July 25, 2009

Speaking Her Voice: Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost

Her medium is film. Her spirit is feminine. Her voice is strong.

Inspired by multicultural motifs, my work creates a dialog between spirituality and embedded culture to create a space for experiencing under studied traditions throughout the world. I create documentary films, videos, and a perform a range of commerical video and film production services.
— Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost

Her most recent work Creating Buddhas: The Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas is a mesmerizing film about the history and tradition of the art of thangka making and the masters who carry forth the tradition. This film in particular highlights the story and voice of a western woman Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo who is the only female fabric thangka maker in the west and carries through her work the voice of the female buddha Tara and her own.
For more information about Isadora please visit her website here .

July 19, 2009

Learning about Ourselves and Our Mothers - in a Tattoo Shop!

NPR features author Jancee Dunn speaking about her new book Why is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?

"We were all finishing up dessert and then my mother made this crazy announcement," Dunn tells [NPR's] Liane Hansen. "She said, 'I'm getting a tattoo and nobody can talk me out of it. I've already decided.'"

Longtime Rolling Stone journalist, MTV veejay and author for numerous other publications, Dunn introduces us to an intergenerational dance of voices between mother and daughter.

As written on her blog, [i]n her early forties, Jancee Dunn began to wonder why she still felt like a 13-year-old around her family. Talking to her friends, she found the same was true for them—despite successful jobs, marriages, and families of their own. Do we ever really grow up, she wonders? Why is the slow, sticky process of prying ourselves free from our parents and childhoods so difficult? In Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?, Dunn examines the phenomenon, with scenes ranging from a "haunted Savannah" tour gone wrong to a visit to a tattoo parlor with her sixty-ish mother, who is dying to get a raven inked on her wrist. Finally, Dunn and her sisters arrange a visit to the house where they grew up, a bittersweet but comic experience that answers her questions and puts her at peace with her parents—until the next tattoo parlor visit, at least.

Kickback this summer and enjoy the read!

July 05, 2009

Speaking Their Voices: Kuleba Exchange

At the WCC we think both inside and outside the box. We push boundaries and heal the tears. In doing so, we honor and support like minded organizations and individual people who continue to foster such growth; Kuleba Exchange is one such organization.

Kuleba Exchange is an educational organization that uses photography and travel as a means of cultural exchange to foster tolerance, spark curiosity, and fuel imagination. Our goal is to create opportunities for disadvantaged youth to develop leadership skills while engaging with students from other cultures. We are especially committed to working with children who have survived war, genocide, and other atrocities. Our program makes it possible for students with limited resources to see the world and connect with children of diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences.

Founded in 2007 by Yael Glick and Amy Rathgeb, their vision for the Kuleba Exchange was born out of their experience teaching at the Satellite Academy High School, a transfer school in the Lower East Side of New York City. While using a curriculum called Facing History Ourselves, created to "inspire, educate and teach tolerance to at-risk students" through a non-traditional curriculum, they themselves as educators were inspired to push the educational envelope. As Yael states in an article for the Facing History Ourselves website, after using the curriculum to teach about the Holocaust and the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the kids were particularly interested in learning about life in post-genocide Rwanda, which is still healing and reconciling.

In the summer of 2007, Yael and Amy had a rare opportunity to travel to Rwanda to not only have their students' questions answered, but to encourage kids orphaned by the genocide to share their experiences and voices through photography and video. As Yael recounts, [w]e traveled to Rwanda and worked in a village established for orphans of the genocide. We took with us our New York students' questions to the Rwandans as well as documents our students had prepared detailing their day to day lives in New York City. Our Rwandan students then responded to the New York students' inquiries and films through photography and by creating videos of their own. They shared moving testimony about their life before, during and after the genocide. At the end of the month we celebrated their work with a final art exhibit in the village. We found that our Rwandan students became just as interested in the experience of teenagers in New York as the New Yorkers had been in their lives. After our return home, our students from New York began communicating with the Rwandans by email, sending each other text and photos on a regular basis.

The following summer, Yael and Amy were joined by the Satellite Academy's social worker, Kuleba Exchange's vice president, Aimee Lichtenfeld, and four New York City students for a second trip to Rwanda. This trip allowed for the students from New York City and Rwanda to participate in a two-week cultural exchange. This trip was a success on many accounts. The following are words shared by the student participants.

I will never forget the people here in Rwanda because I believe they have truly made me into a better person...I now know that it is not what you wear or what you look like that makes you a good person, it is the way you think, the way you treat others and the way you use your heart in a positive way."- Lissette, New York

"Really it was an amazing time to me and to my friends and others in our village to have our guests. The friendship of all of them makes our lives get hope and our feeling back again." -Gilbert, Rwanda

The incredible photographs appearing in this post and numerous others were taken by both the New York City and Rwandan students themselves and can be found along with more information about the organization at the Kuleba Exchange website.

July 01, 2009

Speaking Her Voice - Q and A

What really goes on in a woman's mind? Is what we think as a woman so different from one another, or are our similarities so glaring but we are afraid of sharing them.

We at the WCC intend to highlight the uniqueness and similarity in women. With the following questions we hope to break down barriers that women inadvertantly put up in order not to expose our vulnerabilities and insecurities; rather we hope to draw on understanding, compassion and utility in our relationships with one another

We want to hear from you!

Check out the following 5 questions and write to us at info@womenscollaborativecircle.org with your answers.

1. What have you learned about yourself in the past year?
2. What do you see when you look in the mirror?
3. What defines you as a woman?
4. What motivates you to get up in the morning?
5. If you could share any piece of wisdom with a woman or girl of a younger generation, what would it be?

WCC featured poet, Alana Joblin Ain answers a few of our thought-provoking collaborative circle questions. Thanks for sharing your voice with us, Alana!

WCC - What have you learned about yourself in the past year?

AJA - This has been a busy year –I just celebrated my first year of marriage, and while I’ve never had trouble expressing myself through writing, I’ve learned that my in-person communication would benefit from the same patience and thoughtfulness that I have when I sit down to write. This requires a lot of work and grace, which is probably the most important thing I’ve learned to cultivate in myself. Oh, and I re-learned something that I’ve always had a hunch about -- I much prefer cobbling together freelance / flexible work over spending my days in an office – I need a window, fresh air, natural light.

WCC - What motivates you to get up in the morning?

AJA - I like being alive. I really do. Some days are harder than others. And sensitive people are prone to feel the sadness as deeply as the joy. Overall, though, I’m filled with an enormous sense of gratitude. Today I get to write in the morning, and then head over to Hunter to teach my students. I live in NYC where you have so many small but meaningful interactions. November, the night of the election returns, I was riding the subway home from work, and everyone was tense and weary – people just wanted to get back to see the results. Then this kid with a busted-up-duct-taped guitar comes on the train and plays “Here Comes the Sun.” He had an incredible voice. Everyone was smiling and several people teared up. And that night turned out pretty great. Things like that happen in this city, and it’s exciting not to know who you’ll encounter each day. I’m also motivated by the people I do know I’ll encounter: My husband, my family, my friends.

WCC - If you could share any piece of wisdom with a woman or girl of a younger generation, what would it be?

AJA - I was a very shy girl, and there are parts of that shyness that I still struggle to overcome as a woman. My hope for a younger generation of women and girls is community, and finding the comfort and strength to communicate openly with other women about their fears, concerns, desires – so that they feel empowered. This site and organization are so crucial to that, and I’m honored to be a part of it. In terms of imparting wisdom, I’d say spend less time worrying what others think, of being judged, or feeling guilty. Find whatever way is most comfortable to express yourself; never be afraid to articulate your voice.