Kirei Na means beautiful in Japanese. And like the EarthSista that bears the name, it is poignant and graceful. And, to meet her, you would think she is quiet but she is not. Kirei Na is quite open once she lets you in and very warm. I discovered this long before we did the shoot for 20 Questions. But what I didn't realize is how moved I would be by her answers...
So it seemed like the right time to relax a little and have our very first offline gathering...
A bunch of us checking out the our creations on the web!
Every time I meet with someone about the Project there's never more than 4 people in room. Even though there have been so many who have expressed interests, provided provocative commentary, striking images and beautiful poetry, still we've always congregated in small groups here and there...
Tamara Natalie Madden - Artist and Photographer
Shay - A Potential EarthSista for the Garden
Clockwise from top left - Marlo-PG's Model Coordinator, Tamara, Grace-Photographer and Painter, PrettyBlak-EarthSista in the Garden
Its my fault really. I am a shy person by nature (even though nobody believes it) and this started out as me wanting to create images and share thoughts on women of colour and their natural beauty. I like to talk a lot (which is why nobody thinks I am shy) so I really enjoyed finding out other thoughts, visions and perceptions on the subject. And while I know nearly everyone who has contributed thought and vision to the Project, it was still very exciting having so many of us in the same room.
Thrasher - Animator and Model, we tossed around a few ideas about an upcoming project in the Garden
Coco - an Upcoming EarthSista in the Garden
LeiCole - Poet and Editorial Contributor
I hope to do it again soon. I hope we can host or sponsor events that exalt Afrocentric beauty and sensuality offline the same we do it online: in the form celebration. I hope we get the chance to participate in offline events all over the country. Most of all, I hope we get the chance to have as much fun together offline as we do online.
John Washington Jr & friend - John is a talented photographer who provided his studio for the event
L-to-R: LeiCole, Nobella and Amber, tossing around ideas
Ernest McClendon, cartoonist working on a project for the Garden
Nobella and Amber
Andre and Omar-RepJA in the House!
Great fun was had by all!
Personally, I'd love to meet each and every one of you.
I've spoken about the positive influence Naturally Leslie has had on the content of the Pangea's Garden Project and I have mentioned her blog. I may not have mentioned how widely popular it is and the fact that Leslie is one of the GO-TO Personalities when it comes to natural hair and its techniques, styles and culture. She is also a popular columnist for the Coil Review. Her balance of serious insight and lightheartedness makes her pearls of wisdom valuable to all who are fortunate to partake. I told her that I would like to ask her few questions about herself. She provided me with a few answers...
Q: You are a a highly popular blogger and a sought-after columnist. What do you attribute your incredible following to?
I think there are so many women out there who crave positive and helpful information about going natural. I also think people like having a consistent, familiar place to go to in order to establish a sense of community and support. I think my blog is all of those things for many people.
Q: Have your views on your blog and why you do it changed since you began it nine months ago?
When I first started out, my blog was not meant to focus solely on natural hair. I created it to branch out and stretch myself a bit. It has since become more hair-focused although it still touches on other topics. I have been natural for 10 years and I though I had something to add to the natural hair blog mix. Some days, it can be frustrating because of other commitments. But, at the end of the day I love having it as a release for myself and it has become a wonderful way to connect with people I otherwise would not have met.
Q: Do you think the popularity of the natural look is fading, growing or simply a cultural aesthetic alternative?
I think it is definitely growing! It seems like everywhere you look, Black women in mainstream media are being represented by women with natural hair. Magazines, commercials, and internet ads tend to feature Black women with curly or kinky hair a lot more than they used to.
Q: How do you see the natural aesthetic? Do you see it as a rejection of standards of beauty? an alternative beauty to the conventional pretty look? the ultimate or original beauty? or something else?
I think it is all of that and possibly more. For some people, it is a deliberate rejection of a straight-haired aesthetic. For others, it can be a style option. I don't think every woman goes natural for the same reasons and I think people should not judge one another if a reason is different than their own.
Q: Do you think natural beauty is sexy?
I do think natural beauty is sexy. Then again, I think most woman have sex appeal because it comes from within. Really, it is not about the outside when it comes to exuding sensuality or beauty. The outside can always help but a great attitude goes a lot further.
Q: What are your thoughts on the media attention placed on the natural aesthetic in the African-American community? Is it taken too seriously or not seriously enough? And what, if anything, is left out of the discussion?
I think sometimes it can get too serious. I think when women first go natural, it can become almost like an obsession in terms of products, styling, growth, length attainment, etc. I also think the media is simply picking up on what is going on around the country which is Black women are tired of struggling to conform to a standard of beauty that is unattainable. I don't think there is much more to add to the discussion in terms of how to care for natural hair. But I do think that as more women/girls return to their roots, there will always be a place for discussion, reflection, and mutual encouragement. I am not one of those people who think "it's just hair" but at the same time, it cannot eclipse my social/professional/romantic life to the point where I am controlled by it.
Q: What would you want young girls to know about natural beauty as they start to make their own decisions about their look and style?
I want young girls to realize that the minute they declare themselves beautiful, they regain their power. So often, we turn to tv or magazines to tell us what is acceptable, so we are constantly giving away our power. I think young women need to know that they actually have their own power and can choose who they want to be versus allowing outside influences to totally define them. So whether it is their look or their career or whatever, girls need to be aware of their inherent strength and power to map out their paths.
Please check out Leslie blog for more of her insightful musings at Naturally Leslie
This young poet, hip hop rapper and student is on that path of self discovery. She is on the bridge. Searching for truths in balance, responsibility and creativity, Keyona studies marketing during the day, makes money as a loctician when she can and spits verse to music when she's free. Raised on the west side of Baltimore, she, now, attends college at ClarkAtlanta.
Keyona is hardworking, innovative and creative. In her eyes you see her searching, doing what it takes to get to what's next. Her future, though not sure, is filled to the brim with promise. Keyona is the one you don't worry about. She's the one who always steps up. Keyona is the one who is never afraid to cross the bridge.
Keyona rap is fierce, belying her gentle nature. Check it out on her MySpace page.
Makeda Voletta brings her unique insights to play in her thought-provocation commentary on sensuality and spirituality in hunting. Its her first column on PangeasGarden.com. Here are a couple excerpts...
"Many cultures perceived a connection between human sexuality and plant and animal fertility, and through sympathetic magic and rituals related to sex, they invoked supernatural power in guaranteeing fruitfulness of the earth."
"All indigenous people hunted. Hunting was considered a form of shamanism. There was ritual before they hunted and afterward. They understood that they were taking a life and they did so with respect. They only killed animals as they needed them and they used the entire animal. The same is true when they took the life of trees and plants. Both animals and plants were recognized as having life force energy."