Tabita Rezaire is not only an artist. She is also a healer, a digital activist, and a teacher for Kemetic and Kundalini Yoga. In her work, she deals with human existence focusing on the imbalance of togetherness. The artist talked to Paula Thomaka about spiritual longings, a missing awareness for the use of technology, and the limitation of words.
Cyberspace and platforms like Instagram are accused of fostering an emotionally impaired society. For you, the architecture of cyberspace is very discriminatory. Where does your interest in spirituality come from, and is it a counter-movement to an alienated present?
The world did not wait for cyberspace to be a mess. Each time-spaces have their own load of alienation, disconnection, and suffering. It may be the same mess expressing itself differently in each era. If we do not tend to this alienation, both collectively and individually, it just spread until it is acknowledged and responded to. Once we do not take responsibility for our wounds, it gets infected and gets passed down to the next generation, until one is ready for the healing and the commitment it demands.
I became very religious in my teens and practiced Judaism. However, I went into furious atheism before coming back to spirituality through yoga and African ancestral work. I have always wanted more from life and yearned for rapture. When my greediness for experiences was an expression of my then unconscious spiritual longing. We all have this longing to expand, to overcome our boundaries, and to be free. For some, it may translate as wanting more money, sex, fame, or comfort. If we are still unsatisfied after reaching those longings, we may seek inner liberation. The spiritual journey is the same since the beginning of humanity, overcoming the boundary between self and the universe. Maybe it is not much a movement against an alienated present but rather against an alienated self in the present.
How do spirituality and healing affect your artistic practice?
My healing journey led to profound transformations within me, which radically shifted the way I understand the world, and I engage with it. This deeply impacted my work as an artist. Spirituality is merely to embark on the path of growth consciously. We are all doing it – even if unconsciously – we are all dealing with the circumstances that life throws at us, learning (more or less successfully) from our experiences, trying to be all right despite life’s challenges – that is growth.
At the beginning of my art practice, I existed in a state of consciousness, raging at the world. Everything was painful, and I was sucked into a suffering vortex. You see the world as you are, not as it is. I was angry, and that anger reflected in my work. Now I know there is a way out, or I should say a way inside. Going inwards gives you more capacity to hold what is. You retrieve parts of yourselves that you previously avoided or couldn’t face. When you create a relationship with the worst of yourself and embrace it as a part of you without shame or judgment, you can face the worst of the world and hold it as a part of it without collapsing. That is what I try to share now.
»Ultra Wet – Recapitulation« is a video installation from 2017 and part of the group exhibition Hysterical Mining at Kunsthalle Wien. It combines techno and spiritual knowledge to break with binaries. To what extent can decolonial healing be a tool of resistance?
Initially, »Ultra Wet« was meant to be a work on the power of feminine energy, womxnhood in its complexities, pre-colonial understandings of gender and sexuality, and the technologies of the sacred feminine. One day I was consulting with my sangoma (South African traditional healer), and she said to me: »You’re working with the moon too much. Your feminine energy is overpowering, and the masculine within you is terrified, like a frightened little boy!« She went on saying, »It’s great to want to crush the patriarchy, but you cannot do it at the expense of the masculine. You need to find a way to honor it and understand that the masculine is as important, as needed, and as divine as the feminine.« From this encounter, »Ultra Wet« was renamed »Ultra Wet – Recapitulation« and became a work about feminine-masculine alignment. This research-practice-embodiment has been healing for me. Through this, I understood the spiritual teachings about balance and non-duality. Our Westernized global world enforces duality. The binary ideology is woven into the fabric of our social, cultural, and political territories.
However, there is a world beyond duality, a world so sweet it is hard to describe. From this, we can be truly effective, and in service of the earth. Otherwise, we will get caught up in the pull of polarity. A world of them and us – whatever the criteria – will always breed more violence and suffering. In a sense, decolonial healing is the retrieval of a dimension of being and living beyond polarity, where we can respond to injustice without being demolished by them.
How can we heal and correct these imbalances in science and technology? What can we learn from spirituality in the use of technology?
Spirituality is about becoming conscious so that we can consciously respond to the circumstances we face in the world and within ourselves. If we could become technologically aware and deliberately use technology, we will have a different world. The effect of technology depends on how and who is using it. For now, most tech is used to rape the earth, wage war, and control peoples further. That is just a reflection of our collective consciousness. Are we aware enough to take into account the consequences of our usage of technology on all life forms and act accordingly?
Although you reject the label, your work is discussed as a contribution to today’s Afrofuturism, which Ytasha Womack refers to as the interface between fantasy, technology, future and liberation.
If people find labeling useful to read my work, it is ok. Once given birth to, my works are no longer under my control; they have lives of their own and will find resonance with various spaces, people, lands, and ideas. Everybody will receive them differently according to their experiences, geographies, and states of consciousness. So, I do not want to (and cannot) limit its flow. In the same way, I do not wish to ascribe my work to one concept, however broad. Since I started my practice, my ideas have evolved so much that I learned not to be attached to even my opinions. Words are useful but so limited and limiting to grasp the scope and depth of life.