This is an art therapy project I completed following the instruction of Tamara Laporte. Here is the link to her four FREE online tutorials dealing with art and healing childhood wounds. The essence of this exercise was to write the self defeating messages that you say to yourself on the page, then cover over it and create a loving self portrait with a replacement affirmation in it’s place. I thought long and hard for the replacement statement that would cancel out the multitude of not-good-enough and not-wanted sentiments I’ve bullied myself with for decades. I chose the literal and metaphorical concept of colonization to represent the abuser values I internalized growing up in violent, unfair and abusive cultures and environment.
As a Peruvian-American, my blood literally tells the story of my people’s colonization. For some time, I have wanted to know what my DNA could tell me about my ancestors, so I ordered a DNA analysis through Ancestry.com. I wanted to know mainly for spiritual reasons, so that I could honor my ancestors properly with specially constructed altars. Not surprisingly , I found out I am mostly (half) Native American of the Americas, part Iberian Peninsulan (land of the conquistadors), part West African and part Greek/Roman. I even have a touch of Irish. When I saw that makeup in writing, my heart ached for my native female ancestors who were raped by the conquistadors; I know that is how I was made. That, sadly, is the case for all of us mestizo’s. This is the overt colonization to which I refer.
But, growing up in a male dominated (patriarchal?) and racist society as well as in a profoundly sexist household produced a spiritual form of colonization. My self determination towards my desires and needs were replaced with the dictates from the powers that be; mainly that of the men, and specifically, men in my family. I lost my voice just as the scribes of my Andean ancestors had their records destroyed. I was not allowed to speak the reality of what happened and my essence was defamed and made suspect. This is exactly what happened with native ancestors. My characteristics were denigrated I was made to internalize self hatred for my Indian/female essence. What survived of them are fetishized and tokenized so as not to be of threat to the status quo. It was not just in my family; you only need to look at our culture’s obsessions with rich, white, manipulated, altered female bodies to see it is going on on a grande scale.
So when I write of decolonizing my spirit, I am referring to reclaiming the forgotten and untamed parts of being mixed race and female. I exist for myself, not for the pleasure of others; so I do not want to take part in my own objectification anymore. It is also important for me to acknowledge all parts of me and to not romanticize any one aspect at the detriment to the other. The conquistadores were, by and large thugs and barbarian in their treatment of the natives in the lands they invaded; but the history of their people is more than their conquering actions. I can accept that part of my history and celebrate it. And while men in my family injured me with sexual inappropriateness and selfish power-over child raising, they were also much more; they gave me wonderful things too. Decolonizing my spirit means looking at what I am made of and choosing what stays, what suits a life well lived today. It is not reactionary and rejecting.
I highly encourage this exercise for anyone who wants to develop their own personal affirmation or a daily self healing practice. Our natural state is highly suggestible and I encourage you to nurture a beautiful sentiment in it ‘s fertile ground.