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Contemplative arts in a changing Arctic

“Empathy isn’t just listening… it requires knowing you know nothing.”

-Leslie Jamison in The Empathy Exams as quoted by Elizabeth Rush in Rising

Some background:

I’ve been working on pieces of this play-process for over a year at this point. Development has included listening to and learning from my indigenous friends about how to care for the earth in a good way; leading a couple of free workshops and a retreat on contemplative arts practice; a book discussion of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything; community organizing with DataRescueDC and the People’s Climate March; numerous walks through the National Arboretum; making a shadow-puppet film about Lucy the Australopithecus (more on that in the next week); and writing several short plays about rivers, fossils, and glaciers.

Our cabin in Karasjohka

Now I’m spending the next two weeks in northern Norway, well above the Arctic Circle with my friend and collaborator, DeLesslin “Roo” George-Warren. Roo and I are at an artists residency in the town of Kárášjohka (in the Sami language), or Karasjok (Norwegian). We’ll be meeting with Sami artists, students, activists, and political leaders to learn more about the lands and the people who belong to them in this region of the Arctic. We’re interested in how folks here are experiencing the changing climate, what meaning is being made, and what stories are being told. We'll be in Kárášjohka until March 14, Tromso until March 16, and Oslo until March 19, and then we'll come back to Turtle Island.

Some practical info about how we got here:

We’ve been working with the Sami Center for Contemporary Art to organize the trip, and Roo also happens to have several Sami friends from Columbia University’s Indigenous Studies Summer Program who we’ll be meeting with while we’re here. This research trip was partially funded by the Theatre Communications Group Global Connections program, the American Scandinavian Association, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

What we brought with us (in no particular order):

  • A digital SLR camera w/two lenses

  • A ukulele

  • Several microphones

  • Handheld recorder

  • An amp

  • Filters

  • Watercolor pencils and paper

  • Drawing pencils, charcoal

  • Mixed media paper

  • Xacto knife, scissors

  • Masking tape

  • Two computers

  • External hard drives

  • Yarn

  • Books about a changing climate

We can’t wait to share some of what we’re making in the next couple of weeks. We’ll be posting updates here, on Twitter at @weldersdc @ajdm @delesslin, and on Instagram @weldersdc @annalisadias @delesslin. And we’re using #WeldersEarth to tag our posts.


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