Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Self Care

Alex Grey wounded healer

Self care has been on my mind of late, especially as I have an elderly and sick parent. If I don't pay attention I am genetically predisposed to suffer the same fate as my parents as far as my health is concerned.

I realise if I am not in good shape all round emotionally as well as physically that nobody else is around to do my job. So I take good care not to push the boundaries of what one person can possibly do in a lifetime.

Last winter, as it seemed everyone around me was sniffing and coughing, I made it a point not to get sick because I didn't want to miss anything. It's actually quite simple not to catch a cold. Eat good food, sleep enough, take vitamin C, echinacea and goldenseal and wash your hands a lot.

I recently took a creative workshop at the Kid's Company space and the conversation came around to a few members of the group who really wanted to help other people. As the weekend progressed it seemed to me, they would do better to help themselves first, before trying to help anyone else.

The concept of the wounded healer came up for me as a point of reflection some time ago after working in Mozambique. A friend who was also working there asked me why I wanted to 'help' and what I thought my 'help' would achieve, was it for me- or for the people I was working with?
Another friend mentioned the wounded healer in reference to a bad experience she had with one of her teachers on a healing course.

I found it interesting and started to wonder if I too was a wounded 'healer', and the positive and negative affects a wounded healer can have on the people they work with.

Carl Jung explored the archetype of the wounded healer in the context of the psychoanalyst.

In Greek mythology, the centaur ‘Chiron’ was known as the ‘Wounded Healer’. Chiron was poisoned by one of Hercules' arrows, but because he was not able to heal himself he suffered thereafter from an incurable wound.
Jung, developed this phenomenon by stating that "a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor's examining is his own hurt that gives a measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician."
Latterly, the term ‘Wounded Healer’ has expanded from Jung’s original concept to cover the study of any professional healer who has been wounded, including counsellors, psychotherapists, doctors and nurses.

For more depth into the concept of the wounded healer read the interesting research of psychoanalyst Alison Barr.

or alternatively,
more on the myth of Chiron

So as a point of reflection why do I want to help?

First of all I guess I would not use the word 'help'.

My work is about sharing my personal experiences and perspective through the creative process. I am offering a creative experience and an alternative method of interacting in the world to the people I work with. They can choose to explore- and if they think they can 'help' themselves they can go on to make changes necessary to incorporate a practice of creativity in their lives.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Collective Creative Writings

Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted witty, even surreal portraits composed of fruits, vegetables, fish and trees

Read more: 

Here are the collective poems created in the Memorable Meals project.

Cream tea jammy family
In my kitchen I smell porridge
I’m warm and happy
Yellow and cream passion mango
I’m warm and happy
Ripeness fruity
Cream tea jammy family

Sweet sticky fingers
I remember the taste of the sweetness of porridge
Sweet sticky fingers
Melting icecream on the beach
Sweet sticky fingers
Feeling loved, happy and content

Mumbled conversation echoed over the beach shore.
Children laughing and scoffing seasalt and icecream running down our cheeds. Hmmm sweet sticky fingers.
Sea beats against their skin.
Sunglasses on sunbathing.
Sand castle bucket and spade. Washing
Over the shore

My mum had just cooked dinner for my family which mostly weren’t related to me by blood but more of a collection of random people who love each other.
I can feel the texture of smooth mashed potato with salty butter and can hear Blondie singing Sunday Girl on the radio.
The sun is shining yellow through the window and the chitter chatter and the colour from the sun reminds me of people talking at the beach. I close my eyes and I can almost hear the sound of the sea.

Walk up dune river falls
Water flowing down my skins
Reggae and afro beat playing
Smell of fried fish
And bread fruits roasting.
Out of tune choir practice in the background.

Mum and me laughing we are happy and free. We are in Jamaica where there is warmth from sunlight. Orange blue green yellow and brown, onions frying. The seaside and fresh air sea salty air. At the river family talking slurping dribbling.

In the sweet bright California light
The breadcrumbs run through my fingers.
I hear silence, then my spoon around  the dish.
Linda McCartney’s sausages remind me of my mum,
My family, my ktchen, Walsham road.
I am anxious, salty, happy and herby.

More from Memorable Meals Intensive Week

Our original plan was to teach a two hour session, but we shifted that idea when we realised two hours would not be enough. We came back the next week to offer a second two hour session, and that was still not enough time to sit share food and talk about the experiences.

There was so much squashed into our planned two hour session we didn't think about how much time it would take a group not used to the art making process to 'digest' the activity and really enjoy the making, sharing and talking.

The fact that we were so focused on fulfilling our own agenda, we didn't plan for the time to let the participants explore deeply.

Here are some of the photos taken at the workshop session two, our Fabulous Feast, a group mural painting about memories of food.

I observed not many of the women went anywhere near the paints in the session. I take it for granted that visual art, especially painting, is as frightening for people as music workshop skills was for me, to be with a group of trained musicians and not know how to play a musical instrument is intimidating.

Art becomes this soul bearing activity, for some people it's revealing qualities can make them feel very vulnerable. One of the group members stood by looking really interested in the activities, I asked if she wanted to paint. She said quickly, 'no way, I can't paint'. She was glad we had brought collage materials and did take part in collaging onto our table cloth group mural.

She said that she had unpleasant memories from school in art classes, in which she felt her work was never good enough compared to everyone else. She could never make it perfect. She chose to cook food instead. She was a professional chef.

We asked the group to invite women (by either drawing them or something that represented them). One person decided she wanted to invite the queen along to tea. Some people got really focused in immediately on one piece of artwork, others added to what was on the table, another member decided that she would rather  eat the queen and added that to the collage.

We played music as we worked on art making, and that helped people to relax and get into a focused mood. As we sat together to share food we had brought all sorts of conversations arose.
The fact that we decided to share food was such a great idea. Luckily there were some great cooks among us. One woman had cooked food for hundreds of people at Greenham Common for three months in the 70's.

After all this talk of food, and anxiety about whether we should talk about the issues people may have had about food, actually working with the women and talking about what came up for them was actually not difficult or challenging for them at all.

One woman said her immediate reaction to the idea of the project were memories of drunken Christmas parties, where food would be on the walls rather than on the plates, and that she didn't like cooking. 
This exercise had helped her to think more deeply about her relationship to food, both positive and negative. She felt the exercise helped her to turn the memories into something she could laugh about with the group, she had transformed them through a creative process.

The food was delicious, and it went well with the mural. I loved listening to the candid responses of the women, who were unhindered by saying the politically correct thing. One woman was surprised to hear other people didn't like food or cooking because she had grown up with only positive experience around food. She loved to cook for people and couldn't imagine why anyone would have issues with it. She said she learned a lot in this process, from listening to other women sharing their experiences with food.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I do not own an iPhone so any mapping is done at home with an A-Z of London and my notebook.

Over the course of the past few months doing research in Tottenham, I've generated many had drawn maps to find my way to meetings.

As part of my project will involve exploring memory maps as well as regular maps I though it would be fun to share them. I like the hand drawn simplicity of these functional little information bytes.
I'm quite familiar with the lay of the land there now, not just geographically but also politically, who is doing what where etc.

I particularly like this one with the Moselle river in blue

I plan on putting all the maps together and make a map of artistic activities in Tottenham by whom, when and where.

I enjoy making maps because they are visual symbols of space and place.

Beltane time to cast a spell.... very important to remember!

I like looking at maps as a mystery to be solved, navigation tools, labyrinths, discovery

Yes this one is from a  meeting I had today with Art4Space who I will be collaborating with this summer at Bruce Grove

Tenacity and Patience

The Name of the Rose Nkimadams

I might be repeating myself, but that is a luxury I can indulge.

I wake up in the morning with a head full of ideas, people to call, catch up, maintain relationships, check in and reminders.

I am fortunate to have a supportive husband who believes my work. The plan is to return the favour so he can finish his book (which we are both sure will see our fortunes made).

So everyday I keep sending the messages to let people know I'm still here, I still care and I"m still committed to this process.

The universe with her unique sense of humor has made me an impatient Virtue.

Working on participation and community process takes great patience.
Benefits come from Patience, and I think its born from


Hail the Wisdom of the Goddess    nkimadams

keep on keeping on.

Pleasant Surprises

My Tenacity has paid off in several situations-

my impatience has caused a few people to feel threatened and go into retreat, or of course they just thought I was a brassy yank they didn't want anything to do with.
As I said before patience is a work in progress. Ironic as my name is Virtue.

Flying Tigers           nkimadams

I get frustrated when confronted by a lack of competence or 'it's not my problem' attitude, or simply - I don't care, from people in a position of power, or that could really affect change. I often wonder how they got their jobs, and who hired them???

Society and  the humans that make it up, are full of a complex set of power plays.
Paolo Friere

and Michel Foucault come to mind, because I've been reading their work and am intrigued by their theories of human relationships with regards to power.

Paulo Friere

Friere's theory is that as soon as the oppressed steps into a role of power they then have the potential to become the oppressor. Foucault theorised that power is a network- passed on from person to person, each one passing along a set of behaviours that can also keep them oppressed.

Michel Foucault

However, on the bright side, the enthusiasm of other people and willingness to trust has proven that most people are trying really hard to do their jobs in challenging circumstances. People have offered space materials, and time to support the Phoenix Project, letters of support have come from the council and Tottenham Hotspur foundation, as well as Project 2020 and Haringey 6th form centre. 

I just have to trust that whatever happens it will be good and be open to receiving more pleasant surprises.

Prayer    Nkimadams


The Mandala of Time      Nkimadams
Timing  is everything

Knowing when to act and when to sit back and wait or give myself and others space + time.

During our reflective practice intensive week I realised everyone has a  different sense of time and timing. I'm much more of a go for it get it done sense of timing, I noticed there was another person in our group that had the same attitude.

It seems in this busy chaotic world everyone is so focused on the little square of 'to do's ' under their noses.

Planet Picker nkimadams
Fortunately my timing for some things in Tottenham have been just right, and for others I just have to wait, in a holding pattern, I guess you just have to sense when it's time to push and be the squeaky wheel and when it's better to back off and let people make their own decisions and work through the 'to do' list.

Behind the scenes there are several council committees discussing the plans for Tottenham. The regeneration process is a large slow animal upon which more and more potential partners are vying to get on board, its a financially lucrative endeavour and those who can benefit seem to be bent on keeping it to themselves. Unless you are part of some organisation or group it seems there is little way to get a leg up. There will be a tipping point that sends the cumbersome beast rolling down the hill.
 Deer Lady Nkimadams

This is a good time to consider how to approach this project. Do I become the limited company? Do I become and employee or contract worker for an existing organisation?

In order to work with the council there is an affiliation process, for organisations to contract with them. There is also the possibility of just volunteering. It seems that is something that every one is a bit in the dark about so I have to wait for the right time to push that agenda.

I did have my first DBS check, It was carried out by the Homes for Haringey group, and trying to get the certificate from them was a challenge. Ploughing through bureaucracy is not my forte, and the idea of becoming an organisation is again- put aside for another time.

Waiting to hear from those who are not sure, those who are on vacation and those who like me have been ploughing through their 'to do' lists.

Map of the Soul Nkimadams

Monday, June 17, 2013

Integrity and Trust

A friend gave me a great book called the Artists Way some years ago. Its a book that encourages reflective practice. The method involves creating the 'morning pages', when you first wake up with all those great ideas that have been cooking in your dreams overnight.

It takes practice like everything else. Having sat in front of my computer for what seems like 2 months straight writing essays and researching, the last thing I feel like doing is typing this into a blog.

I'd rather be dancing!

Several mornings ago I woke up with several potential posts to write about, so I wrote instead of putting them into the blog... now I have to enter them.

Integrity and Trust lay at the foundation of any sucessful relationship.

I have been working with the women of Open Book on a digital media project. I was amazed at the womens immediate response to my request to make a movie with them. When I think about my approach it was honest and clear.

Following through on the commitments to them will be the glue that binds our new friendship together. So far things are still holding together.
My sense of these women, from hearing their stories is that they have been disappointed and let down in most of their relationships- at the women's group they ahve found a safe space where there is a real sense of integrity and trust amongst the group.

Meanwhile in Tottenham, I sense the same pattern of consistant disappointment from the power structures in place that are supposed to support people- a crisis of confidence.

restoration of the last supper. nkimadams

As I have been working to build trust with the community in Tottenham, some people have been more honest and straightforward than others. There is a general distrust and suspicion-
"Your not from here, why do you want to do this work, what do you want from this community?"

The riots of 2011 and the aftermath - (probably the residue unresolve issues from the last riots at Broadwater farm estate in the 80's) could be seen to have traumatized this community. People are suspicious of my intentions, because there was a whole lot of parachuting in after the riots of people from outside the community, who have now all disappeared now the money has run out.

last days of the bush administration nkimadams

I've appreciated the candid responses that have come from some of the people I have approached. With some people I have been able to allay any doubts by being really honest about what my intentions are. The fact I"m willing to volunteer if I don't get funding is a big plus in conversations, and I plan on making time to carry out the research this summer funding or not.

This situation makes me think of the time I spent in Haiti after the earthquake. There were so many people in the NGO world, parachuting in to help.

There are many codes of ethics when working with vulnerable people. I think we should be applying those ethics to whole communities as well as individuals.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Need for Artistry

I’m reading (skimming through) Donald Schons’ book Educating the Reflective Practitioner.

As I read, I see how the issues that are currently going to be big challenges in carrying out the Phoenix Project are being highlighted by what is written in these books.

Haringey council has a history of bad practices and incompetence in the community. Everyone I talk to criticises the council officers, they roll their eyes and say “good luck’, I’ve been trying to do that for 28 years”.

Schon writes about this in his book as a crisis in confidence. He goes on to explain, that when professionals fail to respond to value conflicts and violate their own ethical standards or are blind to the public problems they have in some cases helped create- they are subject to expressions of disapproval and dissatisfaction.

Ivan Illich wrote in his critics, Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution (1970) and De Schooling Society (1971) of a misappropriation and monopolizing of knowledge that disregards social injustice and mystifies their expertise.

Schon’s approach is to encourage the ‘artistry’ of reflection in action and on action as a way to resolve these issues. I will investigate how much of this is actually taking place in council practice, if at all.

Illich is much more revolutionary in his thinking and suggests the idea of learning webs, people sharing information without the need for institutions.

A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known. Deschooling Society, chapter six, 'General Characteristics of New Formal Educational Institutions

That leads me to the Police. I read this article back in the beginning of our course, as I was researching innovative ways for the police to interact with the communities in which they worked. Another troubled institution much criticized and a clear case of ‘crisis in confidence’.

The Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) has written a great report and follow up blog
on the concept of reflective coppers.

Here is a link to the PDF

I look forward to falling deeper down the rabbit hole.