If you haven’t read my last post introducing Somatics in art and communication, check it out first in Somatic Inheritance! To summarize, somatic, meaning body-sense as especially separate from the mind, is not just a sub conscious form of interacting with the world. For most people it may be, but for some I believe it is only an un-articulated language that is still vibrantly in use, and we’ve come to Africa to be a part of it. Another word for that fits well in this framework is kinesics, so I may use that too from time to time. Please don’t misunderstand! We are far beyond learning styles here. This is who we are before we’ve learned a single step. And if you follow my Facebook page at all you know how big I am on crawling and posture!
As I mentioned before, this kind of relational thinking between and artist and their work is essential. We have to interact with it, like a potter with clay. As I’m moving through the processing I’ll try to articulate a bit of it for you here.
While I’m working to map this framework in North Africa, I’m also discovering in a strangely articulate way that because of a impediment in my eyes, and because of the environment of music I grew up in, I have nearly the same framework for learning and communication as a somatic- culture. Briefly, my eyes take pictures of things in a way that my brain cannot learn from. For the last 28 years I’ve only been able to learn visually a mere 10% of the time. If that. Every thing else has been movement and sound. Both are inherently “somatic” in that they can be intuitively sensed without the conscious interpretation we attach to study and critical thinking in the West.
It was on my first trips to North Africa in 2008 that I first realized that cultural body language and sounds that made my other American and European friends uncomfortable felt, to me, like HOME. This, and hundreds of other observations in the last ten years have brought me to the point of truly embracing that this is how I “see” the world. I don’t just touch it, I move with it, and through movement I see.
For us, sound is a stabilizer, something that brings order to movement and communication. Think of drums in a dance, repetitively rhythmic accompaniment to life and even a way of walking to the beat. Image, image is a means to an end; a way to teach or preserve the story, but nothing like the natural flow of communication experienced in the world of print. In somatic – communication, writing is as laborious as making a work of art. Think of the beauty of the hieroglyphs, or decorative costume!
Soma (Dance, motion, body-language) for us is not just an art form, it is how we converse and talk as easily as others use speech or text. It is how we show love, service or even anger and discontent with the world and relationships. It is how we process and engage. It is how we learn. It is how we LISTEN!!…
It’s hard to talk when no one listens. It hurts to be told that this is not an appropriate place or time for your “voice” or to be forced to learn for hours at a time without ever getting to ask questions, or merely process information the way you are designed to. To have to sit and watch others share their hearts and passions while you are sidelined because “people need to talk and listen right now, not perform” ahh! It’s like being stabbed a dozen times and no one can FEEL it, but you.
I’m so blessed to have found places and people to be “at home” with in a culture so radically different. Well I’ve had to filter anything and everything anyone has ever said to me, process it, translated an attempt to respond in the languages of sound and text, I’ve also been able to be myself. My grandmother did that for us, letting us run and play and have Adventures through her house and life. My mother made that environment for me through the deep frustration of homeschooling, ha, and dragging me to dance classes. In those creative spaces I had the freedom to breathe, and talk through movement were there was Sound and Music to help organize the anxiety I felt and not being able to remember things I saw or read.
Apparently I’ve had the privilege to experience this for nearly 30 years because of a visual impediment, and an environment of movement and music. Now I get to help other people understand how to love and teach other children who feel their world this way. It’s not only a learning preference, personality, or kinesthetic emotional intelligence. It’s a beautifully intricate and complete preconscious framework for existence that has shaped entire cultures of the world since ancient times. It’s not just dance: it’s ME.
Written by Rachel Lee Davis, artistic director of FrameMaker Arts. Rachel is currently on an ethnographic exploration in Cairo, Egypt with her family and will be contributing her experiences on our blog. (Photo Credit: Jenn Dawson)