Possession | Blog Posts from 2012


 

KAREN MIRANDA AUGUSTINE ...
Ritualistic pop artist, writer and videomaker. "First religions"-ophile, folk and recycled art enthusiast. Lover of Pomba Gira and all wildly adventurous female Exús. Crossroads resider, hot yoga student, transcendent night traveller....

created the formidable, fantastic possession blog. When the site's domain expired, the blog disappeared from the web. The new owner of the domain is presenting just brief glimpse of some of the site's 2012 archived blog posts so that possession will not be forgottan. Enjoy

 

POSSESSION

n. 1 informal psychic creations, transcendental experimentations, and ritualistic explorations.
2 (esp. in art) spiritual content; celebratory declarations. • prep. against the grain.
3 (found in works by) 21st century artists, writers and media makers.
4 dynamic artist-driven content and artist-to-artist interviews published on-line at PossessionSessions.com
5 created by Toronto artist and writer Karen Miranda Augustine

 



 

The Positively Revolting Art of JORIAL

Artist: JORIAL, HIVOGUE - Ofra Haza

HIVOGUE — Ofra Haza by JORIAL

 

It's a myth that all art — and artists, for that matter — are inherently part of the counterculture. I was a pre-teen when I came to that realization, watching Teenage Head and Lydia Lunch on early episodes of the New Music, circa JD Roberts and Jeanne Becker. Everything then was very punk rock, the creativity technically unpolished, not yet caught up in the plastic techie factory of the mainstream.

Those of us who were coming of age back then were already stumbling through the anxiety of hormones raging wildly when the AIDS epidemic made its way across the newscasts of the early '80s. By the '90s, many of us had been touched by the loss of a friend with full-blown AIDS; myself, I had entered into a scene of anarchists, queer Black feminists, conceptual artists and AIDS activists — all of which had a great affect on me.

JORIAL's HIV/AIDS propaganda posters stir up the feelings, memories and activist energy from that '80s/early '90s era. Celebrities found on his HIVOGUE series take me back to club nights, house raves on Charlotte, and remind me of cultural references I had placed behind me, packed up with my torn fishnets, fake lashes and construction boots. Although his choice of artistic format is not new — artists like Iké Udé and General Idea have also successfully used the magazine cover as a platform to subvert — JORIAL's approach definitely is.

 

Artist: JORIAL, HIVOGUE - Willi Ninja and Anthony Perkins

(left) HIVOGUE — Willi Ninja and (right) HIVOGUE — Anthony Perkins by JORIAL

 

KAREN MIRANDA AUGUSTINE: What prompted the idea to spoof Vogue magazine covers as a way to discuss the stigma of HIV+ status?

JORIAL: It was born from developing the HIV awareness/prevention policies for PozPlanet.com — a "sexy" HIV-centred, queer dating/chat/hookup site we're launching soon. Theoretically, our central objective is to offer a free social-networking platform that guarantees freedom from HIV social stigma, hysteria and discrimination, plus racism, transphobia, etc. The term "HIV negative," and the ridiculous notion of ongoing HIV- status as some sort of character or personality trait, is the core root of the mass ignorance and miseducation that is advancing the global pandemic. It's an issue that mainstream AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) — for example, ACT (AIDS Committee of Toronto), BlackCAP (Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention), etc. — have failed to address both on-line and off. Quite simply, if we expect the inconvenient truths about the volatile nature of seroconversion and HIV infection to ever sink into the minds of sexually active adults and the general population, the term needs to go out of style, out of fashion, out of use and effectively abolished from social acceptability. It should be sent to the same vernacular boneyard as the N-word. It really is that problematic and deadly a term.

The first thing that pops into your head when thinking about fashion is Vogue magazine and, for whatever reason, they still decide what's in and what's out, what's haute and what's not. I unconsciously apply wordplay and a queer fanzine aesthetic to everything I do, so once I started thinking about it, HIVOGUE wasn't too much of a stretch for my one track mind to conceive.

 

Artist: JORIAL, Peeple Magazine

Peeple Magazine — Everyting Well-Boonoonoonous by JORIAL

 

KMA: Is there a difference to how positive HIV status is stigmatized in the LGBT community from the straight community?

JORIAL: Let me put it this way: If you asked me that question on the airport tarmac, I'd drop to my knees, kiss the concrete and say, "Thank God, I'm not straight!" But to really speak about stigma, I think that regardless of race and class, it becomes much more of a question of gender than sexual orientation. An unholy alliance of mainstream AIDS service organizations and the pharmaceutical industry has done a remarkable job of divide and conquer, herding us like cattle into easily identifiable departments and target markets from which to manage us like product on a sales floor.

 

Artist: JORIAL, Don't Judge, Judy!
Don't Judge, Judy! by JORIAL


Positive men can't disclose because to do so threatens our social status, job security and flops the show for getting our groove on. For women and trans folks it's not only that but a massive personal safety issue. We all know women aren't even safe in their own homes sleeping much less having the audacity to step out onto the street in public during broad daylight, no matter who they are or where they're living on this planet. Add being HIV+ into the mix and the danger and threat to your personal safety and quality of life quadruples. Disclosure is a luxury that women simply can't afford, and that's criminal.

 

Artist: JORIAL, HIVOGUE - Sharron Redd and Gia Carangi
(left) HIVOGUE — Sharon Redd
and (right) HIVOGUE — Gia Carangi by JORIAL

The pandemic is often described as a holocaust, however it's not just a body count that we can draw parallels from. For example, in a "traditional" family unit where one or both of the parents are positive, most must hide all evidence of their status from their own children, their teachers, neighbours, co-workers, friends, and even other family members in the interest of their children's personal safety. No one should have to live life hiding their identity for survival in that manner, especially within their own home.

 

Artist: JORIAL, HIVOGUE - Nkosi Johnson

KMA: The more openly queer celebrities you reference are easily identifiable: '80s supermodel Gia, dancer Alvin Ailey, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, singer Freddie Mercury, for example. Then there are the covers with straight celebrities, some who were not as publicly known to have died from AIDS-related complications like singer Ofra Haza (compared to the more publicly known cases like those of performers Fela Kuti and Eazy-E). And more recently, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Your HIVOGUE series is so intriguing: part tribute, part role model-provider for those who are in need of someone to identify with. Why, as an artist, is it important for you to give visibility to those who live with HIV or who have succumbed to AIDS-related health problems. Why do you see the disclosure of one's "positive status" of great importance in the public sphere?

JORIAL: It's important because stigma is so overwhelming that very few positive people are in the position to be open and "out" about it. With the notable living exceptions of Magic Johnson — and a few lesser-known celebrities such as Andy Bell (Erasure) and Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) — we never find out who our role models are until after they're dead. Generally speaking, the only people who can be public about their HIV status are hardcore activists and long-term survivors who have become so desensitized to stigma they just don't care anymore.

When speaking of HIV, we often talk about the period of time the virus can lay dormant. On-line, there's something I like to describe as seroconversion "RT" (real-time). That's the period of time from seroconverting to the point where you have the confidence and integrity to post a clear face pic on 3P (photo personal profiles) and list your status as HIV positive. For many that can be several years, and for most it never happens. On Facebook, I know of two — count 'em: TWO! — HIV+ people who are completely and totally out about it, and trust me, I know of puh-lenty of HIV+ people. For that reason, local activist Brian Finch and French politician Jean-Luc Romero are huge inspirations, "positive" role models and "status" symbols to me.

 
Artist: JORIAL, The Queers Online are Positively Revolting

The Queers Online are Positively Revolting by JORIAL


For me personally, my experience has been a little ass-backwards. I had no problem [being out about my status] on Facebook, but on gay Web sites, such as Adam4Adam.com or Manhunt.net, it's only very recently that I've successfully seroconverted RT. I guess it depends what community you feel most anchored in. I've been aggressively unholy-terrorizing straights in the interest of queerness since the mid-'80s with the zines Bimbox and S.C.A.B. (Society for the Complete Annihilation of Breeding), so I had absolutely no qualms about jumping right in your Facebook.

KMA: In the late '80s/early '90s there was passing concern over the real incubation period of HIV and whether or not an HIV test could ever truly be read as accurate. Many dismiss this as an issue, so the message that emerges from your propaganda poster HIVOGUE — It's All the Rage in Pandemic is an especially urgent, educational one, particularly within the context of sex want ads — on-line or in print. Can you further discuss these ideas and one's false sense of security upon receiving an HIV-negative test result?
 

Artist: JORIAL, HIVOGUE - It's All the Rage in Pandemic

HIVOGUE — It's All the Rage in Pandemic by JORIAL

JORIAL: With regard to HIV or any STD awareness/prevention issue, I feel accurate facts are of the utmost importance. The volatile nature of seroconversion alone dictates that only a blood sample can be HIV-negative and, because our bodies are living, constantly changing things, a "negative" result for anything our blood is screened or tested for — whether HIV, cancer, diabetes, bird flu, rock-'n'-roll boogie, or pneumonia — is essentially expired information upon receipt. This applies to all sexually active adults, including those who claim to practice safer sex 100% of the time, as latex condoms are not 100% effective. 40-85% of HIV+ people don't know they're infected, and most people wouldn't know what safer sex was if it bit them in the....!

Unless they invent a device that can be jammed into our veins 24/7, constantly monitoring and screening HIV status, no one has the right to claim HIV-negative status. Those who do are knowingly — or unknowingly — creating a deadly, sero-supremist false sense of security for both themselves and others, passively fostering HIV social stigma, hysteria and discrimination and recklessly advancing the global pandemic. With 25 million dead, 46 million currently infected, and 5,700 deaths per day from HIV/AIDS in 2007, perpetuating the notion of HIV-negative status is to engage in reckless, high-risk behaviour that reinforces systematic misinformation so deadly and destructive that we should recoil in horror at utterance of the term.
 

Artist: JORIAL, Soaking in It (Self-Portrait)

Soaking in It (Self-Portrait) by JORIAL

Institutionalized homo/queer/transphobia, hetero/sexism, misogyny and racism forces sexually-active adults into multiple closets. And, whether they like it or not, whatever's happening on the nastiest queer "barebacking" site directly impacts the "innocent," God-fearing heterosexuals navigating the most wholesome, arranged matrimony sites imaginable. No matter how the latter group stubbornly polices, condemns, and criminalizes the lifestyles of the former, HIV will continue to spread back and forth between populations. Open dialogue, harm reduction and realistic sex education really is so important if we're serious about stopping HIV/AIDS. We've already seen the glorious results of 25 years of throwing bourgeois tea parties, staging misogynist fashion shows and handing out condoms to barebackers at bathhouses; maybe it's time for fresh tactics like pointing out the glaringly obvious truth and #1 misconception about HIV!

Artist: JORIAL, Meet Mr. Clean

Meet Mr. Clean by JORIAL

KMA: My introduction to your work was through your pastel drawings, which reminded me so much of the lateJerome Caja's artwork. Both of your works have, at times, overt religious and/or sexual overtones that speak bluntly, yet with much humour, to issues of sex, abuse, gender, and desire. As an HIV+ gay drag queen and artist, Caja especially had so many interesting pieces where he cross-identified with Jesus and la Virgen de Guadeloupe (two classic martyrs), using their images to explore his feelings around mortality, difference, persecution and reverence. When I look at your pastel illustrations, I can see that there is a similar dialogue that is also going on. Both you and Caja poke fun at the seriousness of religion's confines and speak to the "darker" experiences of life. Talk to us about some of the themes that dominate these drawings.

JORIAL: I think most artists and writers in personal struggle with their own mortality, whether it's HIV, cancer, other chronic illness, disability, injury, or advanced age. We tend to entomb ourselves in subject and content that explores memory, closure, cause and effect, or whatever we feel encapsulates, justifies or explains our journey. I experienced a severe creative block that lasted ten years following a rather traumatic period of my life, and visual artwork, writing or producing anything remotely creative, was only revived as the result of group art therapy offered at the AIDS Committee of Toronto and participation in an individual art therapy study at Mount Sinai Hospital.

After such a long period of artistic silence, a passionate response to HIV-related depression, stemming from the overwhelming social stigma that's rampant throughout the gay community, has been a central theme outpoured in most, if not all, of my stuff since 2005. Expressing that has been like coming out of a closet all over again — a psychological and personal rollercoaster, which is as equally exhilarating, tedious, rewarding and terrifying as embracing queerness the first time around.

Artist: JORIAL, Class, Race and Gender Privilege at 399 Church Street

Class, Race and Gender Privilege at 399 Church Street by JORIAL

The obstacles to "positive" identity are very familiar and identifiable (authority, religion, family, heterosexism, etc.), and I think for many HIV+ queer/trans people, fatigue from years of battling morons, jackasses and hypocrites the first time around certainly impedes our enthusiasm to relive the same tired old war, especially when through silence, complacency, incompetence and inaction our so called gay "community" has joined their ranks! While she's generally not known for her sarcasm, it's kinda brutal that gay icon Dionne Warwick sings "Déjà vu" and "That's What Friends Are For."

Artist: JORIAL, Vaginal Davis

Vaginal Davis by JORIAL

Because stigma is so isolating, much "viral culture" output from HIV+ artists appears self-absorbed and I guess my own is no different. I also think that with exceptions like ACT UP, AIDS Action Now, Diseased Pariah News, etc., self-absorption/obsession/condemnation historically explains why, when left to our own devices in groups, the HIV+ haven't been able to organize our way out of a paper bag. It's sort of impossible to express universal themes as each person's experience of HIV is unique, with religious backlashing and condemnation perhaps the one interchangeable specter to which we can all relate.

Ironically, as a character in the 1990 Gabrielle Micallef and Debbie Douglas film anOTHER Love Story notes, "AIDS ain't fussy." That statement is so true and it's something we'll acknowledge on an individual basis, yet the universal global response to HIV in providing treatment, delivering services or even just fundraising has been to judge, divide, conquer and compartmentalize the HIV+ into easily identifiable groups of "us" and "them," innocent and guilty, those deserving of compassion and those deserving scorn. Hyper-conservativity, hysteria, selfishness and disunity is no way to fight a virus, and I certainly try to challenge that mindset with the spiritually interchangeable pieces Jesus Is My Bitch and The Prophet Muhammad for MAC Viva Glam.

KMA: I heard that you're involved in a very interesting film project that stars ex-Fifth Column bandmate, Caroline Azar. Could you tell us a bit more about this project?

JORIAL: Well it's kind of a fully-clothed queer re-make of Nude On The Moon, the 1961 softcore porn/nudist camp epic by Doris Wishman, who with over 30 feature films to her credit is the most prolific female director of the 20th century. Our version is called Project 36-C and stars Bitch Nation's Jena von Brucker and G.B. Jones as the astronauts and Caroline Azar in an absolutely hilarious dual-role as "Doris Manwish," their frumpy administrative assistant and "the All-Time Queen Of The Moon!" We filmed the movie way back in 1992/1993 during the height of Toronto's queercore renaissance, a period when we also started publishing Double Bill, the so-called anti-fanzine/"hate" zine strategically designed to advance the character assassination of (then) wife-killer and pedophile on-the-loose William S. Burroughs, while offering up as an alternative William Conrad (star of the TV show Cannon in the 70s and Jake and the Fatman in the 80s/90s) to the queer masses, so desperate and starved for a male role model named Bill to worship, idolize and adore.

 

Artist: JORIAL, film poster for Project 36-C

Project 36-C film poster by JORIAL

Much of Project 36-C was shot during the same period and at many of the same locales as G.B. Jones's movie The Lollipop Generation, features three of the same principle actors, and pays loving tribute to the techniques and styles of both Jones and Wishman. As such, it was filmed without sound, the dialogue and music to be added in later.

In 1994 the movie was half-finished when circumstance put it on a back burner, and then in 1995, A Different Booklist happened. As you recall, in 1998 when I...um..."left" A Different Booklist, there wasn't much time to pack and the three canisters of film that were Project 36-C were misplaced at that time and presumed lost for nearly ten years. Meanwhile, G.B. Jones completed The Lollipop Generation, which premiered this past April as the gala feature opening the 2008 Images Festival in Toronto. The "lost" Project 36-C footage was unexpectedly recovered about a year ago in 2007, so after meeting with G.B. Jones a couple of weeks after her premiere, we decided we really should finish the movie as time travel is an element of the plotline anyway. Plus, there's just too many obscure celebrity cameos (Kevin Killian, Sadie Benning, Rachel Pepper, Mark Ewert, Jeffrey Kennedy, Johnny Ray Huston, Davey Houle, Mike Thompson, Lisa Freeman, etc.) to justify letting it rot in someone's closet!

Thanks to G.B. Jones' renewed involvement and guidance, I'm very excited to be completing what I'm sure will be my first and last, one and only, foray into moviemaking!

JORIAL will be participating in Urbanity Humanity, a group exhibition for 2008 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Saturday, October 4th at Beaver Hall Gallery, where he will be showing works from his HIVOGUE series. To view more of JORIAL's work, please visit his on-line galleries at MyArtSpace.com or MySpace.com. His social networking site, PozPlanet.com is currently in development and will be launched in 2009.

IMAGES: Copyright of JORIAL and are reprinted with his permission.



Malidoma Patrice Somé: Part I/images

Malidoma Patrice Some

Malidoma Patrice Somé

This post is one of two interviews with Malidoma Patrice Somé I will be reposting on POSSESSION. "Gays: Guardians of the Gates," is what I think many of you will find to be quite satisfactory and eloquent reading. 

Quite recently, I have discovered some wonderful books by the West African writer and diviner Malidoma Patrice Somé/images. And I think I'm in love, reverentially speaking. I've been juggling between his books The Healing Wisdom of Africa/images and the ever short and sweet Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community/images, of which I've become most fond. Those who are seeking (especially those of the African descent) may, perhaps, feel like they have found a mentor and kindred spirit through his writing.
 

Interestingly, as all things happening in synchronicity, I found out in short order that Malidoma will be in Toronto later next month. And I'm looking forward to it. Greatly.
 
He writes a lot about the importance of ancestralization, the power infused in grief and ritual, and the need for those in the Diaspora to embrace our spiritual traditions. And it's quite moving, beautiful and real:
"It follows then that primitive cultures normally deal with the physical world at the last stage. What goes wrong in the visible world is only the tip of the iceberg. So to correct a dysfunctional state of affairs effectively, one must first locate its hidden area, its symbolic dimension, work with it first, and then assist in the restoration of the physical (visible) extension of it. Visible wrongs have their roots in the world of the spirit. To deal only with their visibility is like trimming the leaves of a weed when you mean to uproot it. Ritual is the mechanism that uproots these dysfunctions. It offers a realm in which the unseen part of the dysfunction is worked on in ways that affect the unseen." (from Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community)

The following interview is the copyright of Bert H. Hoff and was originally published in the September 1993 of M.E.N. magazine and is being reposted from the MenWeb.org/images Web site. I will say that those who are overly academically inclined may be a bit miffed at some of Malidoma's wording in this repost, but truthfully, if you re-read certain sections, you'll see the place that he's coming from is definitely one of respect for LGBT communities. After coming across it just this week, I knew I just had to share. Enjoy!
 
— Ed
Gays: Guardians of the Gates
interview with Malidoma Patrice Somé by Bert H. Hoff
 
Photographer: Sarah Stefana Smith/images
PHOTOGRAPHER: Sarah Stefana Smith/images, from The Portrait Project:
The Many Faces of LGBTQI People of African Descent
, 2009
 
Malidoma Somé recognizes that he learned more through his initiation as a Dagara tribesman/images than from his PhDs from the Sorbonne and Brandeis University. His name means "be friendly to strangers," and he is charged by his elders of the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso (east of Nigeria and north of Ghana) with bringing the wisdom of his tribe to the West. His book Ritual: Power, Healing and Community is highly praised by Michael Meade/images, Robert Bly and Robert Moore....

During one of the Conflict Hours at the Mendocino Men’s Conference, Malidoma spoke eloquently on indigenous people’s views of gay men. He kindly agreed to elaborate on his views as he sat with me among the redwoods of Mendocino.


Bert: At Conflict Hour you told us that your culture honors gays as having a higher vibrational level that enabled them to be guardians of the gateways to the spirit world. You suggested that our Western view limits itself by focusing only on their sexual role. Can you elaborate for our readers?

Malidoma: I don’t know how to put it in terms that are clear enough for an audience that, I think needs as much understanding of this gender issue as people in this country do. But at least among the Dagara people, gender has very little to do with anatomy. It is purely energetic. In that context, a male who is physically male can vibrate female energy, and vice versa. That is where the real gender is. Anatomic differences are simply there to determine who contributes what for the continuity of the tribe. It does not mean, necessarily, that there is a kind of line that divides people on that basis. And this is something that also touches on what has become known here as the "gay" or "homosexual" issue. Again, in the culture that I come from, this is not the issue. These people are looked on, essentially, as people. The whole notion of "gay" does not exist in the indigenous world. That does not mean that there are not people there who feel the way that certain people feel in this culture, that has led to them being referred to as "gay."

The reason why I’m saying there are no such people is because the gay person is very well integrated into the community, with the functions that delete this whole sexual differentiation of him or her. The gay person is looked at primarily as a "gatekeeper." The Earth is looked at, from my tribal perspective, as a very, very delicate machine or consciousness, with high vibrational points, which certain people must be guardians of in order for the tribe to keep its continuity with the gods and with the spirits that dwell there. Spirits of this world and spirits of the other worlds. Any person who is at this link between this world and the other world experiences a state of vibrational consciousness which is far higher, and far different, from the one that a normal person would experience. This is what makes a gay person gay. This kind of function is not one that society votes for certain people to fulfill. It is one that people are said to decide on prior to being born. You decide that you will be a gatekeeper before you are born. And it is that decision that provides you with the equipment (Malidoma gestures by circling waist area with hands) that you bring into this world. So when you arrive here you begin to vibrate in a way that Elders can detect as meaning that you are connected with a gateway somewhere. Then they watch you grow, and they watch you act and react, and sooner or later they will follow you to the gateway that you are connected with.

 

Artist: Jean-Michel Basquiat/images
ARTIST: Jean-Michel Basquiat/images, Fallen Angel
 

Now, gay people have children. Because they’re fertile, just like normal people. How I got to know that they were gay was because on arriving in this country and seeing the serious issues surrounding gay people, I began to wonder it does not exist in my own country. When I asked one of them, who had taken me to the threshold of the Otherworld, whether he feels sexual attraction towards another man, he jumped back and said, "How do you know that?!" He said, "This is our business as gatekeepers." And, yet he had a wife and children — no problem, you see.

So to then limit gay people to simple sexual orientation is really the worst harm that can be done to a person. That all he or she is is a sexual person. And, personally, because of the fact that my knowledge of indigenous medicine, ritual, comes from gatekeepers, it’s hard for me to take this position that gay people are the negative breed of a society. No! In a society that is profoundly dysfunctional, what happens is that peoples’ life purposes are taken away, and what is left is this kind of sexual orientation which, in turn, is disturbing to the very society that created it.

I think this is again victimization by a Christian establishment that is looking at a gay person as a disempowered person, a person who has lost his job from birth onward, and now society just wants to fire him out of life. This is not justice. It’s not justice. It is a terrible harm done to an energy that could save the world, that could save us. If, today, we are suffering from a gradual ecological waste, this is simply because the gatekeepers have been fired from their job. They have been fired! They have nothing to do! And because they have been fired, we accuse them for not doing anything. This is not fair!

Let us look at the earth differently, and we will find out gradually that these people that are bothering us today are going to start taking their posts. They know what their job is. You just have to get near them, to feel that they don’t vibrate the same way. They are not of this world. They come from the Otherworld, and they were sent here to keep the gates open to the Otherworld, because if the gates are shut, this is when the earth, Mother Earth, will shake — because it has no more reason to be alive, it will shake itself, and we will be in deep trouble.

Bert: Christianity has separated spirit from body and spirit from Earth. And earlier you talked to us about Christianity suppressing your culture. So there’s a suggestion here that suppression of homosexuality would be the way for the Christians to shut down the gateways, shut down the spirit, and shut down our connection with the Earth.

Malidoma: Yes! That’s right! Christianity stresses postponing living on earth, as of we are only here to pack up our baggage and prepare for a life somewhere else "out there." Jesus Christ is right here, man! And of course anyone else who knows more, who knows better, will be suppressed.

And you start with the gatekeepers. You take the gatekeeper and you confuse his mind. You threaten him and you throw him in the middle of nowhere. Then nobody knows where the gate is. As soon as you lose the whereabouts of the gate, then you have a culture going downhill. What keeps a village together is a handful of "gays and lesbians," as they call them in the modern world. In my village, lesbians are called witches, and gay men are known as the gatekeepers. These are the two only known secret societies. These are the only groups that will get together as a separate group and go out into the woods secretly to do whatever they do. And if they find you during their yearly symposium, they have the right to kill you.

Unless they go out on their yearly symposium, the village cannot be granted another year of life. They have to go out to do what they do, in order for the village to feel safe enough to live the way it has lived before. This is why, to me, we’re playing with our lives.

Bert: So our culture may not be granted another year of life.

Malidoma: That’s right! Every year it feels like the number of years that this culture is entitled to live is getting smaller. So God only knows how close to the chasm this culture is. This constantly reiterated discomfort and hatred for the gay person is again another indication that every year we might as well be prepared for the apocalyptic moment when the stars start to fall to the earth.

You see, unless there is somebody who constantly monitors the mechanism that opens the door from this world to the Otherworld, what happens is that something can happen to one of the doors and it closes up. When all the doors are closed, this earth runs out of its own orbit and the solar system collapses into itself. And because this system is linked to other systems, they too start to fall into a whirlpool. And the cataclysm would be amazing!
 

Photographer: William Bloomhuff

PHOTOGRAPHER: William Bloomhuff/images, Dancing Dogon Women

Ask the Dogon/images, they will tell you that. The Dogon. They’re a tribe that understands this so well, it’s amazing, mind-boggling. And it is a tribe that knows astrology like no other tribe that I have encountered. And the great astrologers of the Dogon are gay. They are gay. There is a dull planet that, in its orbit, is directly above the Dogon village every 58 years. Who knows that, but the gay people.

I mean, I’m not just trying to make gay people look fine. This is the truth, man! I’m trying to save my ass!

Why is it that, everywhere else in the world, gay people are a blessing, and in the modern world they are a curse? It is self-evident. The modern world was built by Christianity. They have taken the gods out of the earth sent them to heaven, wherever that is. And everyone who aspires to the gods must then negotiate with Christianity, so that the real priests and priestesses are out of a job. This is the worst thing that can happen to a culture that calls itself modern.

Bert: That theme came up earlier with you and Martín, the Mayan shaman here, that if a modern society wants to shut down another culture they will go out and kill the keepers of the ritual.

Malidoma: Oh, yes! Because they know that this is where the life-pulse of the culture is. This is where the engine room of the tribe is. So if you go and bomb that place, then the whole mechanism shuts down. That’s pretty much what’s at work in the third world, and what has happened here with the Native American culture. And the thing about it is that humans are going to be begetting gatekeepers, no matter what. This is the chance that we’ve got. So maybe that means that sooner or later we’re going to wake up to the horror of our own errors, and we’re going to reconsecrate our chosen people so that they can do their priestly work as they should. Otherwise, I just don’t understand. I just don’t understand. My position about it is not so much that gays be just forgiven. That’s just tokenism. But that they serve as an example of the wrong, or the illness, that modernity has brought to us, and that we use that to begin working at healing ourselves and our society from the bottom up. That way, by the time we reach a certain level, all the gatekeepers are going to find their positions again. We cannot tell them where the gates are. They know. If we start to heal ourselves, they will remember. It will kick in. But as long as we continue in arrogance, in egotism, in God-knows-what form of violence on ourselves, no, there’s that veil of confusion that’s going to continue to prevail, and as a result it’s going to prevent great things from happening. That’s all I can say about that.

For more information about Malidoma Patrice Somé, please visit his Web site: Malidoma.com/images

Malidoma will be giving a couple presentations in Toronto: 

Public Talk: "Ritual & Community"
Friday, October 29th, 2010
7:00 p.m.
Institute of Traditional Medicine
553 Queen Street West, 2nd Floor

He will also be leading "Healing Relationships with Ancestors & Grief"

Saturday and Sunday, October 30th & 31st, 2010

 

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