to their mental, spiritual, and physical health. I realized at an early stage in my career that I do not suffer through these things alone and have found so many people with similar stories and aspirations that often turn to me for guidance and support, whether it is to help them with emotional blockages, how to negotiate more wholistic contracts with themselves and others, and how to find balance within historical relationships to power and the impact that it has upon following one's dreams and purpose. I decided that finding the time and space to accommodate these rich conversations and exchanges should become a major part of my artistic practice and being. So here we are!
When I was in high school at Du Pont Manual in Louisville, KY, I developed an avid sketchbook practice in which I started drawing a whole lot of self-portraits. This is a practice that I maintain to this day. It wasn't uncommon for me to draw images of Black womxn from my "imagination" which I now know that these women weren't imagined but more so channeled. This practice of channeling built up over the years and followed me into my studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. I remember my classmates and professors questioning why I drew "from my head". It was usually in a condescending/questioning tone that would make me want to consider abandoning my daily and soon to be life long practice, yet I felt so compelled to keep doing it. One womxn who appeared had a presence that I could not shake. I had a feeling that her name was Yaya so I wrote it on her forehead. Some weeks later when I visited the Decker Library on campus and found a book that gave me chills. My favorite hangouts in the world are in the stacks of libraries and independent book stores. For some reason energies that walk with me communicate best when I am in these spaces! I am clairaudient so books and images speak to me.
So I am meandering through the stacks and something compelled me to grab a book from the nearest shelf. (Later on, I found out that this is a form of bibliomancy that I have been doing my whole life.) It was a book on Haitian art. I opened it to a page filled with bold and bright paintings similar to the ones that I "subconsciously" felt compelled to make as a budding painting major. I then focused in on a painting that looked exactly like the woman that I drew in my sketchbook! I was astonished to read that the title of the painting read, "Yaya." I almost dropped the book. I have stopped believing in coincidences a long time ago and stopped questioning how I know things without knowing them because I always have intense confirmations immediately. Much of my art practice is based upon connecting with ancestral intuition and working from within those spaces of knowing in order to find meaning, purpose, and solutions. But this book threw me! It transported me to two years back when my first niece was born. When her mother and I were trying to figure out what she would call me (my birth name Kenyatta has two sets of double letters, and even when I lived in Lagos, Nigeria I was told that even I was pronouncing my name wrong!) I said, "Oh, she will just call me Yaya." I didn't know what Yaya meant. When I flipped to that page all of it started coming together and I learned that Yaya means an elder woman or man, a caretaker, a high priest, or priestess. Fast forward to 2018 When I had an intense undeniable urge to create this project I was trying to figure out what to call this healing initiative and Yaya came up again in my mind's eye. It beautifully explained this idea of manifesting a practice of radical empathy, healing, and cultivating wisdom at the intersections of making art and social justice.
For months and months, I have been pulling cards during my self tarot readings that speak of a career change and a deepening of my spiritual path in relation to my artwork, healing, and visual activism. Using healing work as a more prominent tool and creating a space to do so has been at the forefront of my studio investigations heavily within the past couple of years. In the rugged treacherous face of Black Lives Matters and the Say Her Name movements. This moment in our Historical Present permeates my performances, research, writing, teaching pedagogy, friendships and so much more.
This path has been a "damned if you do damned if you don't" type of calling. This year is the start of my 3 personal year, my birthday number adds up to 3 and I turned 33. Within this trifecta I have been seeking higher heights, new beginnings, and continuing to do things that terrify me as an act of thriving. On top of all of this... a fellow Art Mama had a dream that I was at her grandmother's house performing healings on multiple people on the night of my art opening of The Retrieval at The San Francisco Arts Commission. I take dreams very seriously, especially when I appear in other people's dreams and vice versa because it is my strong belief that some people are chosen to be bridges from the dream and spirit realms to the land of the consciousness/waking states to deliver warnings, messages and clarity. I am haunted by the moment in Sula by Toni Morrison when Sula's grandmother dreamed that her daughter was wearing a red dress. Because of that, she knew that she should have heeded a warning that there would be a tragedy concerning fire. Dreams are a very powerful medicine. I get my intense dreaming from my 2nd great grandmother who raised my grandmother. I was told that her dreams would always come true. So when my friend shared her dream with me I knew that I couldn't hide any longer and that it was the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of launching this project. This is also the first time I am formally charging for services because I am valuing my time, research, care, and energy that I put into all of my energetic exchanges. I am open to providing services and workshops on sliding scales and doing a certain amount of donated energetic work to make my services affordable to people in need of the services but may not have the means to do so. I also launched a new podcast that is free to listen and download via Spotify, Buzzsprout, Apple Podcast, and Amazon Music.
I know that this journey will not be perfect and I understand that most people will not understand it and that some people will turn away and not appreciate me allowing my freak flag to fly... but since 2016 I have spoken in front of large groups all over the world and have told them that I see and hear ghosts!!! There is no turning back now! lol
I know I will learn a million things along the way but I am so happy that I am finally taking the initiative and beginning this journey to formally help others and to also create bridges and organizational systems that will be beneficial to us all. I am excited about creating and participating in the art world that I want myself and my students to thrive in.
I am learning that my gifts are integral to the work that I do in the studio and the stories that I am compelled to tell, in order to speak truth to power outside of the studio. So often womxn and especially Black womxn are taught to numb our intuitions and to be comfortable with our erasure and ghosthood(s). My 15-year healing journey has been about awakening myself from that numbness, trusting in my ability, keeping my thoughts clear, and being guided to high vibrational opportunities and people. I also relish in finding the spirituality in the work of other artists and visual activists who are in tune with nature, and various forms of enlightenment, and who also view art as a form of healing and medicine that is both separate and apart of the art canon. Talks of spirituality and intuition can be taboo in the "Art World" and I am seeking to not be afraid to use them blatantly in order to describe what I am doing and what I am absorbing from the works of others. On this blog, I want to speak about museums and fetish objects and the intersections of utilitarian devices, human remains, and art on display. I want to create conversations with other artists who make work about very heavy subject matters and ask them what their modes of self-care are so that this can be a space of resources for our healing. I want to share tactics of resistance and elevation, historical texts, books I am reading, astrological information, and so on. I am also thrilled to meet and learn from so many who want to utilize the services that I provide such as reiki, tarot readings, studio visit consultations, and so much more.
To learn more about my interdisciplinary art practice please visit: www.kachstudio.com
For bookings for services, workshops or inquiries please visit: www.manifestationsofyaya.com or email email@example.com