KulArts “She Who Can See”: A Revolutionary & Healing Dance/Theatre/Film Production

Yesterday was one of those fly dreams.
Where swift currents carry you exactly to where you need to be.
No need to swim upstream when you have the gift to SEE.

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Journeying through Frisco to the heart of the SOMA, 6th street, cutting through Saturday drivers, whose break heavy feet clog up the city streets. The parking gods were with us, we pulled up, blessed up, right in time to slide into the small theatre at Bindlestiff Studio. It was my first time going to this theatre that opened in 1989 and stands as one of the only, permanent performing arts venues that is rooted in showing Filipino American and Pilipino artists. The doors swung open welcoming us out of the cold windy streets into the warmhearted lobby.

We slid through the open doors, I walked up, received our tickets at the will call for “She Who Can See”. I spotted Alleluia Panis, the founder of Kularts and the choreographer of the piece standing up front, surveying who came in. She reminded me of a gatekeeper of sorts, making sure that those who entered the space would be safe in what I could already tell would be a magical undertaking. Every ceremony has an elder that creates a sacred space, keeping in that which is good and out what does not need to be there. This multimedia dance, film, and musical production was no different. Like all forms of healing art, this was just as much a prayer as it was a performance.

We descended the steps into the belly of Bindlestiff, and my eyes fell upon the audience, chirping and chattering in anticipation, packing the intimate studio space to the brim. No two seats left, said the big bodied bouncer who was guiding people to rest in their small wooden chairs. I said “Okay” and he kindly sensed my reluctance (which I thought I hid). He said, “We can ask this whole row to move over a seat for you? Do you want to ask?”

I smiled. Now, I’m all for asking for what you need, but often I’m not the one to be the first to throw a rock into a glassy still pond, to start all the ripples. I like to dip my toes in gently and smooth into the flow most of the time, like water.

He said “I’ll ask with you, let’s go”. As we ascend the steps to the top row, he says “Oh wait, it looks like there’s two seats, right there for you.”

“Perfect.” I said. In my heart I feel another blessing as I am guided to the apex of the theatre, centered in the aisle so nobody is between me and the dancers, and I’m levitated a few feet above the floor so I can survey the whole scene. I prepare to receive the transmission.

Before the lights dim, it feels like a family event, bay strong community present. Lights go down and Alleluia appears on the stage, introduces her visionary work, and again like a shaman herself playfully asks us to be aware of the surroundings, in the event that the spirits come into the building. We laugh, I pray, and so it goes.

I’ll be honest, before coming to the theatre, I thought that I was coming to see a FILM. Like, eat popcorn and zone into a 2d screen that would no doubt tell a compelling story, but still be on that 2 dimensional level. THIS. is the evolved version of a film, that tells the story of a young Pinay woman who can see beyond this world, and has a very intense and life shaking “homecoming” as she finally faces the spirits and energies that visit her.

Live dance performances, dope original music, and deeply moving theatrical storytelling with cinematic background, “She who can see” invites you to fully embody the experience of this young woman as she stands on the border between this world and the next. Her visions collide with her ability to exist in the day to day world, encroach into her intimate relationships, and ultimately change her mind-body and spiritual composition.

Four spirits danced in an out of her life, in a hauntingly graceful, yet playful and optimistic fashion, embodying the movements of water, earth, and fire. In the background, cinematic art is projected onto 4 screens, creating a fragmented effect that mirrors the hybridity of this woman’s awakening process.

I watched as this woman danced/swam upstream against the current of her spiritual inheritance, until she literally shook herself into chaotic exhaustion. As her grip on this dimension broke, I witnessed a healing take place. In one of my favorite scenes, spirits came into screen and stage, to perform an otherworldly intervention, (a)tuning up her vibration, and thus all of ours together.

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I was floored. No drought for me, rivers flowed down my face, straight up! This piece was so powerful and timely. To watch a young woman dance through indigenization, acceptance, healing and thus…empowerment, is a gift. I am in awe of Alleluia, the musicians, photographers, and dancers. All of whom I had the pleasure of meeting and thanking at the end of the production.

I live for this type of work. It gives me so much life to see these kinds of productions. And we know that it is much more than just art, it is ceremony, history, healing, consciousness, and awakening. What we all dearly need and crave in this lifetime. Everyone who left last night could see a bit more, and that impact is a revolutionary act.

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With my Friend and Performer: Sammay Dizon

For more on this Film & the talented artists involved like Alleluia Panis, Sammay Dizon, Florante Aguilar and Wilfred Galila check out the Ma’Artes festival artists page. Or better yet, enjoy the arts and pin@y culture in real life during the Month of May 2015, at the San Francisco festival. Check it out at: http://www.maartesfestival.com

Power up and power on brothas and sistas…

__Sam__

Eternal Queens

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Honoring Christopher Rose + Painting Veterans Alley

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“Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If Veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.”
– Thicht Nhat Hanh

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people, and remains the single largest loss of life from a foreign ‘attack’ on American soil. We look to the after math of this tragic and controversial event, and see how it was kindling for a raging political and military wildfire, leading up to the U.S. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, it is estimated that over 6,700 U.S. deaths occurred as a result of both wars, with much higher numbers for those wounded or injured. In rememberance, Eternal Queens honors the lives of those who died in war, and takes a look at the artistic expression of able bodied and disabled veterans who returned from the harsh realities of the war.

EQ went out to San Francisco Veteran’s Alley to show support and tune into the mural project that has been evolving in Shannon Alley over the past 2 years. We met up with Amos (below), one of the mural project founders who invited myself and my partner, Dino, out to paint a commemoration piece in the Alley. Amos, a veteran of the U.S. Naval Submarine service, realized this mural project when he was photographing homeless vets (a.k.a. Angels) at night, in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood where many homeless vets reside in the streets suffering from the aftermath of war trauma, mental health issues, and addiction.  This inspired the birth of a massive, one-block long piece of living, healing artwork. The alley vividly showcases the voices, struggles, and expression of veterans, regardless of their discharge status, gender, time served, or sexual orientation.

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Peace From Amos: In front of a mural in progress

As we arrived, there was one artist painting a wall which read, “CHELSEA MANNING: Wikileaks Whistle Blower + LGBTQ HERO.”  I soon find out that he is a veteran just as most, if not all of the other artists who have painted in the alley are. You can hear the passion in their voice when they speak about current events, the war, service, and of loss.

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An overwhelming number of people have directly or indirectly experienced loss or know someone who has lost a friend or loved one as a result of war. My partner’s cousin, Christopher Rose, was in fact the very first Iraq war casualty from San Francisco back in June of 2006. Christopher, a Filipino-American known for his smile and devotion to his family, was out one day on a regular duty patrol when he stopped and climbed out of his Humvee to remove some barbed wire blocking the road. As he was doing this, he stepped on a buried explosive device that detonated and killed him.  He was only 21 years old.

Christopher D. Rose would smile and remind his two older siblings how pretty they were. A kind hearted soul, he is missed greatly.

Christopher D. Rose would always flash his smile and remind his two older siblings how pretty they were.

That day we painted in Chris’ honor…

Showing love for Chris and EQ: The Pigeon to the left chills out with us the whole time.

Showing love for Chris and EQ: The Pigeon to the left chills out with us the whole time.

“The first casualty of war is TRUTH”

“The first casualty of war is TRUTH”

As we painted, kids walk through the alley and ask about the many pieces of art. I hoped that it got them thinking about the consequences of war in a different way than the fictionalized dramas that are projected to them through the media. The art in this alley provides an alternative to the images, movies, television, and video games that glorify warfare, militarism, and violence. It brings awareness to the reality of war, illuminates the fact that service in the military isn’t as entertaining as playing Call of Duty at their house or watching their favorite violent action movie.

As you walk up and out of the alley, it takes only a block or so before you see an ad for the flavor of the week role-playing video game. I hope that the message that people absorb by walking through the alley day by day serves as a buffer to these types of visual assaults. May it grab the attention of who ever needs to see it and get them thinking more about the control that media has in feeding the military-industrial complex. Some people may not like it, they may think it’s an ‘eye-sore’, I say- it’s only sore because the truth really hurts.

The conversations about the reality of war and violence and its impact on our selves, culture, families, economy, environment and collective psyche are important and they are healing. That’s why this Veteran’s Mural Project is a gem in the concrete jungle of San Francisco. It takes back a public space that houses parts of a collective wound and initiates meaningful conversation about one of the most relevant issues of our time. It gives veterans who have painful but truthful stories about the harsh reality of their experience a space to speak their mind and transforms the space into something more positive.

DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE: What narratives do we REALLY want our media to propagate? What role is it playing now in our collective health?

DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE: What narratives do we REALLY want our media to propagate? What role is it playing now in our collective health?

Today, I am disheartened and angry to be witnessing the beginning of yet another war in Syria as the U.S. government continues to lobby to gain support for the use of military force as ‘retribution’ for what it says was a deadly chemical weapons attack.  What will the toll be for the soldiers, the people, our community here in U.S. to get involved in yet another war? What wounds does this create for our future generation mentally, physically, and spiritually? What do you have to say about it?

May we remember today on 9/11 that peace is in every step we take… We have the power to stop the violence in our lives and help to Stop the violence worldwide. 

1 Love and Peace to All in Mind, Body, and Spirit

Samantha
EternalQueens

Invisible People: A Walk

I hear great things about San Francisco from visitors. “Everyone’s so friendly”, “It’s so cool here”. Which it is. But there’s always the one complaint, “There’s so many homeless people here.”

San Francisco has a long history of homeless. During the 1980’s, the City blamed Vietnam and the Drug Culture for the growing number of people on the street. At the same time, President Regan cut funding to Section 8 and public housing in half after systematically closing mental hospitals as Governor of California. The Regan administration continued cuts funding to mental health programs through his presidency.

The homeless in SF is bothersome to some. It makes people feel uncomfortable, and forces people to ignore humanity in others and pretend they’re not there. It’s estimated that 39% person of homeless in the US have some kind of mental illness and 22% have been diagnosed with a chronic condition. So, when someone in my own family began to suffer from serious mental illness, I couldn’t pretend to not see the homeless any more.

I shot this video so that I could really see them in juxtaposition with the consumerism and masses of “normal” people in the Downtown. They are always there. We just never see them.

The city has mainly dealt with them through “sweeps” in which the homeless are displaced, in order to make them less visible.

Much Love,

Claire

Interview with Patricia Rodriquez of Las Mujeres Muralistas

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Pacos Tacos Mural on 24th and South Van Ness

San Francisco in the 60s was a place for music, art and revolution. While the Civil Right movement continued nationwide, a small group of young Chicana artists started a revolution on the walls of San Francisco’s Mission district.

Beginning in Balmy Alley, they painted murals throughout the Mission. Called Las Mujeres Muralistas, these women sparked off a female mural renaissance throughout the US and Mexico.

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Patricia Rodriquez
( photo by Carlos B Cordova)

Eternal Queens was lucky to sit down with creator and co-founder of Mujeres Muralistas, Patricia Rodriquez. Currently residing in Oakland, Patricia developed the first Chicano Art History course at UC Berkley and has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico. She gave us a tour around her new house where she will be holding workshops and open galleries. Sunny and bright, it was the perfect place to sit down and talk about the past and her hopes for the future of female artists.

EQ: You’re such an inspiration to us, how did it all begin?

PR:  “I was born in Marfa, Texas, a little cow town in the middle of West Texas with magic lights that appear every night. Now, it’s a commune for artist and writers all over the world. I grew up with my Grandma and went to live with my parents and brothers when I was 9. In the 50s there was a huge migration of families working in fields. We past through many places. We went through Texas and picked cotton, we went through Mexico and picked Chile and then we got through California and finally landed in Ventura country.”

EQ: What interested you in painting and art?

PR: “When I was 11 I wanted to be an artist. I asked my mother to buy me a paint set. I went to painting classes at church and painted by numbers. But it was really the influence of my grandmother. In the evenings when I was growing up, she would sit at the table and write or sew and I was free to do whatever I wanted. I would go under the bed and cut out the figures from magazines to make my own dolls  There was a moment of peacefulness and meditative time that was ours. My grandmother and I had this space. She really set a good constitution in me for discipline and learning.”

EQ: What was your experience like at the San Francisco Art Institute in the 60s?

PR:  “I got through high school and graduated. I told my Mom I was going to college and she said, ‘You’re doing what? Mexican women don’t go to college.‘ But I got into SFAI because I had large portfolio of art. I was always painting, I didn’t know how, but I painted. So I got a scholarship and worked as a secretary at the college.

At the time, the teachers were really into the minimalist art scene coming out of New York. But I wanted to paint with a lot of color. I had one teacher who said, ‘ Well I see you’re trying to be Diego Rivera.’ And I looked at him and said ‘Who’s Diego Rivera?’. He said, ‘You don’t know who Diego Rivera is? Go up to library right now and look at his books.’ I left my paintings and went upstairs to the library. I opened up a book of Diego Rivera and I said this incredible. He’s political and he’s saying something about society. So I went back after two hours and class was over. I said to my professor, ‘Sir, I am Diego Rivera.’ The professor said, ‘ Good, you know who you are. That’s what matters.’”

EQ: How did Las Mujeres Muralistas form?

PR: “We were frustrated. Getting a scholarship to go to the finest art schools in California, I didn’t want to leave but the Civil Rights movement really shook things up. A lot of minorities left because of the prejudices, discrimination was really felt because we were coming in with our own set of ideas and ideas of art. Once the professors let me paint what I wanted to paint, there was only three Latinas left at the school. Graciela Carrillo, Consuelo Mendez and myself. Later on Irene Perez joined us. There was a lot of criticism of our work, always these little comments.. It effective us physically, emotionally, but we were trying to figure out how to stay because it was an opportunity to get our B.A.

I was already working in the community doing part-time jobs and I was at the Catholic Youth Organization when one of the priests said to me, ‘Hey you’re an artist. Do you want to do a mural in the hallway?’ He gave us the paint and he rented a scaffold.

It was a big job. So we opened it up to the guys. We invited Rene Yanez, Michael Rios, Tony Machado. The same guys who were already painting and said no to us when we wanted to paint with them. But we designed these trees and in between the trees was like a story, and the guys did things about Vietnam and drugs. We did things about children and art, being educated. It was a beautiful mural and that kicked up everyone to do more things. The guys got more commissions, we got more commissions and things took off right after that.”

EQ: What was it like creating a mural with a group of women for the first time?

PR: “Amazing. Like we were all tuned in the same station all at once. One of things we really emphasized was that we have to be a collective. A collective means that we agree. Nobody’s the boss. So we would agree on the design and divided it up. There was women who were much better in graphic and hard lines, that was Irene, and then Graciela was very beautiful in her paint and color. I had more of a mixture, Consuelo was very graphic. There was  a lot of different things that we could together.”

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Mujeres Muralistas

EQ: It was the first time women, particularly Chicana women, were painting murals in San Francisco, how did people react?

PR: “After the Catholic Youth Organization mural, Graciela and I said ‘You know if we’re going to be out there, we got to test the waters. What if we’re not able to hang?’ We had already finished that indoor mural and it was hard. So we started our first outdoor mural in Balmy Alley and there was an interesting phenomenon. The guys would come by and give us a hard time. ‘Give it up, you’re never going to finish. You know you can’t do it.’ And they were our friends, boyfriends, who we just invited to help us with our other mural. Women friends would come and say, ‘We could do that too’. They would start something and not finish. You had to be tough. You have to be able to hall buckets of paint up a scaffold and everything hurts but we were able to finish the mural. And we felt great.”

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Original Mural in Balmy Alley

EQ: You were painting in such an interesting time, how was the political atmosphere influencing your work?

PR: “The statements that we made were very feminine and we got a lot of criticism because we weren’t doing soldiers with guns, weren’t doing revolutionary figures. We were painting women.  Women in the marketplace, women breastfeeding, women doing art. People got really angry that we were doing that. ‘How could you do this when there’s so much going on?’ but we were saying that being a women is a revolution in society.

Before us there were some women who wanted to paint murals in Mexico. Diego Rivera came in and had them removed. We were the first group of women who had the freedom to go up on the scaffolding and paint what we pleased. We did some stuff about drugs but it was already being said. Everything was being repeated.

So, in the work we did, culture was emphasized and the best compliments came from our community. We were talking to our own community, our own families. Women would come and say ‘You know I’ve been here working in the hotels and cleaning houses all my life and nobody’s ever thought about us. Thank you for depicting our culture.’  That was the thank you we wanted.”

EQ: Did you feel that this work was healing for you and the women of your community?

PR: “Yes. It was a dream come true, I always wanted to be a painter and the murals opened up doors. At the same time, we were learning about ourselves and what it meant to be Mexican-American, that we came from a beautiful, developed society. For me, it was what I was meant to do. That was what the healing process was for me and I didn’t realize that then. We did it because we loved it but didn’t have any other understanding besides it made us feel good. Later on, I realized that art is healing.”

EQ: Do you think that things are shifting for female artists today?

PR: “What we did as trailblazers was cut out a road so that women can walk through it. Mainstream is still very limited. If you do research on the number of women in a major show, it’s only about 3-4. It’s not often you see an all women’s show in New York or in the mainstream.  A little later on a group of white feminists put together a show called “Whack” and asked me to participate. They invited me and then all of a sudden I heard nothing from them. I called and a women told me, ‘You’ve been wiped off the table.’ They were still only accepting that white feminist outlook, they haven’t evolved and didn’t recognize women of color. As women of color we still have to jump over a lot of hoops. To paint the murals or even just to go to school.”

EQ: Last question. Now when you walk down Balmy Alley it looks a lot different. What are your thoughts on the new aerosol work done by young people?

PR: “The alley is there for the young people to do what’s current. I don’t mind the spray art, I love it. But if I was teaching a mural class, I would focus on community. Who are the people in the community? What do they eat? What’s speaks to them? Kids need culture and social justice, because it’s a mural. It’s important to say something society and humans. Where we’re going and who we are. You have to speak to your audience, if you don’t, then it’s just graffiti.”

Thank you to Patricia Rodriquez for this amazing insight. Let us know your thoughts on female empowerment through art.

Much ❤

Eternal Queens

Climbing PoeTree: Art as Medicine, Voice, Weapon, and Vision

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Eternal Queens’ was first introduced to the force that is Climbing Poetree when they swooped through San Francisco to perform their amazingly soulful, dual-voice, spoken word, and multi-media theatre production “Hurricane Season.” Their acclaimed performance explores diverse themes, including: healing from state and personal violence, spiritual expansion, social, environmental, racial, and sexual justice, and woman’s empowerment.

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With flawless cadence and impeccable lyricism, Alixa and Naima weave together their voices to tell powerful stories of suffering and injustice, courage and love in a world overcome with fear. Soul-stirring and heart-opening, the poetry they deliver challenges its listeners to remember their humanity, dissolves apathy with hope, exposes injustice, and helps heal our inner trauma so that we may begin to cope with the issues facing our communities.

EQ stands strongly in solidarity with the Climbing PoeTree movement! Check them out, watch their videos, and feel the power these amazing women put out to the ethers. Respect!

Peace and Love,
– Eternal Queens