new/mind/ritualz 13

i found myself believing, as i performed new/mind/ritualz 13, that LOVE, as expressed through art + real life, are not lost art forms after all. whether it’s a self-love potion you ritualizing, or a next-level affair of the heart with a fellow wildcat. it’s a delicious use our time to go deeply with both ourselves and each other.

by kelly shaw willman

new/mind/ritualz is a 56-movement performance art piece released one movement at a time until complete. some movements are open to the public, while others are documented in a more private setting by a single collaborator or altogether solo. as is true of performance art, the artist herself is the primary medium.

photo Katie Cercone

the project’s title alludes to a new mind space coming forth for the artist, a rebirth (rebirthing) of sorts; as the wholeness of this rebirth is embodied again & again & again & again & again, a little storytelling (from/of the past) weaves through sometimes. 

photo Katie Cercone

SEE the archive for new/mind/ritualz HERE

recently, while in Thailand, on the crystalline island of Koh Phangan, i documented movement 13 of new/mind/ritualz with a well respected woman artist, Katie Cercone, behind the cam; she doubles as friend, and triples as fiery-angelic ice kween. #livinglegend #mermaidsisters #holographicI$H

i’ve followed Katie’s work for a good 7 or so years– around the same time i departed Brooklyn for life in Costa Rica. while leaning into jungle juju, i remained loyally connected to the happs in NYC, namely thru Katie. the bigger picture: there are many details related to my encounters with Katie, UNDAKOVA, & bb boi Kali, their $on, the last couple of years+. for the fuller stories bout everything, stay tuned for my book– working title: diary of a meltdown.

for now, i am challenging myself to zero-in on the *golden nuggets* as they relate to movement 13 of new/mind/ritualz and also my recent experiences in Thailand. ultimately, my time in Thailand helped me to weave a lighter understanding of how to engage with my sparkling personal power whilst simultaneously honoring the real pieces of me that traverse/d the darkness/shadows.

the skinny: Katie & UNDAKOVA together are ultracultural others, an Urban Mystery Skool based in NYC. recently, i participated in their YO! YOGI HIP HOP RETREAT in Thailand. 

READ ABOUT the KALI MA PROCESSION as part of the retreat.

a lil backstory: i arrived to Thailand about 5 months ahead of the retreat. in retrospect, it’s kinda funny, but showing up for anything *ultracultural others* is no small feat for me. i am talking plane rides from Central America to NYC and NYC back to Central America in the midst of a yucky break-up + government hostility– enter 4 a.m. checkpoints enroute to the airport in Nicaragua’s capital, featuring big gunman up in my suitcases. 

i’m also talking my longest plane ride ever to SE Asia from my Iowa homeland, and a subsequent vizzy to Bangkok in pursuit of an Embassy Repatriation Loan to get my luscious booty back “home,” wherever that is for an *ecstatic wanderer,* a term Clarissa Pinkola Estés coins in her masterpiece, Women Who Run With the Wolves

i had the hope upon arriving in Thailand that it’d feel as Costa Rica did in my early years there– CR was to me an oceanic playground for self-healing, a timeout from the pace of NYC. towards the end of my time in CR, however, my opinion about life there was grossly tainted by an abusive relationship + death threat + machismo as a cultural illness, etc. if the Caribbean of CR was just about my connection to the old skool local storytelling elders and a couple of fierce gal pals, game on, but there was a lot more on the table, and my appetite for it all was … eyeroll.

Kelly Shaw Willman in Costa Rica

during my months in Thailand, tho, i was most delighted by the local-lady-friends i made @ my ghetto bungalow in Koh Phangan. on the day i departed the “Relax Beach” property for Bangkok, and ultimately a return (post-retreat) to the U.S., Titi, one of my sweetpeas, gave me the flip flops off her own feet when i couldn’t find mine. she then drove me barefoot to the pier for the pre-dawn ferry ~ ~

~ ~ kisses on the cheeks as i boarded. my 37th bday. i miss y’all– thank you for providing me the quiet space ($140/month #rent) i needed for several months of *jungle.* i made elaborate friendships with sea cucumbers and kitties, and had remarkable frequent visions of giving birth into the ocean. in summary, yuh girl released a lot of deep-seated anger and sadness, processes that are not given much space, if any, in the overculture of America. 

i feel that America is conditioned to experience burnout/crisis vs. the encouragement of sustainable daily practices that honor personal well-being, and therefore, a greater compassionate accessibility to others. often too, art is not considered *career* or *professional* by some, including many of my blood family members– this is but one of many perspectives that continues to thwart the deserved rise-up of the woman artist as financially supported and respected vs. marginalized. 

golden nuggets: as i reacclimate slowly to stateside living, i reflect on the art of holding space. holding space came up a lot on the retreat, and i’m still processing through my feelings about it. (what is holding space? learn more HERE.) what i feel in my bones is that unless your own self-care/self-trust game is on fleek, holding space is taxing.

i’ve been a space holder the entirety of my life– for parents (as child and adult,) and presently for a few inner-circle loved ones really going thru it: recuperating from complex traumas– and i’ll be real witchu, i’m really really tired ~ ~ ~ but i’m also made for this work by way of having an innately fat heart + fatter soul, listening eyes, and the ability to output *hope/offerings* thru my artistry. 

i’ve also been thru the ringer a milli times myself, and i’m newly knowing what the other side feels like, and i wanna focus on this– the fascination. period. also, the ferocious reclamation of my time and energy. … and goddamn, a queen needs reciprocation. show up for me too, or leave me alone … #keepingitaHUNDY

before you deeply hold space, consider: are your basic needs met before you take on the needs of others? for example, i have dealt in housing insecurity most of my post-university years, yet i have kept stepping up to bat for those in need without voicing that i too am sometimes struggling/exhausted. {it’s okay to take a break from holding space. come back refreshed and fully receptive after an earned reset.}

do you have boundaries about how much you give and to whom? my mentor, Reverend Saundra, provides the simplest reminders sometimes, ones that escape yuh if you’re recovering from dissociation and/or are conditioned within your family to extensively care-take for others before yourself. have you eaten, are you hydrated, well rested, and do you have a reasonable time limit assessed if you indeed agree to hold space? 

summary: Thailand very solidly validated for me how necessary it is to have the personal time and space for nurturing oneself into a grounded state of being. perhaps it is in part my age, and the near 20 years i’ve come to understand Complex PTSD/my recovery, … but i’m good mostly. finally. like, i know how to return to the beauty of my spiritual + creative practice ~ to myself ~ ~ ~ ~ ain’t nobody taking that from me. a bitch is here to stay.

golden nuggets continued: i set out to be concise, and that is not the process that this article organically unfolded!! in tying up this piece, though, i am sharing some ideas about new/mind/ritualz: movement 13. 

some of my fave iconography in my 15 years of making performance art are fruits, glitter, flowers, herbs, children’s toys, and more. the last 2-3 movements of new/mind/ritualz has def explored what i believe to be a twin-connection of the inner-child and ice kween archetypes– this concept also embodies what Oshun represents to me. 

elaboration: Oshun is the Black Woman Gawd that i prayerfully focus upon in my personal practice. given to me by Marissa Arterberry, a best friend and fellow artist, the whole of my soul came to understand the sacred union of honey-meets-fire as i ventured down the rabbit hole with Oshun over a decade ago. 

Marissa Arterberry & Kelly Shaw Willman

Oshun certainly came thru on the retreat– we collected yellow flowers in her honor and singsonged her name into the air and upon candle flames. in my performance of movement 13 specifically, i felt Oshun calling thru my ears as Katie and Julianna adorned my body with turmeric, kawaii bunnies, leaves, and lavender flowers. Oshun giggles a lot, and i felt her tickle my top-body with silliness as we moved thru n/m/r 13 too. 

Oshun embodies such sweetness, but does not hold back in asserting her worth and no-tolerance policy on being used– all wonderful food for thought in these times of deepening our boundary-making. back to the inner-child and ice kween archetypes, tho … 

… as i was closing my chapter in Costa Rica, i had an incredibly potent divination with Gogo Ekhaya, a Sangoma medicine woman. Gogo Ekhaya said that my departure from CR was gonna freaking hurt (my words, war) but that it was indeed a move that had to happen. Reverend Saundra said the same, and also understood the danger i was in living on my abusive ex’s property. Gogo E also visualized that i, in my adult form, walked hand in hand with my inner-child, my little girl self– the innocent darling who needed *grown me* to mother her with newfound focus.

Gogo Ekhaya, Kelly Shaw Willamn & Gogo Thule

my personal theory/idealization is that the inner-child represents sweetness, yet is taught in her tender years to proclaim personal space, to have boundaries, autonomy, and safety. the woman-self suffers far less in her adulthood, because the whole of her life, in a non-dysfunction setting, she’s consistently practicing self-assertion without being shamed. also, she is no orphan, having been supported by familial and community units through all her experiences. #unconditional #pullUPfully

Oshun and the ice kween as Gawdesse$, possess a blend of this inner child’s magic (i call it *pastel prowess*) as well as a polished + grown energy of “don’t mess with me!!” or “yuh betta watch out!!,” as Katie suggested several times on the retreat. the term *ice kween* came up also from Katie in reference to herself, and it stuck– did that *golden nugget* thing, meaning it resonated. i therefore stowed the idea away for a few days, ultimately integrating it into my own presence.

ice kweens bee a bit frosty/cold/self-protective. i def do not view these wintry qualities as something frightening or off-putting. simply stated, an ice kween knows to keep a cocoon of “don’t fok with me” round herself, because she special– a ruby-treasure. because she fierce. because she know peeps wonderin bout her mystery n want some of it. {she tired of the wanting.} she senses the undercurrent in any situation. the ice kween (Oshun!!) is fierce as fok n sexy as hell n knows it unapologetically. #boom #honeydripz

in Thailand, i took a moment to realize that i’ve been making my work for a very long time. so, the fall and winter seasons this year are about grounding into all that i have made, and to get it out into the world. it’s about catching up with myself as an embodied human, i breathe into beliefs i’ve had, yet now know more strongly:

~ women/womxn only spaces are a necessity sometimes.

~ AND!! TRUE LOVE is the way of the world. 😛 i obsessed in my Thailand months over the lyricism of recently-risen-to-heaven Nipsey Hussle: “look me in my eyes/call me on my lies,” for its invitation to really go deeply and truthfully with another, a communication style that we often shy away from. i also listened repeatedly to J. Cole’s verse in Pretty Little Fears: “I’m lovin your light, vulnerable/lettin your guard down, it’s honorable/specially when the past ain’t been that/friendly to you but there’s magic in that/you the flower that I gotta protect/to keep alive in the winter time, aye, don’t you die yet/you been way more than a friend of mine, we more like fam/i raise you, you raise me, let’s turn this whole life round/you can confide in me/I could take the weight up off your shoulder blades/and try to store the pain inside of me/like why the world do you like that?” J. Cole says that giving the key to your heart is a beautiful brave act. lastly, Quin and 6lack’s Mushroom Chocolate goes: “Get you somebody to roll the dice with/Get you somebody you don’t think twice with/Get you somebody that speak your language/Get you somebody to fake it, play chill/Get you somebody to get your mind right.”

… i learned these 3 songs by rote, soaking in the positive messaging about love over and over and over. these lyrics are worth sharing, for me, because i found myself believing, as i performed new/mind/ritualz 13, that LOVE, as expressed through art + real life, are not lost artforms afterall. whether it’s a self-love potion you ritualizing, or a next-level affair of the heart with a fellow wildcat … it’s a delicious use our time to go deeply with both ourselves and each other.

do you embody LOVE as an artform-treasure worth knowing? do you invite the kinda love into your sphere that serves-up thee holy honey– the deepest soul-connection that conjures nectar-squirts? (yeh, i said it.) … in letting some of our own fears and traumas rest, experience the spirit-doors open for love as a safe residence, built on a foundation of trust, loyalty, heart throbs, and the inevitable moments of realness/challenge. do u say ye$ too, boo, to all the above? #sentimentalbitch

~ shoutout + gracias 2 Katie Cercone for documenting n/m/r 13

~ shoutout + gracias to Julianna Twine for painting my bod and placing iconography upon me

~ writing/copyright: kelly shaw willman, 2019-forever

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