Breaking generational curses

B185C3E1-567C-411A-995D-5A8734E657F5
Working on making friends with my fears. Alchemising a really core, foundational-vibration of myself. Those underdeveloped. Scars no longer bleeding. Those vulnerable spaces. I’m learning that so much of it is familial. From my past. In my lineage. ⁣—Breaking generational curses⁣

-TheeAmazingGrace ♥️

#afrikanface #ascending #breakinggenerationalcurses #girlrillavintage #healingblack  #healthierhabits #lifework #locslove #rooted #roothealer #theeamazinggrace

ShadowKeeper & Roothealers “The Original OG’s”

CFBDF9DC-1B14-4A0A-8751-03B41A1C2AD6

Obatala in the future

Peace beautiful people! My name is Gracie Nicole Berry. I was born in west Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I was raised by a fire house group of traditional root healers or root doctors depending on where you’re from. African Ancestry describes my mitochondrial descendants as a “haplogroup” that originated in Ghana then migrating to Sierra Leone to Haiti to New Orleans to Charlotte North Carolina before settling in Philadelphia. My mother’s side not only taught us the essentials of living off the land, but the lifelong lesson of honoring our descended ancestors in all the many ways.  As a child I was fascinated by the rituals I witnessed. I once saw my great gram heal a man from what I now know to be gout.

She, my gram, grams husband, and great uncle used 2 large sacks of potatoes, corn liquor, grease-that smelled like cows poop and peppermint oil, and prayer. All of the swelling that had once deformed his lower legs and feet was gone by morning, this shortest moment in time, felt like an eternity. They kept watch throughout the night (I snuck to watch). He tossed, turned, babbled like he was drunk in his sleep, his body soaked through the sheets. The potatoes that hung above the doorway, around the bed, and encased his legs and feet had literally shrunken down to resemble large prunes in front of our very eyes. I just knew it was a miracle that that old man didn’t have scary looking elephant feet anymore. No one was permitted to touch the potato droppings. My uncle swept them into a pile on a piece of cardboard, emptied the contents into two paper bags and left at my grams instruction to bury the bags.

7541F480-2A68-4474-8001-EBED214953B7

Great gram Frida May Stewart-Chisholm

My great gram was known for moving throughout the community using practical and spiritual gifts passed down through many generations. She, my gram, and several aunts and uncles could also see and speak to ancestors and foresee things before they happened. They healed so many people in and round our community in miraculous ways. And somehow me and my cousins manage to hold dear to both inherited and learned spiritual gifts like that of conjuring, veneration of the departed, using herbs as medicine, and spending time in nature.

It’s empowering to know the spiritual strength I come from-that flows in my DNA. One of the main reasons I choose to center my blackness, un-apologetically, before any of the margins. You may wonder what centering blackness looks like…well for me, it reminds me of mindfulness meditation for black folks. It’s become as natural as breathing. In a world where living while black can literally cost us our lives. Where capitalism, patriarchy, and racial micro-aggression’s plague every facet of our worldly experience with or without our consent. Centering myself as a black woman first and foremost helps me to choose what’s best for me always.

Prior to discovering my mother’s west Afrikan ancestry in 2018, themes of healing, identity, and sexuality have been prevalent in my personal history and artistic development. Passions cultivated during my undergraduate studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the first degree granting, historically black college/university. Lincoln University’s very inception inspired me to dive deeper into my cultural lineage through the arts and to encourage others to do the same. To unpack parts of history our ancestors had long stowed away. To break generational curses. My family of origin and community continue to be a great source of growth, pride, and self-discovery. I want any of the art I create to be steeped in truth. To inspire. To evoke all types of feelings. To energize. To interrogate systems of oppression. To renegotiate narratives as they relate to black bodies and spaces.

If you get down to the exhibit, share your experience and hashtag so I can find you: #girlrillavintage #shadowkeepersandroothealers #shadowkeepersandroothealerstheoriginalogs

-In Warmest Sol,

TheeAmazingGrace

SHADOWKEEPERS & ROOTHEALERS “THE ORIGINAL OG’S” An homage and Afro-futurist altar of the Original Orisha God’s from the Yoruba culture of west Afrika including ancestors that have radically nourished, transformed and sustained the lives of those in the Afrikan Diaspora throughout the world.

I can’t begin acknowledgments of my experience as a station case artist at Lancaster’s Amtrak Station without first recognizing Ogun, the Orisha of iron and metalworkers. Ogun, aligns with all of the ancestors that were involved in building American and international railway systems that afford us the luxury of railway travel today. To the Pullman Porters, black men and women who were often overworked, underpaid and racially defiled while fighting for their human right to exist. To those passengers of Afrikan descent that experienced segregated railway cars and unspeakable violence, those that lost their lives in struggle, and to those ancestors whose eternal flame will never burn out from the trail they’ve set ablaze in their fight toward freedom.

As an artist, community educator, and womanist my senses are often inundated with a ton of information. This particular art project stretched me in ways I never understood before. The Public Art application phase, alone was daunting (well maybe not as daunting as single-handedly gluing hundreds of small shells onto large surfaces), but the written process was damn good practice in how to chronicle my creative accomplishments.

Researching the ancestors and Orisha triggered thoughts about how magnificent and powerful the Yoruba community is all over the world. Ancestors, books, dialogues, and research all influenced my visual works you see here today. Yoruba devotees, know that I’m still finding my way and have so much to learn.

All of the Orisha sculptures you see are my personal, artistic depictions. I sited all references that helped me and maybe helpful to you at the end of this blog. Being an artist as well as an old soul, I wanted to create fresh images that highlight the power and influences of the eldest Orisha pantheon that may not be as popular as some of the others. You’ll notice the use of cowrie shells on several pieces in all sorts of shapes, symbols, and patterns. My idea was to convey portal like projections all over their bodies to connect to deeper spiritual meaning.

During meditation and dream states, I tapped into energy that surpassed 5th dimensional time and space. Ultimately, Yoruba feels like home to me. And I trust that this exhibition will feel like home to you. That it will honor and uplift your spirits, no matter how you feel about it.  

Aside, I want to add that the presence of cowrie shells in my work is synonymous to the abundance, power and vastness of the ocean and water in general. How limitless it would be to re-imagine, not only our skin, but the totality of our ascension beyond the flesh. Scholar Bayo Akomolafe reminds us that, we like water are homeless. I know right?! Because water as he describes it, in its entanglement, its fluidity, its porousness, serves as an invitation to deconstruct oneself over and over again, to shape shift. Think about the oneness that takes place between the mortal and immortal in the pouring of ancestral libation. And how it’s not simply to remember our ancestors, but is a way to reconfigure ourselves and our members over and over.

Shadowkeepers & Roothealers “The Original OG’s” serves as an invitation to those from all walks of life to go beyond what is simply in front of them. To go beyond the physical form and experience. To go beyond the call and response narrative. Beyond solutions. Beyond duality. To listen without ears. To see without eyes. To conceive that we are more alike than we are different despite how colonization tries to separate us. We exist. We are the space behind the stars. We come from ancestors that never left us. We come from someplace.

AFRO-FUTURISM AND SPIRITUALITY WHILE RE-IMAGINING TECHNOLOGY I find myself seeking truth at every juncture. I give myself permission to redefine things meant to harm or hinder me. One of my dearest friends, lovingly calls me, Crossaline because she knows if there is ever a line that teeters on the edge of injustice I will cross it to struggle for understanding, for liberation.

The term Afrofuturism dates back to the 1990’s, but is not really new in terms of civilization. In fact the concept is quite ancient or “Afrodiasporic”. Evidence of an “Afrikan future” can be linked to northeast Afrika, at the ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza, one of the most incredible achievements on the face of the earth from the hands of ancient humankind to this day. It’s fascinating to know that ancient Afrikans built something that no modern technology, scholar has ever been able to reproduce. Remember, we come from someplace.

Afro-futurist works and theories in essence are steeped in connecting past, present, and future truths unlike many mainstream techno-culture and science-fiction works and theories that more often disavow the past and blur lines of present and future. I see color and infinite possibility. I see us as spiritual beings having a human experience. I see a collective consciousness, coming to the edge of our truth, honoring each other and our ancestors. I see us organizing in a myriad of ways. After all the very nature of Afro-futurism involves a deep honoring of ancestors and ancient societies. Moreover, how it celebrates movements that fight to acknowledge, empower, and humanize people of Afrikan descent.

WEST AFRIKAN MYTHOLOGY my exhibit focuses on Afrikan Mythology because of all the spiritual paths it offers the most sophisticated understanding of creation and humanity. It permeates Cameroon, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and it has journeyed through the Afrikan holocaust and transatlantic, enslaved-Afrikan trade to Brazil, Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Trinidad, South American and other Caribbean countries. Yoruba traditions are rich in artistic fables and creation truths, and offers a pantheon of Orishas (gods and goddesses). It serves in similar ways that angels do in Christianity, Islamic and Jewish religions. For example, Olodumare ranks as the highest Orisha because he is the God of all creation by giving living beings their very breath. He crafted the universe in similar ways that Brahma is regarded in Hinduism’s creation stories. Lastly, Dr. Jacob Olupona reminds us that, Afrikan spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane.

SHADOWKEEPERS THE ELDEST ORISHA as I mentioned early on, I wanted to highlight the eldest Orisha. Given my theme of Afrofuturerism my focus was to add a futuristic edge to Orisha whose gender was ambiguous as well as prominent historical components. I sought Orisha that represented a world I could envision myself living in. I realize that of all three Orisha honored, Obatala was the one that was less straight forward about gender than the others. Some sources both scholarly and spiritual pointed to Obatala being female, male or neither while others defined him as one or the other. Also, despite historical origins, women as well as men can be initiated to Obatala. One of the books I read examines deities to include that of Obatala. It further discusses some of the transformations experienced both in their Yoruba homeland and in the Americas.

To be transparent, I don’t fully understand why spirit saw fit for Obatala to manifest to me in female form, but at any rate I’m very proud. I interpreted the information both as an artist, scholar and spiritual being, after extensive research. I think Obatala bringing forth femininity is sort of perfect timing, given the harsh, male dominated political climate we live in today. Also, the fact that there is so much more work to be done to bridge commonalities over the differences in the Yoruba spiritual community. It makes my journey toward a healthy practice even more meaningful.

OBATALA the people of southwestern Nigeria describe him as the king of the white cloth and the creator of all humankind. However, sources in Afro-Latina communities say that Obatala does not have a permanent gender incarnation and can be male, female or neither. Obatala is married to Yemonja, the goddess of life at the top of the ocean and the godmother of Orishas. This makes Obatala the god of all human beings without regard to gender. Obatala is the god of justice and truth, peace, and purity. Much like the image of Jesus Christ, Obatala is the child of God. Olorun, the father of Obatala, permitted them, to descend from the heavens, create land over the waters, and template human bodies from popo (mud and clay). In most spiritual traditions, God shows compassion because the human being errs; in Yoruba tradition, Obatala shows compassion because they themselves has erred.

OLOKUN the people of southwestern Benin describe them as one of the most commanding Orisha and is respected as an authority over all other water deities. Olokun’s name is derived from the word “Olo” meaning “owner”, and “Okun” meaning “ocean”. Olokun is the owner of all deep, dark water at the bottom of the ocean. They hold the key to all the mysteries of what happened to our ancestors on those fateful journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. Olokun does not have a permanent gender, however my depiction of more feminine. They possess unmatched wisdom, governs over dreams, wealth, prosperity, meditation and healing past, present and future.

ORUNMILA the people of southwestern Nigeria describe him as a prophet and oldest son of Olorun-ruler of the sky, creator of the son. Orunmila is a master spiritualist who sees all and knows all. He holds the gift of wisdom and divination. He was present both at the beginning of creation and then again amongst the people as a prophet. Orunmila taught an advanced form of spiritual knowledge and ethics called Odu Ifa, during visits to earth in physical form or through his disciples. He is a prophet and maker of miracles and speaks to us through his disciples.

ROOTHEALERS OUR BELOVED ANCESTORS

MAMA UBUNTU “HUMANESS” is the first of four dream inspired pieces from my first installment series AfrikanFace: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. Mama Ubuntu symbolizes the resilience of Winnie Mandela and many others during the wake of apartheid in South Afrika. She is a home (literally with each hanging from her waist) to those people of Afrikan descent who aren’t as well known in history, but without them the world wouldn’t be the same. They not only died in struggle, but kept the fight for freedom and justice alive.

To include:

  1. Afeni Shakur
  2. Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
  3. Amiri Baraka
  4. Audrey Lorde
  5. Catherine obianuju Acholono
  6. Edgar Daniel Nixon
  7. George Schuyler
  8. Georgia Gilmore
  9. Imam Abdullah Haron
  10. James Baldwin
  11. Kwame Ture
  12. Marielle Franco
  13. Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson
  14. Ntozake Shange
  15. Otavia Butler
  16. Patrice Lumumba
  17. Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu
  18. Steve Biko
  19. Sun Ra
  20. Theodor Wonja Michael
  21. Thomas Sankara
  22. Tony Morrison
  23. Toussaint Louverture
  24. Zora Neale Hurston

AUSA UHSA “ITS RAINING” the second of four dream inspired pieces from my first installment series AfrikanFace: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. She was created to honor the people of Malakula Vanautu, a group of east Afrikans that migrated to northeast Australia, better known as the Mbotgate people where it is hot, rainy, and humid for most of the year.

00A6443B-95DD-4C42-A100-DA1B91048BA7
BIYAHA “WATER”
the third of four dream inspired pieces from my first installment series Afrikan Face: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. Biyaha honors deities of the ocean Olokun and Yemonja. How they lead those ancestors that perished at sea find their way during ascension at the middle passage.

05B6AED5-B258-4DB7-8F96-A8AC71F01AA6

ZINA “SECRET SPIRIT” the last of four dream inspired pieces in my first installment series Afrikan Face: Autochthonous Blood & Bone. Zina is an ode to my younger self. The spirit and physical manifestation I imagined myself to be.

8A2BC1F4-5081-4E65-8C61-A4A691FE1F47
EGUNGUN “MASQUERADE OF ANCESTOR REVERENCE”
my Egungun was constructed for the purpose of honoring those you see here today. Given the deeply secretive and spiritual nature of the Egungun spirits, I felt called to ask my ancestors for permission. They gave me the go ahead after only one night and one prayer. Conjuring an Egungun was the most difficult part of my journey because I had to dig deep to find authentic resources. My friends, family and two cats engage the Egungunin ways that let me know that his ancestral power is activated.

D5F93E4B-225A-4C29-A982-6FCED01E24B13AC34DC6-00EF-4A77-85CA-D05988CB34D8

REFERENCES

Books

Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi And Fantasy Culture by Ytasha L. Womack

Obatala: The Greatest and Oldest Divinity by Olayinka Adewuyi

Olokun of the Galaxy by Esther Iverem

On the Orishas’ Roads and Pathways: Obatalá, Odúa, Oduduwá by Miguel W. Ramos

Powers of the Orishas: Santeria & The Worship of Saints by Migene Gonzalez Wippler

The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts by Baba If a Karade

The Way of the Orisa : Empowering Your Life Through the Ancient African Religion of Ifa by Philip Neimark and Philip J. Neimark

Yoruba-Speaking People’s of the Slave Coast of West Africa: Their Religion, Manners, Customs, Lawd, Etc. (Forgotten Books) by A.B. Ellis

Videos

Bayo Akomolafe-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIr2hOMVhIc&t=5s

Joseph Baba Ifa-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2-mheArnwk

Ogunda Meji 9-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOg14RZe50g&t=21s

Orunmila: Witness to All Choice of Destiny-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2cgfWZnAa8

Who is Obatala-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EcNe0i1Vcs

Who is Olokun-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGokjxjFgVY

Websites

http://www.aawiccan.org/site/Obatala.htl

https://ancientamerica.com/kusheshiobatala-the-inventor-of-ogam/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/obatala-the-sweetest-god-_b_9817068

https://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com/2013/09/obatala-festival-honoring-orisha-deity.html

https://www.originalbotanica.com/blog/orisha-orula-orunmila-santeria/

https://www.originalbotanica.com/blog/the-orishas-olokun/

https://oshunschild.com/2018/08/01/reporting-from-cuba-review-on-the-orishas

Afrofuturism: Everything and Nothing

https://risdmuseum.org/manual/445_cloth_as_metaphor_in_egungun_costumes

http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0041-476X2017000200008

https://sohe.wisc.edu/research-development/centers-of-excellence/cdmc/textile-collection/textile-resources-2/featured-textiles

https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/uram.11.3.233

https://yagbeonilu.com/?s=obatala

https://yorubaperformance.weebly.com/the-image.html

 

My Sweethoney Glistening

Quote

“It’s a hell of an honor supporting self reliant, little black girls and boys. Those who love themselves, or need extra support, but allowing them to love themselves nonetheless. Building self-confident, self-assured, aware, #blackchildren without fear, without burdening them with the worlds problems, or with our own needs and problems, without expecting them to fulfill all the things we didn’t, is a feat, that we’re working through. Shout out to all of the beautiful, black mamas and papas (to include loved ones of my own, doing it right now), raising RAD ASS, capable ass, black humans! It can be a difficult road, yet it’s not an impossible journey. Keep up the fantastic work. You got support! We got this!”

Had the privilege of spending a few hours with my 7-year old goddaughter, this afternoon. Her mother went on a job interview (that she scored, on the spot, by the way 🙌🏾)! I was asked to spend time with her until mama finished. We went to my goddaughter’s favorite store, or perhaps, favorite for most children her age, Toys-R-Us. As we walked through the maze of toys, she kept asking for things that I didn’t have the money to buy lol! Its a thing convincing a 7-year old that you’re not rich and barely have money to pay your rent, but knowing she’s still a child I decided to contribute to her experience the best way I could. I snappped photos of all of the items that me, I mean, she wanted, so we could show them to her mother (a big kid like me can dream right 😜 lol?!) She told me that I could show her mama the pictures, but that Santa 🎅🏾  was really the one to tell, since he did all the hard work on Christmas. I didn’t want to burst her bubble about Santa not being real, plus she was at a vibratory frequency, so elevated that I didn’t want to destroy a moment so pure.

I listened instead of talking at her. It seemed therapeutic for us both, the experience of walking through what I call a real live toy jungle #toysrus. We used the time to catch on previous weeks. She was rambunctious, yet mildly subdued while showing me her favorite toys, behaving almost well enough, so that I might buy her something (wishful thinking kid lol)! At any rate, she especially liked the #shopkins, some grocery store item toys and other funny things like that. She told me about doing well in school. I asked, what her favorite part was. She replied, “I loooooooooove reading #chapterbooks!” I asked, why? She told me a story about being able to read them really fast and that she likes all the big words. She went on to tell me that she wants a hundred chapter books to read. Talk about AMBITIOUS, you go girl 🙌🏾🤓🤪!

We walked around most of the store before my feet started to hurt lol! Before leaving, she suggested that we go over to the dolls section. Part of me was nervous because from my view, there was little representation of any dolls that looked like us. I had to trust her though. It’s something about trusting our children in their ability to lead, at least in that moment. Immediately, she gravitated to the few dolls that looked like us #blackandbrown. I was like, I’ll be damned lol! Not that I was surprised-it was more a refreshing feeling, if that makes since? I was beyond happy to know that she was intuitively paying attention! She asked me to take a picture of the first doll she liked. Talk about honored, I was! Photo below

BF16462C-FA75-49C2-9BAD-1C2BBE8BE165

I captured the brief moment on video, perhaps two seconds too late because she raved on and on about this particular doll, or maybe I was right on time because she still got the point. The moment she chose a doll that had the same hair texture and complexion as her. She didn’t shy away from the familiar. She didn’t shy away from how she really felt. She was in awe of this inanimate objects reflection of herself! It was so much bigger than that. She exclaimed, she’s so pretty!” Here is the short video link from my Instagram page @girlrillavintage ⬇️

She went on to choose, several more dolls of color that she liked. She payed a compliment to her mother by showing me a doll that she said, “looked pretty like her mama”! She asked me to take more photos of dolls that she wanted for Christmas. Here are some of the photos I captured in those moments. I’m so pleased at how at age seven, she hasn’t yet been damaged by our society’s anti-black messages in that way. How inspiring it is to witness her mother, my best friend, raising, three, thriving black daughters. And to witness how the women in her family encouraged her sense of self (from her Nana, to aunties, to her older sister) all who wear their hair #natural and funky other styles!

36C7B71B-4A3D-4F52-89EE-05ADB7F4F56610DCEBA0-74E6-4BA2-9896-D80CB571C0982C709EF1-A996-4B62-ADC4-137E67A6DCC5

What an awesome experience to have had with her! How, I used the opportunity to empower the power within her. How, she sought a reflection of herself in that store. How, I watched her #fallinlove with her beautiful #afrikanface, despite, us being underrepresented in that moment. How AWESOME, witnessing her compliment the black girls in her life. How, she recognized the beautiful familiar in those dolls, and embraced the same within herself. God-mommy win of the year lol! Safe return to the little black girl inside me, living vicariously through her, and all those cool #toys lol! And although I never got to be a playful, little #blackgirl like her, look at how beautiful it is that she gets to be. Sweet honey, glistening! 🍯 ⭐️ 💫 🌟

 

Oh yes and after I showed her mother all the photos and video, she urged me to share this with the world on social-media because it made her proud too, so here we are with permission lol!

Warmest,

#TAG AKA #THEEAMAZINGGRACE AKA #GRACEBERRY #DJBOODESTANK AKA #SLEEPY AKA #MIKE AKA #BROWNSKINSKINNYKID

Scalp-Greasing: A Black Hair Ritual

IMG_7159.JPG

Greasing or oiling the scalp has historical roots for black Afrikans born in America. In fact as we’ve become more knowledgeable about the benefits of natural oils, scalp oiling has become common practice among people of all ethnicities to maintain healthy hair and scalp. This entry will highlight how it relates directly to the women in the #afrikanface show and to people of Afrikan descent. During enslavement, we no longer had access to #palmoil that we used in #afrika to care for our hair, so we used other oil-based products like #lard #butter #crisco to condition and soften our hair. Scalp greasing is a ritual.

IMG_7157

Dr. Kari explains perfectly, “The days of washing our hair at the kitchen sink, detangling in the bathroom, perhaps blow drying, and spending time on your mom’s living room floor on a pillow, nestled between her legs for that routine scalp greasing. It was a ritual that, no matter how busy life got, was NOT forgone. Part by part, inch by inch, your scalp was doused in a “miracle” grease”…

Scalp time was our love time (I wrote a poem about this). It was a time to bond, for mama to lay open her hands souls to literally groom you. It seemed almost therapeutic for both of us (even when my hair was tangled, still a tender headed ass), the way she would place a dollop of grease on the back of her hand, comb, then grease, then part, then grease some more, then plat or braid. The jewel was how she managed to have full fledged conversations, sip beer, and brushed my baby hair all fancy, adding her finishing touch. Those were the days, nights, afternoons I still long for today. Come to the show to see how the hair ritual unfolds!

Warmest,

Thee Amazing Grace B

IMG_7158

Naturally Nappily

I can appreciate honesty, but honesty don’t always mean right. My loved one posted a status about their detest of natural hair and how they won’t date a woman whose natural and furthermore when they see it they want to relax it. As I mentioned to them, when you see a woman with natural hair now a days believe me it’s one of the deepest acts of self love out here, so while you hate it, it does no good to hate on the love she got going on for herself. Women of color have suffered self hate of their own skin far too long and now we are falling in love with ourselves all over again simply by wearing our hair the way it was gifted to us at birth. This is our revolution, our birth right! I loooooove my nappy and all things nappy. heart emoticon ‪#‎naps‬ ‪#‎loveyourhair‬ ‪#‎naturalisbeautiful‬

-Gracie Berry

10943675_10155115730825284_6545540124116355354_n