Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

OH NO SPACE!, 2020 (multimedia-installation)

→ read somatic exercise

Throughout history, Black queer and trans people have been erased from the archives. Artist Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley wants to change this by creating online and offline space spaces. They create fully interactive digital archives in which stories of people who identify as Black and trans are preserved and shared in the form of film, games, and poetry. Visitors of the archive are challenged to think about their own identities. Be honest with the archive and prepare for a meaningful, sometimes confrontational exchange.

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somatic exercise

Breathing – Deep soothing breath.

Focus your attention on your belly. Take a big deep breath in and a big sigh out. Plant your feet on the floor, bend your knees and feel how you are supported by the ground. If you are seated feel how the seat supports you. 

Breath in and out deeply and slowly. Feel your belly expand and contract. After a few breaths like this, if you feel comfortable, on your next exhalation try humming a low, even tone. You can try different tones to find out what suits you best. See where you can feel this vibration in your body.

Keep breathing deep with or without the hum. Feel what comes up for you as you navigate this piece of art. Notice if there is constriction, discomfort, openness or excitement. No feelings are good or bad. Give space and accept the emotions as they come up, breathe deeply and let them pass through your body. Use the humming breath if you feel more challenging emotions come up.

This breath keeps you grounded and more able to sit into confronting emotions.

Homework – Dare to be yourself.

Use the above breathing technique as you work through the below. 

Find a quiet place to be alone or take a walk. It might be good to write notes in a journal or on a phone. Stay connected to your breath and your body.

Imagine there is a black body standing in front of you, looking into your eyes. Write down what comes up for you. Now imagine there is now a black trans body standing in front of you, looking into your eyes. What comes up for you now? Are there differences? Is there fear, judgement, acceptance or love? Take a moment to explore what you are feeling and the thoughts that are coming up in your head. Simply notice what is going on without reacting. 

Now try to imagine feeling uncomfortable in your own body. Imagine that you are confused about your identity. There are multiple identities that you need to try on before you find one that fits. You then need to figure out what sexuality you are going to have. And how you are going to bring this to the outside world. Now imagine you have found who you are but, the world you live in doesn’t recognise or respect you as a human. What do you imagine that could feel like? To have your right to exist and your right to be loved for who you are not accepted. 

Ask yourself, if I dare to be myself I would……..?