What a summer!

Hey folks.  So, we are clearly a bit slow on the whole blogging thing.  However, it has been an exciting summer at the Sankofa House and we would love to share some of what we have learned!

This summer, Amy finished up her MA in Urban Studies: Arts in Transformation program!  She learned amazing things about arts and healing and came home with energy to put knowledge into practice. The photo below is a project in the house that came out of an applied effort to implement healing arts in Price Hill.

This summer, Chris applied his permaculture knowledge to the back yard. With the help of occasional friends, he managed to transform the land…which had been abandoned.

Before 🙂

After 🙂 Harvest Time!

We also made the great addition of ducks to our permaculture efforts:

Curious Georga aka Sky Duck

And, now it is time to harvest the efforts…

Chris and Amy also spent a great deal of time teaching expressive arts to teens in the neighborhood through PHEAT (Price Hill Expressive Art for Teens). Recently, the teens catered an arts event in Price Hill, exhibiting their culinary arts skills.


And lovely folks, like Guin stopped by throughout the summer to add their artistic influence to our walls!

Guin painting in the "sun and moon" room

So, all in all it’s been a great summer or art, food,community, and fun!

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photos!

Hey friends!  Here are some photos to chronicle the work that we have been up to!

🙂

 

christopher's music station- where he has begun teaching music lessons

study room- this room has a lot of work left!

therapeutic room. the color mixed for this room is deemed most stimulating yet therapeutic by environmental psychologists.

found art project in the bathroom. this bathroom also has a worm compost bin, wheat grass garden, and potting station.

spice rack- made from found wood and old paint...behind the rack you can see the adobe color we managed to mix from donated paint. it covers the kitchen walls. it is a really stimulating color- great for the kitchen!

This is the hallway between the therapeutic room and the kitchen. Creating architectural changes in passageways is a means of highlighting the shift between spaces. This hallway is meant to slow down the passerby and make them aware that they are moving through a sacred place into another.

update

So, it has been a while since we updated this blog with information on our house progress.  Good news…it is going very well.  In fact, we have finished the entire first floor!  It looks beautiful and is quite creative.

The first room that meets the eye upon entering reflects our most important passions and pursuits.  This is our music and art room.  It is in this room that we are beginning to host art and music exploration courses for the community.  The walls of this room are beginning to tell the creation story- the beginning of culture.  This mural will tell the story of creation and will highlight our position as co-creators with The Creator and keepers/cultivators of what has been created.  This is really central to the idea of creativity- which we hope to explore within the community.

The second room has been painted a nice green- a therapeutic color. This room will serve as a therapy and relaxation room.

The hallway into the back of the house is most interesting.  I recently read that alterations in walkways such as low ceilings, a step up, etc. cause us to take our time and recognize the shift from place to place.  We really played up this idea in the hallway.  We have created a magical hallway…with great lighting and hanging art.  (pics to follow).

As spring approaches, we look forward to moving outwards and approaching the large yard. It is yet another unkept space that we hope to transform into a sacred and creative place.

updates

Well, much work has been underway at 942 McPherson.  First, we had a little covenant ceremony…kinda like a wedding, our style 🙂  The first picture above shows our guests and ourselves on the front porch after the ceremony.  The ceremony was beautiful- it came before electricity, before any furniture, before any heat source.  We all sat in a circle around a beautiful candle lit center-piece, we prayed, we asked God to bless the space, we shared communion, and wrote blessings on the walls.

And then we moved in.

It was a really cold first week…but in no time our BLOC friends got heat, electric, the works going for us!

Since then, we have been cleaning, painting, painting, painting, moving stuff in, etc.  Our biggest accomplishment to date was refinishing our kitchen floor.  We slowly removed the nasty adhesive tiles that were covering beautiful ceramic below.  After two weeks of toil…our floor looks great!

All the colors have been decided for the walls.  Thanks to BLOC, we got all the paint donated.  We went through an interesting process deciding the colors for each room.  Color has the power to evoke specific psychological states and can be used in a way that encourages mood and specific utility in a room.  For example, we are using deep red in the front room because we want this music/art room to be the most stimulating room in the house.  This color has been proven to stimulate mental and social capacities.  We’ll see if it works.

Curtains have been hung on the first floor.  They are a combination of curtains found on sale, table clothes, and twine additions…altogether curtains cost about 100 bucks (pretty darn cheap).  It’s amazing what a difference something so simple can make.  Our house feels cozy, its a bit quieter and warmer, and it looks a little more cared for.

Christopher recently said that in planting crops it is ideal to condition and fertilize the soil in such a way that it grows strong plants.  It is not ideal to fertilize the plant only…deal with the soil (environment), make it healthy and productive and you will naturally grow wonderful crops.  He made the connection between caring for the soil and tending to the environments in which we live.  In life, if we create safe, creative, and healthy living environments … we will be naturally inclined towards growth.

The last picture (below) is a picture of our fridge.  We have this idea that we want to house to slowly progress towards nature as you move closer to the backyard.  So, we are designing little things to promote this- like the fridge tree. Some other things that promote this naturalistic progression are the colors of the walls- Terra cotta, blue, brown; the bathtub planter we have planned; the greenhouse porch; and the tree lined hallway Amy has plans for.

Our next goals are to weatherize the house (fill in the major cracks and gaps + plastic the windows) and finish painting the walls.

We welcome all suggestions, comments, and of course- VISITS!!!!!!!!!!!

Cincinnati Enquirer articles bout our street…

Here are a few articles about the situation on our street.  Looks like we may be in the right place at the right time.

 

American dream lost on McPherson St.

http://nky.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20101122/EDIT03/11210348/1082/SPT/Dream-lost-on-McPherson-St-

Groups Work to Repair Homes, Halt Decline

http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20101122/EDIT03/11210359/

Sankofa

Darryl, our backyard neighbor recently confirmed our suspicions and informed us that our house was an active drug house before and after its time of abandonment. While that explains the 14 outlets in one small room and other obvious clues…it still leaves us feeling the weight/burden that this house has experienced. So, we are not entirely relieved by the explanation. Yet, this addition to the story provides an even deeper meaning to our purpose within this space: transforming the space from chaos to order, profane to sacred, abuse to love, enslavement (to drugs) to freedom and creativity. Ultimately, we would like to see the transformation of this house lead to transformation within this community/neighborhood…but we are a long way away from that!

Lets chat for a minute about cultural transformation. Culture is what we make of the world. Culture is, first of all, the name for all of out relentless, restless human effort to take the world as it is given to us and make something else. Our quest for meaning is played out in culture making. Every thing we create is an artifact with potential to make possible what was impossible and to make impossible what was once a possibility. Every person, place, and thing is steeped in layers, layers, and layers of culture. Some of these layers contribute to progress, others to regression. Our cultural artifacts, cues, and environments construct our human experience.

Our idea with this house is to transform a negative cultural artifact that is situated within a neighborhood, city, state, and nation steeping with positive and negative cultural practices. There are many negative cultures that we are attempting to address with our actions. We recognize that are our efforts are small as compared to the intensity of the issues that we are attempting to address, they are nevertheless essential. Plus…with the right audience and time, you never know what can happen.

Cultural transformation begins with making a decision about which cultural world we will attempt to make something of. Here are some cultural layers we hope to address:

-drug culture (house transformed from drug house to creativity space; creation vs. destruction)

-waste culture (land-use, revitalizing what has been discarded, reusing materials)

-culture of negative behavior around abandoned spaces

-cultural reclamation-reskilling, permaculture, art & spirituality

These are just a few of the cultural layers we are attempting to address. If we see any changes in these layers within our microsystem, we expect that they will be slow, slow changes. The faster a given layer of culture changes, the less long-term effect it has on the horizon of possibility and impossibility… which means we are gonna take it slow.

So, what do our efforts assume about how the world is/should be?

Here are some assumptions that we have.

-We live in a world of broken systems, systems which are antithetical to life, creation, and truth.

-We can critique or complain about cultural ills or theorize solutions, but talk doesn’t lead to change. We tend to think that understanding something is the end of the loop. Change, however, comes from informed actions which present an alternative to current cultural practices.

-The artist’s job is to make the revolution look irresistible.

-Some of our cultural practices create enormous waste. Poor land use and abandonment of property is wasteful and points to our spiritual disconnect from the land and our roles as caregivers and co-creators.

-We are co-creators, responsible for building new ideas, systems, artifacts, etc.

-Ancient knowledge can be helpful to us today. A search for rituals, meanings, and restored relationship to environment and other people often leads us back to our roots.

-Our current way of life in the U.S. is not sustainable. We need to relearn skills and practices that we have forgotten. We also need to reuse and revitalize the wasted, discarded products of our lifestyles whenever possible

As we have continued to discuss and flush out these assumption and references to cultural transformation- a central idea has emerged: returning to truth.

There is an adrinka word that has played a significant role in Ghanaian philosophy, Pan-Africanism, and the human search for roots/ancestry/ and enduring knowledge: SANKOFA. Sankofa means – “it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten” or “go back and take.” The symbol for Snakofa is a bird taking an egg off of its back. This symbolizes one taking from the past what is good an bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress through the benevolent use of knowledge. A synonym for this word is disambiguation. This principle helps us to seek the following questions:

What’s my story? Where am I from? Where has our society come from? What knowledge and rituals have we forgotten? How can past knowledge shape tomorrows story?

We hope to craft our space as a sacred place where these questions are explained. In honor of this principle, we will be naming the house The Sankofa House. We will use the symbol- but with local flavor. We will be choosing an Ohio native bird. We would love suggestions!

Immigrants

I have started to think of myself as an immigrant in a new land, a sojourner if you will. I have come with my experiences, understandings, and expectations into this new city. This is a change of perspective for me. In the past, I have thought of myself as the one who is living amongst a different population. Truth is, I am the different one. I am new and unlearned in the various cultural practices, languages, etc. of this place I find myself. This place existed before me.

 



 

I have many immigrant friends and they often comment that in their transition they became child-like. They needed to relearn their life patterns and often found themselves learning from those much younger than themselves. Their process required humility, patience, faith, and time- a lot of time. So, in the spirit of sojourning and in respect to my immigrant friends and new neighbors- I will attempt to make myself child-like: inquisitive, malleable, playful, curious, humble, and willing to get up after I stumble through this culture that I don’t yet know my way around. In time, perhaps I will earn my place as a resident, neighbor and eventually/hopefully a leader and culture shifter.

 

 

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