3. Winter Season – Decolonising Self The ground we covered The CitizensLab team is hosting a year long experiential learning journey called “Cultivating ourselves to co-create commons of democracy”. As we enter the winter season, we address the topic of “Decolonising Self”, asking: How can we dismantle our colonised thinking? How can we come into relationship with our trauma, integrate ourselves and transform into freedom? We explore four very different approaches to how we can decolonise our selves: political songs and poems with Shadi Zaqtan and Awa Ndiaye, understanding the landscape of trauma and collective grief work with Sophy Banks, sacred fire rituals with Terrelyn Fern and confronting our past with Vanessa Reid and finally Bomba dance with Everdith Landrau and Tai Pelli. ControlledBurns_MollyCostello Session 1: Decolonising through song and resistance We invite Shadi Zaqtan, one of the first alternative artists in Palestine, a poet, songwriter and guitarist, who sings in spoken Arabic. His songs and poems talk about the daily life matters in his city, Ramallah, one of the many cities with similar stories in the occupied West Bank. He sings about the Israeli occupation and colonisation, stories of fragmentation, of love, struggles, hopes and dreams. His music and poetry is an act of resistance, of keeping the memories alive, of putting together the fragmented land of Palestine, of connecting to the old songs and traditions that the Israeli occupation aims at erasing, dismantling and rewriting. We learn that in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza Strip) forms of oppression, of daily harassment, of physical and cultural violence are perpetuated by the Israeli forces through house demolitions, random incarceration of children, youth, and women, a military system of surveillance and check-points, the limitation of freedom of movement, the grabbing of natural resources (land, water, olives trees..). A cruel, unjust, racist system of permits and bureaucracy is creating an apartheid system of oppression and discrimination for all Palestinian living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel. Shadi tells us how the Isreali occupation is something that becomes very personal, it enters deep into one’s life, it takes one’s time, it controls one’s mind and body. He says: “We are still fighting and waiting for our freedom, what will it look like to live in freedom? We just know how to survive.” In one of his songs “Horses” he sings about the check-points that limit the freedom of movement, the curfews days and nights, the separation wall as well as the walls of the narrow streets in the refugee camps. Palestinians are stuck within physical borders, within a 9 metre high wall dividing and fragmenting the Palestinian land creating disconnected bantustans. And yet, “we can free our souls, if we listen carefully, we hear the sounds of horses, of our collective liberated souls. Horses represent beauty, freedom, faith, revolution. Horses walk with us in the narrow streets of our cities”. Through Shadi´s inputs, stories and songs, we reflect upon our own colonised selves, what is it that we are ready to challenge, change, deconstruct and decolonise in order to align with our values of social justice? You can read more about this enquiry in our Winter Season learnings and practices blog-post. Session 2: Colonisation and trauma, releasing through collective grief tending For session 2 of our winter season we invite facilitator Sophy Banks to guide us into a grief tending ritual and thereby explore the importance of this work for the healing of trauma. We also hear three beautiful poems on the topic of grief by our resident spoken word poet Awa Ndiaye. Sophy trained as psychotherapist and has ever since been preoccupied with the question: “why do human beings create systems pervaded by harm and suffering?” The main two threads of her work have ever since been healthy human culture and grief tending. She introduces us to some theoretical background on trauma healing. We learn that trauma is a two stage process, it starts with an emotional, psychological or nervous system injury (some form of harm, shock or overwhelm) and a consecutive failure to repair this injury. If there is repair, there is no trauma. Trauma is also a cultural landscape and not just an individual issue. The context in which the injury happens and in which the repair does not take place, plays a big role. It is a context in which this routinely happens and so it creates a landscape of harm. We cannot heal ourselves but need an intervention from the outside, from the cultural landscape, the community. Sophy offers us a model by Franz Ruppert. In this model there are three parts in a post-trauma context: the traumatised part, the survival part and the healthy part. The traumatised part is put out of awareness and holds the overwhelming experience. The survival part tries to survive at any cost in a frightening world. It has a residue of fight, flight, freeze and fawn response from the trauma. Wholeness, trust and connection are ruptured- from that place; the survival part creates strategies to manage life. The healthy part remains always there, it’s the only part that can see the present moment; that there is trauma, survival strategies and health. It is connected with resources, love as well as pain and difficulty. It is the only part which can create healing. In a healthy culture we have social technologies or return paths such as trauma workshops, rituals and ceremonies, sweat lodges, truth and reconciliation processes, as well as grief tending, that help us to heal. These are places where we can discharge the residue of fight and flight, where we can shake out the freeze and we can come back into our place of wellbeing, health, balance and connectedness. In a culture where there are no return paths, our nervous system responses include mechanisms of flight (avoidance, distraction, maniac action), fight (destroying threats, staying in control), freeze (staying numb) and fawn (pleasing others, obeying). This might manifest in systems of oppression, economic growth paradigms, 24/7 work cultures, perpetual resource extraction and extreme poverty. And it’s important to be aware of power dynamics in these systems. Privilege supports avoidance of experiencing pain. Those with less privilege experience more pain and have less power to change the system. The process of colonisation deliberately destroyed the return paths to healthy cultures and recycled pain. Sophy has focused on grief tending as a return path. In a culture where a lot of the commons have been privatised, we have lost our capacity to hold each other in our grief. In the Dagara village of Sophy’s teacher Sobonfu Somé in Burkina Faso, grief tending is part of the village hygiene. It happens every week and it’s a way to hold each other in grief, acknowledging that grief, just as trauma, is a collective landscape. Following the theoretical input Sophie guides us into connecting to and welcoming our grief through the five gates of grief by Francis Weller. The gates offer a structure to the shared woundedness in our human experiences, pointing us to healing in ways that are both profoundly unique and exquisitely collective. The five gates of grief are: everything we love we lose, the places that have not known love, the sorrows of the world, what we expected and did not receive and our ancestral grief Session 3: The sacred fire of collective liberation Seeking to dive deeper into exploring our colonised selves, our entanglements and our relationships to our ancestors and the land, we have invited two wisdom holders from Turtle Island – what we now call Canada. Terrellyn Fearn is a member of Glooscap First Nation in Mi’kma’ki. She grew up on the shores of the Bay of Fundy in close relationship with the land and water. As the Co-Director of Turtle Island Institute, she brings wisdom and understanding of Indigenous well-being and community building through rematriation and Indigenous ways of knowing. Terrellyn has extensive experience with decolonizing programs, Indigenizing practice, and facilitating healing through this lens. Vanessa Reid is a pioneering practice leader, systems innovator, participatory process consultant and poet who brings her unique leadership and artistry to the field of civil society innovation. Vanessa has a particular call to work with transitions, transformation and the natural cycles of life – from the mess and excitement of creating new systems and initiatives to Conscious Closure and the Wild life of Dying. Terrellyn and Vanessa both share their stories with us. We hear about their personal lineages, about what they are learning and unlearning and their experiences of being colonised and the coloniser. For Terrellyn “decolonising-self is an ongoing and daily practice of turning herself inside-out, of understanding her ways of being with different knowledge systems.” Terrellyn speaks about the importance of noticing and observing what is growing around us, to cultivate our deep relationships with Earth Mother and Spirit, so that we receive her gifts and so that our individual and collective healing can happen. For her cultivating relationships with kind honesty and honest kindness is key. It’s a process of understanding each other’s perspectives and experiences, coming into peaceful “co-vibration”. Vanessa shares about “herstory” lineage that is Scottish, Irish, Welsh and English. We learn that she grew up on Turtle Island, but she only knew it as Canada until she became aware of her own settler identity. She is on a journey of facing her own ignorance, of not having known the history of the land she lives on. We learn that the stories of first nations people were hidden from books and her school education. She is in this process of coming into shame, embarrassment and rage for not having taken responsibility, for not confronting and healing her settler identity and lineage before, for not seeking the truth, for benefitting from the institutional and systemic privileges granted to her by the colonial and settler systems. She feels the urge to stop this historical cycle of harm and trauma by stepping into reconciliation dialogues and building deeper relationships with the marginalised and indigeneus communities, by speaking the truth, by taking responsibility for what it means to represent white supremacy and the settler dominant system. Vanessa speaks of decolonising-self through the practice of “decentering whiteness“. For her it’s about being a full participant and yet being aware of when it is important to step back, to not talk, to let the space free. To listen and lean into the stories being shared, to do inner work, to be in relationship with these unlearnings and reconciliation processes. Terrellyn shares her ancestors’ teaching that “we are relationships, we all are part of the human family”. Therefore, decolonising-self is this bridging of the inner and the outer work, cultivating the skills and the capacities to hold this unpacking, this unlearning, to be able to come with humility and be open to other ways of understanding and experiencing the world. One way that indigenous people hold this space of deep transformation and of healing the self, community and Earth is through ceremony and the sacred fire . The sacred fire supports us to liberate ourselves from oppressive structures and let them transform towards collective freedom. Terrellyn, Vanessa and Frank, the fire keeper, aided by the sacred plant of tobacco (which helps to communicate and connect with all creatures), move on to hold the space for a circle practice, , to enquire: What do I want to surrender to, to let go of? And what am I inviting in, and wanting to come into a deeper relationship with? Session 4: Practicing bomba dance as a decolonial resistance and liberation For our fourth session, the Community of Practice, we invite Everdith Landrau, Puerto Rican Latin Dance Instructor and Tai Pelli, International Relations and Human Rights Officer of the United Confederation of Taíno People. We want to explore Bomba dance and music as an embodied practice of resistance to colonialism and a way to reclaim African and Taino identity, culture and blackness. Tai places Bomba dance into its historical context, the colonisation of the indigenous Taino peoples of the Caribbean by the Spanish colonialists. In 1493 Boriken (nowadays Puerto Rico) was invaded by Christopher Columbus, Spanish was imposed as a language and African slaves where brought in to do hard physical labour. Bomba dance and music developed around that time within the enslaved African communities in Puerto Rico. These communities would gather to make music and dance as a way to express themselves. They told stories, shared news, communicated revolts and connected to each other. It was a practice of remembrance. Remembering their roots and African identity and sense of humanity. At the same time they were influenced by the indigeneous Taino traditions and culture. So Bomba can be seen as a fusion of African and Taino cultures. It can also be considered a practice of resistance and a way to reclaim both the African and indigenous Taino identity, heal the collective traumas of colonisation and slavery and resist further oppression. In 1898 Boriken was again colonised by the USA and English was imposed as a language. Bomba remains a time-travelling genre of music and dance until today. From Everdith we learn that Loiza (in Puerto Rico) is where a big part of the black community settled and it was mainly thanks to two local families that Bomba stayed alive and was mainstreamed during colonial times. While most Bomba songs are in Spanish, some have words and phrases in other languages including Haitian Creole and Kikongo. Bomba dance is characterised by a specific set of instruments and rhythms. Instruments such as the maraca, that keeps the rhythm steady, the cuás, the sticks played against the side of a barril (drum), all show the Taino influence. The variety of Bomba rhythms can express very different moods. The sica rhythm calls for rising up against the oppressor, the cuembe rhythm helps the dancers to restore balance, the yuba rhythm allows for releasing heavy, negative emotions and the olande rhythm is celebratory, light and funny. Female Bomba dancers wear long ruffled colourful skirts and use specific dances and accentuated body movements called piquetes to express themselves and make themselves more visible. Some movements communicate their plans to escape, to rebel and to uprise. Other dances accompany collective grieving processes in the case of loss or death and others are used to celebrate events such as child birth or simply celebrate their beauty and humanity. After an introductory talk Everdith takes us straight into the dancing practice. We learn 3 different rhythms that come with a baseline step. While the base step always remains, Bomba calls dancers for playful improvisation. One song that we dance to is the “Candela song”- a powerful protest song protesting police brutality against black people. The lyrics being: “Si quieren candela, candela le damos” – if they want fire, fire we will give them.