Storytelling our way home: weaving threads and illuminating patterns

How do we cultivate response-ability? How do we engage in the present? How can storytelling be an active act toward these ends, and what does it mean to activate the ‘muscle’ of stories? What could playing with string figures teach us? In this webinar, co-curators of advaya’s upcoming course, Re/membering our Rooted Selves, Maria Clara Parente and Naida Culshaw, dialogue with some of our course teachers: Anna Denardin, Aza Njeri, Lana Jelenjev, P. Mary Vidya Porselvi and Andreza Jorge.

Naida Culshaw: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this space. And welcome to: Storytelling our way home: weaving threads and illuminating patterns. Today we gift you a glance into advaya's upcoming course, Re/membering our Rooted Selves, which explores unearthing ancestral ways of being to shift collective futures. This six-week course is an invitation to re/claim that which has been left behind, feeding us as we move into the future. A call to re/connect to memory and ancestry, dreaming and imagination, and to re/root through storytelling. Over the six weeks, together, we will bring into dialogue Global South voices and perspectives, enable individuals to remember their own roots, and how that informs the now, look at narrative and storytelling and the influence of folktales in restoration to re-storyation, have conversations that re/turn and re/connect to our animate world, consider how we want to walk in the world and what we might wish to contribute, and also connect to climate change, economic, ecological justice, and coloniality and modernity.

Cassandra Bradshaw: Okay, so today we'll be speaking in both English and Brazilian Portuguese. So that means you have the option to choose which language you would like to receive the webinar in. Now, if you look at the bottom of your screen, there's a little globe symbol, and that will allow you to choose the channel of language that you would like to receive. And you can change that at any moment. And next, I would love to introduce you to the hosts of this webinar, and the co-creators of Re/membering our Rooted Selves, welcoming both Maria Clara Parente and Naida Culshaw. So, Maria Clara Parente is a Rio de Janeiro based writer, artist, journalist and film director, who researches other ways of inhabiting this planet towards decolonial futures, and with a background in performance theatre and media studies and a master's degree in literature. Naida Culshaw is a university lecturer, Doctorate of Business Administration candidate at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France, as well as a coach and a consultant. As a scholar-practitioner, her research explores how the act of restoration and re-storyation and remembering indigenous wisdom traditions informs individual perspectives and choices, organisational governance, design, and broader initiatives. As a weaver of community and alchemist, she embraces the complexity of systems work, enabling others to be fully connected, empowered and in touch with their own agency, voice, self awareness, capacities, and consciousness.

So for the running order today, first Maria and Naida will take us through an exploration of questions such as: how can storytelling help us find our way home and ground ourselves in the present of these times? How do we cultivate responsibility? How do we engage with the present? And how can storytelling be an active act towards those ends, and what does it mean to activate the muscle of stories? And then following that, we will have a roundtable dialogue between Naida and a selection of our session facilitators about how the sessions of this course interact with those questions. So without further ado, I will pass you over to Naida and Maria.

Naida Culshaw: Hello everyone. I guess I would say good evening, good morning, late late evening, afternoon, depending on where you're joining us from. It's wonderful to have you all here. So thank you very much for being here. What I want to do is I'm going to start a little bit with the word and the description of the programme. And starting with the Rooted Selves, but I'm going to go backwards and start with Re/membering. Why Re/membering? That idea of 'remembering', many people of course, think of the cognitive, let's remember something. But this idea to re/member, is not only to recall, but it's to reconnect, reconnect to recognise and also to recuperate. There's a saying, something that I picked up in many conversations that I've been having with regards to this word, and the idea of re/membering... is if you think of the members of your body, or the members of a family, to re/member is to go back, to find pieces of yourself that you may have left in the past that could help or inform the future, to support moving forward. So this idea of to re/member, is to recuperate something, to trace something back, and to follow those lines, and then also to bring forward again, the kind of food that you may need for your journey. So sometimes these lines change, and the final destination gets adjusted, and you discover really what you're looking for.

For me, when I think of re/membering, I have an image in my mind, which is of waves. If you think of waves, waves are created way far out in the ocean. And in fact, if you were a wave, you may not know if you're in the middle of the ocean, or am I reaching the shore. I think of waves like intergeneration[al] or generations' history, ancestry. Those that were way before we arrived. But they're part of our wave, because they're the momentum that brought us to where we are here. And we're also the momentum going forward into the future. So how do we remember that energy? How do we touch this energy? And so this is a little bit of where Re/membering comes from, and the idea of rooting yourself... Many, unfortunately in history... people have been uprooted and moved for many different reasons, some voluntary, some not. But the idea of re-rooting or rooting yourself is to find a space and a place where you can feel centred, where you can feel grounded, and where you can connect. And it doesn't have to be specifically the original location, because you can also root yourself wherever you are. So this is why Rooted Self.

Maria Clara Parente: Hello everyone. And coming back to the idea of storytelling and re-rooting through personal stories... I will start sharing a little personal story... I have a grandaunt that I will always heard my grandmother talking about her, but I never had seen her in personally. So she lived in a small town near Rio, and one day I went to try to find her, but I just had her name and the name of her husband, that I didn't know if it was still her husband. So we started picking lines of information, each person gave us a bit. And in the end of the day, after a big storm, I was at her table eating soup, while she was telling me about her trip to India, and when she started telling things about my family, at some point, I could see that she was telling the same stories that my grandma told me, but in a totally different point of view.

So this is... because stories matter and who tells the stories, and who tells the stories we live by, as Donna Haraway, who's inspiring this encounter here today. She says quote, It matters what thoughts think thoughts, it matters what knowledges know knowledges. It matters what relations relate relations. It matters what words world worlds. It matters what stories tell stories. End of the quote. And how to follow these stories and knowing the threads to look is important for the art of staying with the trouble, in the times that we are in. And we are talking here, very inspired by her book, staying with the trouble. And the book has the same name, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, which is a very crazy name with this big word, but we will go to explain more about it as we go. So to start, we will go to the subtitle of the book that is: Making Kin in the Chthulucene.

So 'make kin', is something very important to Haraway, and to us, and making kinships. And already the first page, she says, quote: The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well, reciprocally, with each other in a thick present. End of the quote.

Naida Culshaw: Well, every time you say this, you know, because we've been talking a lot about this, thick present, and what does this mean... And I've understood making kin, because this is something that I really actually quite appreciate, and thinking about those connections—that kin and this old word means, and the constellation of many of the other kinds of concepts that Haraway talks about—but thick present, I was just wondering if you could kind of expand on what do we mean by thick present? What is thick present? What does that mean?

Maria Clara Parente: It's a very complex concept. But her work is very sensitive to our presence, to our moment of unpreceded environmental and social upheaval. So the story of climate crisis is mixed up with stories that are multiplying everywhere today, and they are both stories of quick and technological salvations, or apocalyptic ends of the world. So the stories, the way they are, they don't communicate the complexity, inter-relationality, of what we are experienced. So the thick present, it's kind of an invitation to relate to the complexity of those times. Because the climate crisis, as we know, is also a relational crisis. So as Bayo Akomolafe says, the times are urgent, we should slow down. And kind of this slowing down, is not a way of making things slower, but another way of perceiving things, and the relationships that constitute us as living beings. So what I feel is that the insistence of Haraway, and this notion of thick present has to do with this threads like we are seeing here, the mycelium, the hyphae, things that are underneath, but we don't see, in a normal circumstance.

Yeah, so I feel that this kind of... the image is kind of an ongoing presence, with multiple temporalities and materialities. And it's something that disorganises our constitution of time, right? It gains thickness, density. And thickness means to unnerve a way of being, bringing back some dormant ways of being. So it's not to create something new. It's not a new time. But to bring back aliveness, right?

Naida Culshaw: So when you're thinking thin and thick... So thin, when she's speaking about this, is really the idea that it's shallow, meaning that there's not a lot of depth, that we don't have as much complexity and that we're not embracing the fact that there is this interconnection and inter-relationality that exists, where if you are actually thinking of thickness, it's just this, again, thick, but it's about the density. It's about variety. It's about not more, specifically, but it is about seeing this complexity. And this deepness.

Maria Clara Parente: It's not something that is created but it wasn't seen, because we weren't looking at these patterns. So it's kind of re-taken back, take another look, perceiving things differently. It's not something easy, right? Because it demands. It's heavy, right?

Naida Culshaw: It's also heavy, because it also says, did we choose not to see this? Have we chosen to ignore it? And if not, why? Or if yes, why? And if not, why not? And how might we reincorporate this? And so the thickness is also looking back at it. I think one of the reasons why, and I want to mention it, because we keep mentioning Haraway and this book, of course... The course is not specifically on her work, but we have been inspired, by many authors, and many, many works, but her work specifically is one that we wanted to share with everyone today, this evening, because this is part of... there's like a thread. And some of the thread is what we thought about when we constructed, co-created the course, because one of the things that she really thinks about and she talks about, again, is about stories. The idea that stories make the invisible world more visible. That by inventing other stories, we give other narratives, other possibilities.

And for Haraway, whenever a story is recalled, or whenever you think back to a story, or when you are introducing a new one. It's like, what she calls, the collective care muscle gets exercised. And I love this idea of the collective care. So whenever a story helps remember, this is what she says, whenever a story helps me remember what I thought I knew, or introduces me to new knowledge, a muscle essential to nurturing, flourishing, gets some aerobic exercise. I really love this visual, almost like a story working out, the emotions, working out our imagination, and also connecting it to what we consider knowledge, which is a very long conversation we'll have in another session. But I'm wondering for yourself, when we've been talking about this, this exercising, it's both sensitive, it's something that draws on our sensibilities, in this kind of workout. But it's asking us to respond in a certain way, this term of responsibility, or ethical commitment, this mutual care, what do you think about this? How does this responsibility show up?

Maria Clara Parente: Yeah, what I find very interesting in Haraway's work... is because it's not something kind of naive, like stories matter, and tell more stories. There's the depth of like, how to cultivate responsibility, and as a task, right? And she separates the word: like response-ability. So there's this image of cultivating ability, of being able to respond, right? And one of the skills, responsibilities that she brings inspired by van Dooren, which I think in a time of, like deep losses, and like we are living in, is mourning with, like, grieving with, right? And quoting him, like he says, genuine mourning should open up into an awareness of our dependence, and relationships with those countless other beings, driven over the edge of extinction. End of the quote. So what I feel... it's also the morning of the stories that are losses with those beings that are lost. So it's like, receiving a certain word that ceases to exist and what this brings in us, like, how can we move from this, not forward, but for making something to flourish, right? So I think it's very inspiring, the way she talks about it. The response-ability, right?

Naida Culshaw: Yes, and I think for all of the participants here, these are the types of conversations that Maria and I had prior to creating the course. And this is lots of the exchanges that we would be having naturally. So part of the course is really based on this idea of exercising stories, of mobilising other forms of relationalities, of connections, of temporalities. To be able to experience something, to generate something, to create possibilities. Composting is a concept that when you join the course, you're going to start to hear a lot about, this idea of literally composting our thoughts and our ideas to create new energy from maybe old things... which if you think of creating compost in a garden, this is one of the elements. And so this will show up as we go into the course. One of the things I did want to point out as we talk about stories is what is a real story? Like, is a fable a story? Is it something that I just make up? Like what is the components of a real story? Because Hardaway mentioned speculative fabulations. And I love that term, SF, could you expand on the SF idea?

Maria Clara Parente: Yeah, the SF is kind of this theoretical methodological toolbox that she plays with. And it's like, written here. So it can be speculative fabulation, or science fact, or science fantasy, fiction, string figures. That's the name of the... cat's cradle, the game of string figures, and speculative feminism. And she said that they all need each other, like in this so far. So inviting us to create other SFs, right? So it's kind of a notion to inspire us, and to play with the idea that, we can create something, we can bring these stories, but they have to be mixed together with the play[ful]ness, with the science facts, like what is the science facts? She brings these questions, right, because we have this very notion of what's real and what's not. But when she does that, she disturbs our notions that are very strict, and like, linear thinking.

Naida Culshaw: The next image is an image that Haraway has in her book—she reproduces this, it's from Baila Goldenthal, it's a painter, and it's showing this game, and I'm trying to do it with my fingers. And I used to play this game a lot when I was young, I loved playing these string games.

Maria Clara Parente: I have string figures here, Naida.

Naida Culshaw: Yeah, I loved playing these string figures. And what she was speaking about, this whole idea of entanglement, disentanglement, ancestral, recent human, non-human, you know, playing with these connections, as you were saying, sort of the systemic connections that we will have, and that we can have, not only, again, in present, but also with past and moving into future. Could you expand on this like, game. The cats, what did you call it? Cat's cradle also is another term that it's used for?

Maria Clara Parente: Yeah, what I think it's important to emphasise [is] that it's not only a fun game. It involves risk, and transgressive behaviour, because anyone who already played with that, knows that if you put a thread in some way, specifically, everything can be... go down, right? So it's not something that is... you already know where it's going to go, right? Each hand has a different... can lead it to go somewhere. So what she says is that it is a risky method of tracing. So a method of tracking, of following a thread in the dark, in a dangerous and true adventure story. And also, in addition, for being a method, it's the thing itself, so this scheme and the composition that demands response. So the tangled strings is a figure of becoming-with itself, right? It's passing and receiving, doing and undoing, pulling and releasing threads, it's a practice and is also a process. It's becoming-with another in surprising arrangements, so...

Naida Culshaw: And so this idea of playing, and if I connect it to ancestral thinking, this idea of the strings, it's like, who brings in a string? How is it pulled? Why is it pulled? What strings are added, what strings removed? And so I think it's also... the movement over time, is also an idea that, when we say playing with string figures. And human hands, most of the time when we see it, like in this painting, comes to life, but Haraway also talks about... it would be really interesting to play this game with our non-human companion species. Why not? This is an image from Nasser Mufti, which is also from her book, and she emphasises that making kin is also considering: how do we entangle or disentangle or entangle again, ourselves with our kin, with others that are non-domesticated, more of the 'wild' category, and thinking about kinship as creating those kinds of connections. But I've heard this term, when you've said kinship before, and you and I have talked about this, is that sometimes people use this thought that is very, I won't say utopian, but they will say, Oh, let's just make kin, and not really thinking about the actual situations that have happened in the past, whether it's colonial policies, or policies of extermination, or assimilation. And when you say, let's just make kin, without thinking of those things, it can be very problematic. I mean, a little bit tension there, in my mind, how might you view this, Maria?

Maria Clara Parente: Yeah, she says that she has no interest in reconciliation. That erroneous word of utopian that you were saying. So what she's interested in, and that's why I personally think her work is amazing, is... in modest possibilities, in partial recovery. So acknowledging that the damage is already there. And like, how can we create possible coexistence from that point that we are, right? So recognising this is a very important part of this. And she also insists in the extent that it involves composing and decomposing, that the practice of generating kinship is dangerous, and that's why it's also promising. So, and also a very important thing is know how to inherit patterns, because we come with patterns, like from society, from family, from systemic patterns... So how to inherit those right? And how to play and rearrange what we have, but not to pretend they are there. So a very important thing is to be able to see, because when you are inside the pattern is hard to see, right? I think this is very important for what we will be doing here, in this course, right? To be able to trace where the patterns are and what other stories we can heard here and how they can make this pattern change, in a way.

Naida Culshaw: And one of the things I just wanted to sort of dovetail into the close, and I'm going to open it up to our speakers that are with us... what I would really like to do is just to share a little bit about what's going to happen next and how this is going to roll out for the rest of the participants. So earlier, Cassandra mentioned the little globe that's at the bottom. At the moment, we're speaking in English and so I'm making the assumption most people are following along. But there will be one of our speakers, it will be a little bit later, who will be speaking in Brazilian Portuguese, and that's where you're going to want to use the interpretation translation. So just to give you a... I will warn you in advance, we'll let you know before it starts, but what you're going to want to do is click on the globe, you'll see English and Portuguese, and you should just click on English, and then that way what you will be listening to is the main room, you won't leave the main room, but you will overhear a translator, Tiago, has been wonderful to join us this evening, daytime, evening, morning, for some of you to be able to do the translation into English. And so we will be letting you know when that is coming up. For the moment, you can just stay in the main channel.

So what I wanted to do now is just open up and do an invitation, and ask for our first two to join us. So Anna and Aza are going to be the facilitators along with Maria in the very first week. So what I would like to do is just to, number one, thank you very much for both of you for being here, and that you're here, and then I just wanted to have you very briefly just introduce yourself, as you wish, and then say how do you feel your session is connecting to the course, and also to what we were just sharing a little bit earlier. I'm going to... Aza will be speaking in Brazilian Portuguese, so you may want to go ahead and click the English now, so that way you can hear the translation when she begins speaking. So go ahead, Anna.

Anna Denardin: Thank you so much Naida. It's such a pleasure to be here with you, and to divide the space with Aza as well. So happy to see you all. I am Anna. I am from the south of Brazil, Santa Maria, that is located in the unceded territories of the Minuane and Tapes indigenous people. And my background is in design. I work with graphic design, but also, I work with designing and facilitation—facilitating courses, workshops and experiences. My focus area has always been sustainability and regenerative design until I started questioning how sustainable narratives could look like through a decolonial and Global South perspective. And this interest started also simultaneously as a kind of personal interest for decoloniality related to my ancestry. So my ancestors came to Brazil, in the 19th century as settlers, moved by promises of land to cultivate. And this was actually a strategy adopted shortly after the independence of Brazil from Portugal, to promote a whitening of the population and perpetuate colonial hegemony. So a good example of how things can change without actually changing, and I was trying to understand all of that. So here I am, after years of heritage and context confusion, seeking decolonial paths to sustainability and regeneration.

And I think this personal introduction also connects to what Maria and Naida were speaking about, that is around stories, ancestry. And even though there are multiple narratives happening at the same time, that are embedded in different cultures, habits, rituals and ways of being, I will be focusing... what I will be speaking about in the course about one narrative, specifically, that are modern colonial narratives. So dominant narratives that many times erase other stories in order to keep themselves hegemonic, to epistemicide, or the killing of knowledge systems. But what colonial narratives even mean right? So let's begin with that. Even coloniality in the past is also something that you may be questioning. And well, coloniality can manifest itself in ways that go beyond the form of occupation and administration of lands and the subjugation of the original peoples of these lands. It can also refer to the enduring manifestations of colonial relations, logic, situations, even after the official decolonisation of formal structures of governance happen.

And a collective narrative is a story that is strong enough to be not only a mere object of analysis, but a complex system that actively does things, shapes our frames of reference, and the ways that we exist. And this modern colonial narrative, I will be talking about, refers to cultural hegemony, that is the dominance of a culturally diverse society, by a manipulation of the culture of that society, the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values and morals, so that the worldview of a specific group becomes the accepted cultural norm. So this narrative conditions what and how we think, how we feel, how we desire, how we relate, and even how we imagine. And to better understand how these mechanisms of coloniality appear on a day to day basis on ourselves, in our relationships, on our work, on our systems, on our culture, I mean, this narrative is really pervasive, and it's internalised in us. So I will be showing a set of masks that are kind of archetypes that can describe some common behaviours and dispositions that are usually perceived as normal, but that can actually be very damaging to cultivating relationships and not any kind of relationships, but relationships based on accountability and responsibility as Maria and Naida were talking about. So these masks I will be presenting later on on the course, are hopefully a tool to help to identify and hopefully interrupt these harmful patterns within ourselves, that keeps us reproducing harm even when we have good intentions, and they are not meant to point to qualities of being a better, or a good person... like this is not personal, in a way. This is about the culture and how we internalise this culture and reproduce some behaviours or narratives or stories that may be perpetuating harm. So it's about the conditioning of the story. And this is basically what I will be touching upon.

Naida Culshaw: Wonderful.

Anna Denardin: I don't know if I should pass to Aza?

Naida Culshaw: Yes, Aza, go ahead Aza.

Aza Njeri: Hello everybody. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night. I apologise because I am speaking in Portuguese. I speak a little of English, but I don't have the vocabulary to explain in English what I need to do here today. But I continue studying English, so who knows in the next time, we can chat in English. I am Aza Njeri. I am a teacher, in Pontificia Universidad Catolica, in Rio de Janeiro. I am a searcher of Africa, of the African continent, and of their Afrodiasporas, mainly Brazil. Because this relation, this inherent mend, this confluence, culturally confluence, philosophically, relational, socially, between the African continent and the Americas. It's a very interesting factor to understand new perceptions of existence of society, new perspectives of the world. So I have a doctorship, a PhD in African literatures and a PhD in African philosophies. Always thinking about this relationship between Brazil, America, and African continent, and most recently, Brazil, Africa, and also looking for the European diasporas, Afro-Europeans.

What I'm going to bring to our chat in this class, thinking about roots and ancestrality, comes from the perception that Brazil, my country, it makes part of the biggest diaspora—African diaspora—in the world. So in populational number, Brazil, it is in the second place as the biggest, largest population with Africans. The first one is Nigeria. So out of the African continent, Brazil has the largest Black population from Africa. So this relationship is interesting, to think about inheritance, roots and ancestrality. But what interests me as a researcher of these relations, it is how this population, this African population that was brought to Brazil as slaves, brought to Brazil as a dehumanisation, a radical dehumanisation... how those people, that came to Brazil with their bodies, their words and their philosophical thoughts, how those people could resist and continue. How this comes to nowadays, and how the arts and the culture and the literature deals with it, in perspective, a centrality, a Black centrality.

So to our chat, I'm going to bring one of the lots of African philosophies from us, inherited, the philosophy Bakongo. A philosophy that comes from the people from Angola and Congo, that comes to Brazil and has its roots in Brazil with this population that was taken from Africa and enslaved here in Brazil. So how this philosophy from the Bakongo people comes to Brazil and gets its roots, and it's seen as a tool, as a cultural tool and a resistance to its dehumanisation. This philosophy says that all or everybody is an alive sun, everybody. Everybody is brought up as a sun, we shine as a sun, and it is the responsibility of the community to protect this sun, so as we can come to our largest shine, our largest potency, our noon sun. So then we can become dusk. How can we, in front of a radical dehumanisation, seen by this population, and I'm always going to talk about the Brazilian context, because it's a context in which I live, as the largest Afro, negro diaspora. So how can we live this radical dehumanisation in the last 500 years and being live promoters, despite the precarisation, despite all the forms of racism, oppression, now liberalism. Still, we're here, and we understand ourselves as alive suns. And this is in-negotiable. So we're going to talk about this perspective, and how all of us here, that we are all of us suns, how can we use this potency in our areas, how can we use this power in our areas, that is, this people, everybody. Thank you very much.

Naida Culshaw: Wow, suns. Sun and energy. Okay. Thank you, Aza. Thank you, Anna. I'm going to open up to the next speaker, so Anna and Aza are week one, and I have Lana, Lana is with us, Lana is going to be with me for the intergenerational conversation in week two. Lana, do you want to briefly share a little bit about yourself and what you're planning on doing in the session?

Lana Jelenjev: First and foremost... Good day everyone, I'm Lana Jelenjev, I'm from the Philippines and now living here in the Netherlands. Oh, such richness that has been shared, not only by Naida and Maria, but also with the other speakers. And I'm just like, Oh, so much to absorb and take in. And in the session that we will be doing together, we'll dive deeper into stories that are not also from our lineage, but also intergenerational stories and our collective memory. So working within the intersections of learning experience design, community design, and healing, one of the things that I have been drawn to for the past couple of years is how we can heal histories. And the healing of histories is a very potent way for us to heal society. And one of the favourite authors that I draw inspiration from is Resmaa Menakem, in his work, My Grandmother's Hands, where he really points out how if we look at trauma, and contextualise it within society, this is what we see in society right now. And what I would love to offer is a space for us to not only just tap into the intergenerational hurts and pains and sufferings, but also how can we use this muscle of hope and resilience that you've been talking about a while ago already, in the muscle around care, for us to bring in also stories around intergenerational strengths and intergenerational resilience.

For me, I always refer to... I would not be here today, I would not be existing today without the choices and the decisions of my ancestors. And as much as there are pains there, their resilience and the choices that they made, have brought me here, and how can we bring back those stories in? And not only celebrate, but also what you've mentioned a while ago, Naida, decompose? How can we also let go of the narratives that are not serving us? And one of the things that I've written down from what you've shared, is around: know how to inherit patterns, but how can we know how to inherit patterns, when we're not also surfacing what those patterns are in the first place? In the session that we will be doing is to... somehow... it won't be a lengthy session in that sense, but it's a glimpse of how we can go back to our ancestors that are with us today, and create our muscle of reconnecting to our intergenerational story, so that we can look at it from a salutogenic lens, from a lens of fullness, from a lens of wholeness and abundance. And with that, so that we would know which patterns to inherit, and which patterns that we can pass on to the next generations.

Naida Culshaw: I'm looking forward to it. Thank you so much, Lana. And I really appreciate you joining the journey as well. I want to invite the next speaker. So Mary, Vidya, she is online with us. She will be with us during the third week, so there's two sessions and normally it's every Tuesday, but on the third week, there will be a session on Tuesday and Thursday. And Vidya will be joining us on Thursday, and we're going to be talking a little bit about folktales and stories, which have been what I would call discounted, because they had power. They always had power, and they still have power. And it's to really think about these stories. What messages are they trying to share with us. And thank you Mary for being here. Or Vidya, for being here. Please go ahead and introduce yourself briefly, and just share a little bit about what we're going to experience in our session together.

P. Mary Vidya Porselvi: Thank you, Naida and Maria. It's a wonderful opportunity to speak to you all about my favourite topics, environment and storytelling. So I began with my research with storytelling and folklore. And when I came across this word, environment, ecofeminism, there was a thought spark created in me and I was reminded of my grandmother's stories, and my mother's stories. Born and brought up in a hill station, in a hilly area, in a place called Kodaikanal. It's a village, a rural area, in southern part of India. I have seen women carrying logs in their head, and then also carrying a tiny little toddler in a sling. And then they had stories. So women had stories, who did work in the agricultural fields, who went out to get fuel in the forests. So, they all had stories, and we were listening to those stories during the summer vacation. So, it was such an interesting experience when I came across the Chipko movement, which Vandana Shiva had mentioned in her book Ecofeminism, and I could draw a connection, an instant connection with those movements. And I was also inspired by Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement. And there are other several movements in India, Save Silent Valley Movement... These are all grassroots movements that work towards the wellbeing of Mother Earth.

So, I did my PhD in the area of ecofeminism and folktales. I read the stories from an ecofeminist perspective, and I came up with a folktale typology connecting women and nature. So, to give you some examples, there is a collection of stories called Aqua-Stree. Aqua is water, and Stree means woman in our Indian language. Or if it is birds and woman stories, I called it Aves-Eve. So, Aves mean birds, and Eve refers to a woman. Or if it is a tree woman story, I called it Woody-Woman tale: a woman gaining strength from a tree. So, I have identified 12 motifs in my PhD and postdoctoral research. And then, based on my Fulbright visit and study, I wrote a book called Environmental Humanities and Folktales: Theory and Practice, because I didn't want to stop with theory. I thought, when you talk about environment, it should not stop with theory, you should move on to practice. And I met Naida in a course, a systems thinking course, which also helped us to connect all these dots... connecting the dots. So, I have identified another typology in terms of space-time, nature-culture, spirit-matter, and society-economy, and how do we use folktales in a classroom? Which lends itself to practice in a larger scenario or in the larger world?

So there are forty principles which I call Gaia Care Principles. So I'll be discussing the 40 Gaia Care Principles in my talk and also give you an opportunity to experiment with one or two of those Gaia Care Principles in your field of study. So this is something I have visualised and planning to discuss with you all. And in this context, I would like to thank all the storytellers who have influenced me, right from my childhood days, my mother, and my grandmother, my aunts, and then school teachers, who have narrated a lot of stories, and now children, and my students, who narrate such wonderful stories. Just to give you one example, we talk about trees and how trees flower, and give beautiful fruits and vegetables when you talk to them. And some of my students tell me, they talk to the plants and trees, and they have found this magic in their houses. So it's very interesting to hear such beautiful stories from our students.

Naida Culshaw: And in our session, we're going to really explore a little bit about your own stories. And so part of the reason why it's on a Thursday, it's called a Sharing Circle. And so you're going to have a little bit of homework, if you're participating in the course, that you need to bring a story to share. Because we are going to also have a story sharing. Thank you Vidya for being here this evening. And I just want to pass to the last facilitator who's joined us this evening, Andreza. She's going to be here for week five. And so I would love to have you here, please. Welcome, and if you could, again, just share a little bit about yourself and what you're planning to explore in the session.

Andreza Jorge: Hi. Hi, everyone. So I'm Andreza Jorge, I'm from Brazil. And my background is in dance. My undergrad was in dance and my master degree was in race and ethnic relations. And now I'm doing my PhD in cultural studies in US. And my experience, connected with the themes around this course is very amalgamate to the gender-race relation through this understanding about how colonialities across our bodies. So think, in these connections around ancestrality, power dynamics, and creativity. I think my main subject will be how these colonial operations are connected with our creative expression, because I'm also a human rights defender, because I came from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, but I am born and grow up and my family still live in a place in a community, we call favela in Brazil, and this space often are described as peripheral and very marginalised space in the cities. So, and of course, this is because we had these heritage, this very deep heritage in the colonial oppression, so I think about that. I think my work emerged in a very experienced and lived way, in my body, and creativity experience, demonstrate this relation with this place, this community, in this whole ancestral, cultural heritage.

So as a human rights defender, again, I think the biggest way to talk about humanity in a context of this humanisation and process of this humanisation, the expression of the creativity through the body movement is an authentic way to show our humanity. So because of that, I worked for many years with women from these communities, and think how our bodies can express this humanity as an act of resistance, but also like Aza Njeri tells, as a way to think about the future, about the ontological perspective grounded in philosophy, very strong, about being Black and Latin American, indigenous people in the world. So my class, we're talking about these themes, I will connect to the gender ideas, territory ideas, race ideas, and global position ideas around the creativity through the body as a way to show without ask permission, our humanity. So I think it'll be basically that.

Naida Culshaw: Wow. I'm looking forward to moving and doing some movement. I'm going to go ahead and pass it to you, Maria. I think we're closing now. Yeah?

Maria Clara Parente: Unfortunately... it was so good to be with all of you. And super excited to the course. Thanks, advaya for hosting this webinar session. And thanks, everyone who joined today, wishing you a wonderful Gregorian New Year. And look forward to see you all on the course! Now over to Cassandra to close out the session.

Cassandra Bradshaw: Wow, such a powerful journey and beautiful insight into this exploration that lays ahead of us. So thank you to everyone who's joined us today. And thank you to Naida and Maria for gathering all of these threads into a shared space. And a big thank you to each of the session facilitators for weaving their wisdom, insights, perspectives into the Re/membering our Rooted Sales tapestry. So this is our invitation to you to re/claim that which has been left behind, to re/connect to memory and ancestry, dreaming and imagination, and re/root through storytelling, by joining us for Re/membering our Rooted Selves. We thank you again for joining us, and we look forward to meeting you within the course.


Maria Clara Parente

Maria Clara Parente is a Rio de Janeiro based writer, artist, journalist, and film director who researches other ways of inhabiting this planet towards decolonial futures.

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Naida Culshaw

Naida Culshaw is university lecturer and Doctorate of Business Administration candidate at Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM) in France, as well as a coach and consultant.

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Anna Denardin

Anna Denardin is a brazilian civil engineer and designer focused in decolonial sustainability.

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Aza Njeri

Aza Njeri is professor of African Literature and researcher of African and Afro-diasporic Philosophies, Cultures, Literatures and Arts.

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Lana Jelenjev

Lana Jelenjev is a Filipina, now based in the Netherlands, who designs spaces for “KAPWA” (shared inner selves) to flourish.

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Andreza Jorge

Andreza Jorge has been working for more than fifteen years on social projects focused on gender, ethnic-racial relations, diversity and sexuality in Complexo da Maré.

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P. Mary Vidya Porselvi

P. Mary Vidya Porselvi is Assistant Professor of English, Loyola College, Chennai, India.

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