I have been walking around the last few weeks with a painting inside, wanting to be painted, but all I could see was a swath of red from the upper left corner down through the middle of the canvas. I sat in quiet, felt into my body, but could not see more of the painting. The red color was not alarming or painful, but a passionate red, full of life. I meditated every day, waiting to see what else would appear, waiting, waiting . . .
On March12, a colleague of mine, Mbutch from Debe Debe Drum Circle, took me on an artist tour of Nairobi. We went to three different collectives. At the first private studio, I met Peterson Kamwathi. We talked of prayer, drawing, and individuality in a collective society. Then we move on to Kuona Artists Collective where I met several artists, each working in their walled off spaces, the creative spirit was alive. Before leaving, we bought a light lunch from the kitchen to help support the collective. We ended the day at Dust Depot at the Railway Station. There was lots of creativity being expressed by young artists in a large studio space that once was a railway office. I walked the length of the studio looking at all the offerings until Patrick Mukabi arrived. I shared my artwork with him and we talked of many possibilities available in the Nairobi art scene. The next day, the government closed down the city and soon after the country, like the rest of the world, hoping to gain control over the Coronavirus.
The year 2020 had promised to be a time of transition for me. I was looking to engage the art community in Kenya more and share my artwork publicly. At the same time, my community and I were evaluating our social healing work in the community and how we could integrate new learnings and new skills. By mid-March, I was confined to my home, grateful to have my art space to explore some unexpected anxiety. With the pandemic reaching East Africa, I made an anguished decision to return to our center (home) in New York. My transition year quickly took on different parameters and considerations. I found myself entering a deeper, more introspective transition, and yet I was not alone in this context.
I am now living in a compound with over 200 people (a community of sisters). We are quite restricted in movement because we have a vulnerable population. I am mourning the loss of my spacious house in Nairobi with my large art space, the company of our Kenyan and Zambian neighbors and Baraka, the resident cat. I don’t know when I will be able to return to Kenya. Still I feel in my body this is the right place for me today.
Finding solid ground . . . the painting wanted to be painted. I began with the red that was so present in my sight, then other colors came as I put my body in front of the canvas. Surprising bright happy colors, yellow, green and white. I stood back and took a long gaze. Despite the anguish, uncertainty, and confusion of these days, there is joy. . . these are “Summer Days.”
Look for next week’s post, I will be inviting you to experience and “embodiment” exercise.