Conversations Conversations with Luisah Teish DECEMBER 2012

Conversations with Luisah Teish DECEMBER 2012

15/12/2012

Luisah Teish

 Alafia Muthal:

This is Teish your friend and choreographer from B.A.G. in St. Louis so many decades ago. 
I'd really like to talk with you to catch up on our lives and to talk about the possibilty of creating some theater materials. Especially I have a student who is interested in finding a script that highlights the stories of the Hindu Goddesses. I don't know of one and may need to create
one. Your ability for creating materials and inspiring people is nothing less than transformative. What we shared at BAG has served me for decades.

I'm sure that you are busy but I'd love to connect with you again. I live in Oakland Ca. but would make long range plans to come see you in South Africa. Please send me an email at your
convenience.

 

Your long lost friend

Teish

 

15/12/2012

Muthal

 

Hi Luisah

How wonderful to hear from you. You may be long lost but never forgotten. My time at BAG was one of the highlights of my life.

I know you have achieved great things and I would love to hear about them. I am a pensioner and I spend all my time writing so I am not a busy person in the sense that other people are with deadlines and schedules.

My time is my own to do with as I wish. So whatever you'd like me to do, I am at your service.

Though I am very interested in all religious philosophies because they present various understandings of human existence, I am actually an atheist and I interpret religion in terms of my understanding of human existence. That means I do not have at my fingertips the kind of specific knowledge that writing about Hindu Goddesses requires but I am happy to do the research. Your student knows the direction she wants to take and I would like to know what that is however tentative. It would help to focus the research.

Love and best wishes

Muthal

 

16/12 2012

Teish

 

This is crazy wonderful being back in touch with you. I do envy you your well earned freedom. I'm 64 now and look forward to the day when I can afford to be free from these schools and other obligations.

There is one story that is under consideration.  It’s called "Tale of An Anklet". I will send it to you in a few days. My class begins the first week of Jan. and runs through the middle of March.

I'm always looking for ways to make these myths connect to contemporary issues. I just got in from a large dinner and am trying to wrap my mind around the murder of the elementary school
children, and how to turn the experience into transformative ritual. I have been doing ritual theater to address Violence against women and children, Spirituality in Indigenous Cultures and a
host of other things. You can see more of what I've been doing by putting my name in youtube. I saw the awards you have received. Congrats on your writing and your work. I'd like your permission to show those pages as I talk with my students about the BAG experience.

I want to thank you for the many dinners we shared in E. St. Louis. I often shock the waitperson when I go in East Indian restaurants and order Briyani and gulab jaman. Thanks to you. This is great.

Hope
to see you soon.

Teish

 

17/12/2012

Muthal

 

Luisah, I think I know the story of the anklet and I will check through my books etc. to find it.

I watch with horror each time I hear of these crazed shootings in the US. I keep asking myself  what it is that drives these young men to such desperate measures.  I feel there is some underlying societal cause. Though I cannot understand the need for individuals to own guns in a country which prides itself on being the foremost democracy in the world, I nevertheless believe the
matter of gun control is external to the real problem -- some kind of deep spiritual malaise. I wonder if it's drugs; I wonder if it's TV with its subliminal socialization of young people into a highly materialistic way of life and its glorification of violence, glamour and fame. Children growing up today have so much to contend with.

Being a pacifist, I also believe that all the military training that is required in today's world in which politicians shamelessly go to war to wrest resources from whomever wherever, is dehumanizing and goes against all civilized values  The men and women who return from wars in which they unleash the violent instincts that we suppress in society, return to society with an addiction to violence. Psychologists call it PTSD and turn it into an individual matter when it is a societal problem -- the creation of tools of power by governments that allow them to assert their control over others. All religions teach peace and all governments betray their faiths in making war.

I am glad that people are beginning to question the authority of government; I think government has become separate from the people and is no longer of the people, for the people and certainly not by the people.

I am glad Obama is bringing the troops back from the Middle East; but there will be more problems of violence in the country because soldiers come back from war addicted to the adrenaline rush of killing -- especially those who believe they come from a superior culture and feel justified in destroying inferior human life.  

 I am glad that we are in the arts, in creative endeavours that lead to spiritual freedom.

 

17/12/2012

Just watched Carlos Acosta on TV and wrote this poem.

          
Carlos Acosta
           
perfection of human form
           
finely chiselled  
           
personification of beauty
           
the body in motion
           
powerful, assured, fluid
           
movement full of grace
           
sculpting space
           
into interlocking shapes 
           
lifting the earth-bound soul 
           
out of the  mundane 
           
into the wonder of paradise
           
Carlos Acosta, Cuban           
pauper turned Prince
           
bestowing upon us
           
the reality of heaven

 

17/12/2012

Hi
Luisah, I have found the story. When I was child in the 1940s, I saw an Indian film based on the story. It was called Kovalan Kannagi, the names of the main characters.

What do you want to do with the story? Turn into a play script or a scenario for a dance drama?


18/12/2012

Teish

You have so elequently articulated so many of my thoughts in your statement here.  The problem is indeed societal and in fact global.  The quest for power, greed, the violence, the alienation, the drugs, the addiction to war, all of these betray a de-humanizing spiritual problem...one that religions do not truly confront but stand on the sidelines as sanctuary or healing centers at best; or as causes and justifications for war at worst.

Right now I'm offering a ritual for Creation Eve. (I'll attach a flyer).  It addresses the predictions of the Mayan Elders regarding the so-called end of their calendar.  I am an ally to the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers who have traveled around the world advocating for peace.  The entire intent of the ritual is to get people to commit to a new and better societal paradigm.

Right now I'm seducing my colleagues into forming a "Transformative Ritual Theater Ensemble".  The Arts are the best
tool we have for educating, healing, organizing, and connecting at the levels of head, heart and hands.You realize Muthal that we were in the vanguard with the work we did at BAG.

As usual its very difficult for people like me to get funding so as I write this I'm sitting in an apartment partially packed as I
look for another place to live.  I watch bubble-headed women get paid outrageous sums to pretend to be stupid while those of us who address pressing issues are supported only by a small group of people.

The 99% who hog all the wealth are willing to slaughter the rest of us to feed their greed.

The children who were slaughtered in CT are a sign of these turbulent times.  When we get to the end of it we will find that this boy
was influenced by survivalist rednecks, paranoid, needing mental health services because of media stained images, with access to guns that defined his manhood.  Those innocent babies died to force America to cut the bullshit and take a serious look at itself.

The men returning from war are abandoned on the street with no housing, no jobs, and lots of drugs.  Some days I am afraid to go out of my house because I presently live in a neighborhood with Pitt Bulls in every yard, 8 foot fences, sirens and gunfire all night, pimps,whores,and crackheads line the street.  But when this level of violence hits a small country town full of well to do white families we may get meaningful debate and hopefully some results.

Ah yes..tale of an anklet has been recited in my Women's Sacred Text class as a study of the role of women as representative of Feminine Power (Goddess) in the culture.

Somehow I'd like to use the Tale of An anklet as an inroad to talking about the Women in Pink in India who carry bats to defend women and children from domestic violence (there's a little about them on YouTube).  When we've done the Anlet in the past my co-teacher has had a dancer to perform the tale as I read it.  She (A Euro-American woman) will be in a pongala in Kerala during class this coming year.  This gives me the space to manifest the script in another way.

So maybe we both can re-read it and come up with something that leads into addressing contemporary global issues.

My laptop is being upgraded and will come back to me soon.  When it does I'd like to hook up on Skype so we can look each other in the eye.  I am thrilled by the possibility of us working together again.

Soon and soon again.

Teish

18/12/2012

Muthal

Well, well, well.  Here I imagined you living in comfortable circumstances, achieving great successes when all the time you are
struggling like me.  I think it is our destiny.  Most people live in the moment and take the world as it comes. But we aspire to more, to what Martin Luther King dreamed of.  I have come to believe in the striving as the end in itself.

Love

Muthal

19/12/2012

Teish

Oh Muthal:

Right now I am laughing my ass off...As you know the public image of the "successful writer" is a crock of shit.  My best selling book Jambalaya is being pirated by some freak in Iran.

  The two schools where I teach have contracts that say it can be automatically voided if enrollment is low.  There is no health insurance attached to it (I've been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and am on insulin)  Many of my students are entitled white women who piss and moan at the slightest challenge.  The entire academic institution is suffering from "delusional revisionism", and I am found foaming at the mouth in response to the "new age spirituality soundbites" that had deluded people into ideas of individual karma, spiritual elitism and a host of other bullshit beliefs.  It is a constant battle to identify and support the students who really want to learn and to hold close to me the colleagues, the rare birds, who actually care about anything.

Right now I live behind an 8 foot high fence,with a Pitt Bull in the yard like all the other yards.  The Crime Scene Investigation
Clean Up Unit is two doors away.  There are pimps, whores, and crackheads a few feet down the street, and my sleep occurs on a background of sirens all night long.

Some years ago I fell down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Mexico.  Since then getting in and out of bed is painful.. I begin each
day by sitting on a brick of ice followed by bathing in water that I boiled in a pressure cooker before pouring it in a bucket, sitting on a chair in my tub and pouring cups of tempered water down my back (I can't afford a hot tub).

For 21 years I was married to a man who cried for 7 years about the woman he was with before me.  We got some good things done with our lives but  I finally had to release him from my insistence on having a healthy peaceful relationship.  I left the house, I paid for the divorce.  He re-married and moved to Mexico.  Ten years later he comes to town and tells me that the fact that I'm still single is proof that I should come back to him.. Ummm I don't think so  buddy boy.

We should do a comedy routine.  Years ago I did a comedy routine that had people rolling in the aisles.  All I did was sat on stage and told people real stories from my life.  Its alright that they laughed because I think if it hadn't happened to me I'd swear I was lying.

I have the feeling that us reconnecting could result in some wild scripts.  Let's just keep laughing, writing, and living.  The world would be a very boring place without us.

Love ya muchly

Teish

19/12/2012

Muthal

 

Luisah, I am overwhelmed.   My puny struggles are nothing compared to the tremendous upheavals in your life.  I see now why you are so intrigued by Kanaggi.  You have much in common with her; the great strength combined with great anguish; the
will to overcome and the yearning for justice.

I am sorry about the diabetes.   To add to your problems : I was watching the DR OZ Show yesterday in which he spoke of the
connection between diabetes and alzheimers which is actually diabetes of the brain.  You should check it out on his website www.doctoroz.com .  Apparently diabetics are prone to alzheimers and need to take preventative measures. 

I have been tossing the Kannagi story about in my mind and am intrigued by her ambivalence: traditional /iconoclast.  I am intrigued by the tremendous complexity of the human personality, its responses to various forms of socialization, the creation of tremendous diversity within the single individual.   

And I was wondering about depicting Kanaggi not as one but as many. 

 I wrote a dance-drama in 1983, called Masks, in which every character was an aspect of one character, Seetha  (a woman of
mixed race, African, White, Indian) born into apartheid and struggling to find the unity of self.   The dance-drama brings together Indian and African music and dance.  The climax of the play is expressed in the opposition of African and Indian dance which clash and then merge to become one.

Aluta Continua

Muthal

20/12/2012

Teish

 

Muthal:

Are you kidding me.  Your dance-drama is right up my alley.  This is exciting!  Tomorrow night I'm holding the ritual on the flyer I sent.  I just got an email from the men who are supporting this event.  They are doing the set-up and handling the tech.  We are
going to tape the event and put a segment on YouTube.

We are also talking about the formation of a "Transformative Ritual Theater Ensemble", the possibility of doing a series of pieces that address important global issues.  Because of the tech knowledge of these men there is the possibility of  webcasts of
events to other cities and countries.

One of the schools where I teach just bought the building next door which has a 500 seat theater.  I have the support of the
president to use it but have to be careful of the "gatekeepers, intellectual property thieves, and jealous wenches" who sometimes hover over my shoulder.

Is your piece copyrighted.  Has it been filmed?  Is there a dvd?  In the future I will be searching for grants, artists retreats, sponsors and supporters, whatever it takes to promote the kinds of theater that helps to heal the morbid energy of our society.

I absolutely love the idea that the main character is a collective expression.  This is the kind of innovative theater we always
did.  One of the scandalous but highly successful things I did in 1980 was to stage a West African folktale as a dance-drama using 60 junior high school kids of mixed ancestry. So the main charcters were a Japanese girl with an African-American leading man, a Mexican American Sister, and two supporting actresses who were Euro-American and Phillipino.  The curriculum specialist was very angry with me..tough tiddy.  I wrote the script and we had a choreographer but the kids composed the music, designed the set, the costumes,and  the make-up.  They did the publicity.  In the end they signed a petition declaring that the City of Berkeley's library was derelict in its material on Africa. Their drawings and notes, photos and reviews are on file at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Yes let's work with this script.  There are so many possibilities. I am a member of the Lifelong Medical group at the Over
Sixty Clinic.  The two nurses over my care, Jeanette Bravo and Isabel Fong, are diligent about making sure I make my appointments and get my medicine.  America should be ashamed of Itself for the resistance to ObamaCare.  I watch Dr. Oz faithfully and have received many important tips that are helpful to me.  I will check this one out even closer.

My 92 year old Mother is in dementia in New Orleans.  She lost it after Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home of 50 years.
 I know how she feels.

I keep a good diet of fish, take anti-oxidants, vitamins, and make sure that I read and do other things that keep my brain fresh.
 Right now this living situation is the real pain in my ass. I am happiest when I'm in my own house,comfortably furnished, with room for my gatherings of students and friends. I really am happiest with an edible landscape so I can gather my meals from the backyard. 

 I  have found my style as a mixed-media artist. (I'll send you some examples later).  It doesn't take a lot to make
me happy but we live in a culture of greed and insanity so that a person my age is not allowed to live in peace.

Sometimes I dream of moving out of the U.S.

I'm packing up the elements for my event tomorrow.  I look forward to us working on this script and any other thing you may suggest.  This is exciting.

Teish

24/12/2012

Muthal

Luisah, I sent off my book today.  You should receive it in about three weeks.  I will keep track of it.  This is the tracking
number CH014947050ZA.

What happened with your Mayan Calendar meeting?

Muthal.

 

 

25/12/2012

Teish

 

Alafia Muthal:


My ritual went swimmingly.  We called it "Creation Eve:  The Day Before the New Beginning."   We had a cast of 12 and an audience of about 80 people.

  We started with the Makeshift Orchestra which is music improvised by the audience using small instruments. 

 We invoked the directions and the elements and called upon the ancestors of every direction.

  Then Mary Ellen performed "the Creation Story from the Big Bang to the Beginning of Humans."

 " I performed the Yoruba Creation myth in which the Goddess gets drunk as She creates humans then threatens to destroy everything.  The audience has to promise to do good in the world in order to change Her mind.  The audience makes a commitment to be fully human to protect the environment, take care of elders & children and to write and draw their vision of the future.

I  took people on a walk through the" Primal Forest of Forever" until they landed in" Chi Gung Village. There they reshape the energy using Tai Chi to heal themselves and others.

There's a comedy routine between the Creatrix and Coyote the Trickster that involves a bottle of Jack Daniels and a red wax penis.

It ended with a dance for the Winds of Change that blended Hawaiian Hula, Afro-Latin Salsa, and Middle Easter Belly Dance done by three women and their daughters.  They seduced the audience into getting up and dancing as the finale.

And amazingly , we actually collected $600.00 in donations.  It was wonderful!

Soon we will put a bit of it on YouTube.  I hope to have photos soon. I've gotten lots of emails from people saying that it really lifted their spirits, and I am encouraged.

Please send me your mailing address.  I want to get and send you a copy of the Praises for the World Concert.  It was produced by Jennifer Berezan, Edge of Wonder Music.  There may be some of it on YouTube. We did it the week after Bush declared war in Iraq.  I'm one of the featured performers.

When your book arrives I'll study it with joy. Maybe I can make it required  reading and get the library to order some copies. Do you have a distributor or should that be sent directly to you?  Just let me know.

I'm really looking forward to working together.

Teish

 25/12/2012

Muthal

 

Luisah your Creation Eve sounds most intriguing and so creative it is mind-blowing.  I am amazed at the way you bring
such a variety of experiences together. 

You have a command of the rituals and beliefs of so many different cultures.  I don’t know if I can keep up with you.  Perhaps
you have come into my life at this moment to kindle the creative spirit in me once more.  When I came to the States in the sixties, I came from repressive apartheid and suddenly I was freed to explore my own creativity. It was then that I understood what it was to live in a democracy; in South Africa we are in the aftermath of apartheid and hopefully we will someday reach the point when we will be completely free to be fully human.  And like you, ready to embrace all the diversity of human experience.

 

 25/12/2012

Teish

 Alafia Muthal:

Reconnecting Creativity:

Yes honey.  Our reconnection is all about rejuvenating the MUSE.  You must realize that you are one of my inspirations when it comes to theater.  I reference our work together all the time. I was also blessed to spend some time with Viola Spolin and her husband Kolmus Greene before she died.  Her funeral was well attended by many hollywood sitcom performers..they "roasted her."

Emotional turmoil:


 I had been so far down in the underworld --between divorce, losing my home,dealing with my health, a polluted environment, and deceptions and betrayals...I slithered across the floor and disappeared into the woodwork.

It wasn't so long ago that I considered getting a job as a live-in maid. I told myself that Zora Neale Hurston did it, Ethel Waters did it, so....But  thank goddess a few of my students said "hell no".  When I determined within myself that ritual theater was the main thing I'd do, that's when I started to breath again.

B.A.G.:
Yes BAG was the most creative period of my life. I was strong and healthy. There was synergy, and it was an imprtant time in America.  We had a building, a cast and crew, equipment and supplies, students, and a community that wanted to hear what we were saying.

CommonArts Berkeley:

 I had another good period 77-80 when I was the Artistic Director for CommonArts, the Berkeley Neighborhood Arts Program.

 Between 71-76 I was at odds with Ronald Reagan who'd outlawed Dance as a single subject major in California.  ( he did this to get back at his gay son who was majoring in ballet in the U.C system) so dance was to be taught in the Physical Education department.  I refused to do that!  So I created a position for myself...I became a (drum roll please)

"Roving Cultural Enrichment Specialist" (laugh real loud now).
I'd go into any school and find out what cultures the students were from...they were African,African -American,Afro- Caribbean, Mexican, Cuban, South American, Southern European, and South East Asian.

Once I found out their cultures I'd run to the library and get a folktale,a tape of music,and look at some costumes and make-up.  Then I'd create a "folk-play" from that material.

A Blessing & A Curse:

I
got married in 1980.  We lived on army rations, and held rituals and storytelling classes in my dining room for money. After my initiation into the Yoruba tradition I wrote Jambalaya ( I actually wrote it in the shopping centerfood court because he and I went homeless at that time) Publishing the book allowed me to travel to make money and to connect with some wonderful people.

A Normal Life?

I tell you Muthal, the astrologers and psychologists say that most creative people attract challenges because these experiences cause us to stand out from the average person.  I'm sure that's true but I swear I would love to have more "financial security".  For 13 years I was a member of the Commitee to Expel South Africa from the U.N..  You lived through Apartheid...there's a historical novel in your life. Presently I'm doing some research on the situation in the Congo.  It will be my focus for Feb.  Black History month.


Possibilities:
Are you up for a little travel?  There are some grants we could apply for...meet up in Brazil or Spain to work on something. Canada and Mexico are real possibilities . I travel carefully these days so as not to wear myself out.  We are both old enough to take advantage of some of the special deals for people our age.

I'll be sending the dvd soon.
Its so good to be back in touch.


Teish

 

27/12/2012

Muthal

 

Luisah
your life story is fascinating, much more suitable for a novel than my life.  I have written the
biography of a friend in which I have described her experiences of apartheid. It
is available as an e-book, title The Keshwars from Dundee , from Amazon, Lulu, iBooks or Kalahari.  I have also written about the little reservation where I lived as a child, title Marabastad Asiatic Bazaar.  It is also an e-book on Kindle, Lulu, iBookstore, Barnes and Noble Nook.  The first story in the book is about my childhood.

 Iam sorry that you lost your home.  Did you lose your home with all the people who lost their homes as a result of the real estate fraud and the collapse of the banks?   In some ways the world is becoming a better place and in other ways it is remains prey to thieves and opportunists.  The computer, which is a blessing in my life, has made it so much easier to defraud people because money, which is becoming more and more abstract, is under control of computer magicians and we are required to have faith in institutions like banks.  And as faith requires no evidence of existence, we are all prone to fraud, major fraud such as happened in the States. 

I am not sure what your research into the Congo is about but I watched an Aljazeera documentary about a symphony orchestra in Kinshasa which really inspired me and I wrote the following poem:                          
                               
                                                         OSK FINDING GOD

in the midst of war
of the religions of love and peace
drone attacks and suicide bombings

in the midst of war
assassinations, coups, militia groups,
rape of women and children,
genocide,

in the midst of  war
Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste,

finding in Beethoven, a native African,
brings peace and love and harmony
through his sermon in song,
Ode to Joy of the Ninth symphony
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divides
All men become brothers”

in the midst of war 
           the fight for survival
           against poverty and hunger,
            lack of decent shelter,
            OSK, 
            musicians making miracles,
            music
            from another place and time
            foreign to their clime,

  music
             that opens them 
             to  the living God
             within their hearts, 
             and moves them,
             beyond hate and prejudice,
             to embrace the entire world!

Simon Kimbangu, Holy Spirit,
inspiration behind the musical mission
died in prison for divesting God
of European dress, and putting him
in African garb, and giving him
an African face and finding
in his own son, the Christ reborn,
declaring the twenty-fifth of May
Congolese Kimbanguiste Christmas day
free from Mammon and Santa Clause
a day to celebrate in worship of the Lord.

and the people of his church,
musicians of God by night
vendors in the streets by day,
eking out a living to survive,
and building flutes and violins
from scratch and from scrap,
transcend mundane circumstance
in search of the soul’s sustenance

carrying their instruments after
work through the hubbub of the town
picking their way
over potholes and puddles,
they head for the
conductor-pastor’s house
to endless hours of rehearsal
in his yard,

endless hours of pious devotion
dedicated
to finding through the joy of music,
the joy of connection to the God within.

“And when I sing, I am entirely myself.”  


  

Love

Muthal

31 December 2012

Teish


Alafia Muthal:

I have just finished two solid days of ritual.  I went to bed last night and did not wake up until 4pm.  So here I am at 2am
doing email.  I'll probably sleep the New Year into being.

Thanks for the poetry.  Its amazing that we are able to create beauty in the midst of madness!

Wow you really are tech savvy. I own a computer and a cell phone..but I barely use the cell phone.  Somebody gave me an ipad that worked for other people but refused to work for me. When I gave it away it worked perfectly for them.

I don't have a kindle or any of that. I know that it would make it possible for me to have my library space shortened but I don't know if I can give up the sensuality of holding a book, turning the pages, dog-ear pages and most of all the privilege of underlining things and making notes in the margin.

Many people have said that I should do ebooks.  Since you've done it perhaps you can help me to understand.  I went on the Amazon site once to upload something and when I read the terms agreement it seemed that they were saying they would have rights to my intellectual property.  is that correct? Can you help me understand what happens to my
copyrights?  Also is it expensive to do?  How do royalties work?  If you can help me understand this I might have some stuff to publish that way. How many pages is your book? Can you send it to me by email so I can print it out?

Oh yes.  I am one of the millions of people who got defrauded in the real estate scam.  The housing market here in California is simply criminal.  The banks ballon your payments, talk to you as if you have a tail, take your house (refusing to negotiate) empty it, let it sit, put a little bit of money in it then sell it to a developer who robs the new owners blind.  I fought really hard and managed to actually let my house go to a nice family.  I met them and talk to them at the Farmer's market sometimes.  And what's really amazing is the changes they made in the house are pretty much the same I dreamed of making.

Right now I'm renting a place that is too expensive,in a terrible neighborhood, and not really suitable for my needs.  I'm looking for a rent with option to buy situation.  I need to be able to garden my own food, sleep at night , and sit on the front porch to get some sunshine.  I'm really looking for the home to take me to the end of my life.

Thanks for your address,  I'll be sending a package with a few things in it soon.

Have a nice holiday.

Teish




 

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