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Cannon Hill Collective Week Four: Mindfulness

Plant your feet. No really, plant them – feet placed in line with your hips and anchor yourself there. Empty your lungs before we begin, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.

1, 2, 3, 4… and then hold it right there, for another 4 seconds.

1, 2, 3, 4… and then exhale for 8 seconds.

Might not sound like much but this incredibly chilled out and grounding meditation session might be the reason that mine and Louisa’s minds are so fuzzy over the individual details from the beginning of our Cannon Hill Art Collective Meeting. We are now getting into the Collective swing of things, this time focusing on mindfulness. Mindfulness can be described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment; using meditation as an agent to find inner clarity, insight and understanding.

Lou:

Upon entering the Foyle Studio at our home away from home mac Birmingham, we were presented with a table of random small objects e.g a tiny shovel, a napkin ring, a feather. All of which were adorable interesting things. Preya, our meditation leader introduced herself and her “random item” then invited us to follow suit.

Individually we picked an item off the table, anything that called out to us, we were then asked to introduce ourselves, our items and why we chose that said item. I picked a cylinder of glitter; representative of my excitability and potential, over the top was a big thick cap, reflective of how I felt trapped within myself.

Jess:

I’m going to be honest here guys, I went for the pebble. I nearly faltered and chose a sea shell instead but I just couldn’t choose between them and to be truthful, nothing seemed like a nicer solution than just holding onto a cool, smooth pebble whilst learning how to chill out.

 The shapes and what they represented were really just physical permissions for us to share how we’d been feeling. Since joining the Collective we have been asked to share again and again our creative processes and inspirations. Coming together to talk about our final resolved ideas has been exciting but has also made us closer. After voicing our needs to not find a meditation process that allows us to continue doing this, but instead relax and ground ourselves was a decision that we all supported for each other.

Lou:

Yes! Well aren’t you just a jar of greatness?

Jess:

You make me blush!

Lou:

Thus, on that mutual basis we were introduced to the next exercise; Conscious embodiment. A technique used to access to our bodies, as our bodies and even energies have an effect on the way we view our surrounding world and in turn how that world views us.

Jess:

Which brings us back to planting… I always think of meditation as a lone process, so this experience of being guided through gentle breathing and mental exercises wasn’t the only reality that was evidently different from my expectations. It was sharing our meditation process with another person. We practiced breathing and grounding exercises whilst being gently pushed by another member of the Collective. This quiet element of communication, checking if it was okay to lean against someone else’s’ arm, when to begin pushing and when to stop were all subtle roles of communication that we felt easily able to establish with each other.

It’ll be interesting to see how these practiced roles of support and testing will reappear as we embark on our collaborative project.

Again, the specifics and breathing techniques may appear here as kind of vague. But whilst I do find myself still repeating my 1, 2, 3, 4 breathing exercises and urging others to give meditation a go – please do not find my vagueness any kind of indication that you shouldn’t try it out. If anything, I think you should all go and find out for yourselves the benefits of meditation. No really, you should. Or pick up a pebble, that was a rather relaxing option as well.

Lou:

Through the lengthening of our spines and the roots we planted through our limbs and into the ground, individually we unveiled a great sense of more-ness. More strength, more control, more focus and more peace. It was beautifully settling. The session left me with the means to love, evolve, create.

Jess:

They will just have to trust us on this. We were left with all of the good vibes.

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A Cheeky Chunk of Afrovibes

An amalgamation of dance, music and theatre, all of which holding the narrative of South Africa 20 years after apartheid. If that’s not mind blowing enough, Afrovibes Festival also featured pop up performances from local talent, post-show discussions and a taste of South African food. All could be found at the Township Café, a wonderful enhancement to the already wonderful festival! Now in efforts to expand my knowledge of South African culture and eat as much Bunny Chow as I could, I had planned to attend all the shows featured in the programme. However due to a severe case of the sniffles I only managed to view three; sad I know. Here are some reviews!

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Skierlik – Written and performed by Phillip M Dikotia

An intense and heart wrenching story of one man’s home and livelihood, stolen from his grasp by racism’s greedy finger tips. The weight of the heartache experienced from travelling was drilled into us from the moment protagonist Thomas (our main man Phillip M Dikotia) took off on his journey. Through repetition he drags us on his laborious journey to Skielik, his home. He returns, only to be flooded with painful memories of the wife and child lost in a violent mass shooting. Thomas explains how the loss of his loved ones was shrouded in bright lights and film crews, how the incident put Skierlik on the map as a place of poverty and the bodies of those mourned were over looked. Skierlik was heart breaking, powerful and unassumingly suspenseful to say the least.

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Rainbow Scars – Written by Mike van Graan, Directed by Lara Bye

We follow Lindiwe, a young black South African girl adopted by Ellen, her white middle class mother, affirming the belief that South Africa 20 years on from apartheid is a “Rainbow nation”. Unintentionally she is reintroduced to her blood cousin Sickello (I apologise if this has been misspelt). He enters baring the news that his mother is dying and Lindiwe is presented with her last request, to help Sickello in any way she can. Now stripped of her sheltered home, Lindiwe is forced to question her identity. An interesting piece of realism which delves into themes such as “the white saviour” in the form of Lindwe’s adopted mother. When relaying her views on her adoption in a heated conversation, Lindiwe refers to herself as her mother’s “pet, project and trophy”. This, alongside elements of internalised racism within Lindiwe, frequently delivered from Sickello in the term ‘coconut’, formed the thought provoking piece which is Rainbow Scars.

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Uncles and Angels – Choreographed and performed by Nelisiwe Xaba. Video Artist Mocke J van Veuren

An alluring piece centred on the Reed Dance, a traditional dance which promotes chastity in young women, resurrected in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80’s. Uncles and Angels explores the preciousness of virginity and chastity amongst young girls. Ironically, the Reed Dance is performed in traditional clothing which exposes most of the body and has been said to trigger the rape of these young girls. Featuring effective video projections, we were taken on a mind blowing visual exhibition involving multiplication of live images, repetition and manipulation of time; thus creating a mesmerising and somewhat trippy performance.

Dark Cell – Created and performed by Themba Mbuli

A potent piece of contemporary dance, layered in the shadowy themes of mental imprisonment. As an audience member, it’s safe to say we were all transfixed within the concept of Dark Cell, which happens to be based on the harsh surroundings of Robben Island Prison. Music was drawn from chains and buckets which held symbolism of the living conditions at the prison. The buckets were representative of the toilet system which is still held in some communities today. Themba Mbuli then began to strip and perform nude, reflective of the indecent treatment of the prisoners by the wardens. An extremely powerful piece I could watch again and again.