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


Your long lost friend






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



16/12 2012



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.

to see you soon.






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.



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



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?



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.




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.





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





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






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.




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?







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.





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.




 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.

Yes BAG was the most