TEACHER HIGHLIGHT: KAIA HAWKINS
I can’t imagine a person or a community that wasn’t impacted by the global conversations happening about Race in America in the last year as Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the world in the middle of a pandemic.
So many of us found ourselves on one side or the other of debates about policing, racism, and justice – processing our own experiences with skin color, privilege, oppression. We tuned in to global conversations, asked and were asked hard questions by the events unfolding. No matter where we stand on the issues of race, racism, skin color, or the George Floyd uprising, we are sharing a collective moment of reckoning and witnessing a shift in the conversation about race. Whether you choose to tune out, turn towards it, pick it apart, or carry it gently; whether you think, write, speak, or move to it – you are alive and a part of a historical event in world history.
Open Floor Movement Practice teacher, Kaia Hawkins, turned to her movement practice and our universal relationship to color to create a container for courageous conversations.
Kaia wanted to hold space where humans could say all the things they were thinking and feeling, not just the things they felt were “right” to say.
To get there, she knew she needed to resource her students. And, give them an easy place to start.
She wanted to find a middle ground for everyone: a foundation that wasn’t loaded, something that we all have universal language about, but also holds nuance and personal connection for each individual.
Color. There isn’t much more universal than that. Each of us can relate to the idea that color affects our lives: the colors we choose, the memories of colors, the emotions color can invoke, the vibe color creates; or, the way we use color for creativity, self-expression, even therapeutically.
Kaia designed this Open Floor Art in Motion series to explore story and narrative about all the colors of the spectrum. Using movement, art, conversation, group connection and a ritual container, she supported her students to unpack their relationship to and awareness of personal bias and beliefs about a different colour each week.
One of Kaia’s goals as a community leader and Open Floor teacher is to reindigenize – to decolonize the way people see their world. “Where one is not the oppressed by anything or anyone. Where people can be who they are in Te Ao Marama, our Māori world view, we don’t have as many restrictions, we are/were in our natural state. To reindigenize is to invite people to come back to their natural state. Where they can be true. Just as they are. Nothing to prove to anyone.”
“I want people to have courageous conversations. To talk about race, white guilt, colonization, privilege, indigenous sovereignty. I want to use this practice to help resource humans in conversations that ripple out in the greater community. To do it in a consciously-creative way with an even playing field.”
Being Māori, Kaia opens each session with a prayer to attune to yourself and whatever you come from or whatever you believe in. “In Ta Ao Marama, we create a space. It is our āhurutanga. Āhurutanga can be internal or external space. It is where we find pause. It is the center space. Our place to settle. It is the place of our inner knowing. When we move, to write, to create, to draw – when we share from that space, when I am connecting from my āhurutanga to yours, it is always open. It becomes sacred – so that it creates a different kind of understanding on my dance floor that we are here in a way that has been blessed “
Kaia also used the concept of “artist dates” (inspired by a writing workshop with Lori Salzman, OFI founding member to give the students connection to their color, the practice, the creative process and other humans between classes. It was the perfect tool help them delve deeper in their work.
Each week focused on a different color. Students were asked “to call the color in”, to consciously bring a particular color to their attention for the week. “Allowing it to reveal itself and with that, your unconscious and conscious biases around this colour, or shade. You have intimacy with this color and context for the stories, impression, insights that arrive while you are holding relationship and connection to it. That color shows up in random places and your narratives becomes loud and noticeable. If you are willing to sink in a little deeper, a lot can come just from having your attention with one color for a whole week.”
The richest and most courageous conversation happened when working with the colors “Black” and “white”, especially given the context and the timing of this class. Kaia and her students said they unpacked some complex and eye-opening narratives around white and black. And race.
Student Sian Torrington, expressed “I believe that we cannot heal ourselves, or our world, without the kind of conversations that Kaia is generously facilitating… There are many conversations we avoid… Racism is one of these conversations. We want to be ‘good’, we want to be on the ‘right side’. But we are all part of it. By inviting us to move, write, and draw through colour, Kaia enabled us to see our relations, connections, growth, and stuck places. I discovered insights that were so surprising to me. Insights that have helped me in my own creative practice, and social justice work.
The beauty of Open Floor movement practice is that it “really has an edge over similar movement and embodiment practices. It is dynamic and versatile.” According to David Lane “There is room to create and explore embodiment outside of the traditional ways we think about an embodiment practice. It’s been powerful.”
The Open Floor training programs are designed to encourage the use of the Open Floor curriculum to create unique, dynamic sessions that combine a teacher’s personal knowledge, experiences, passions, expertise, and culture with a flexible and transformational embodiment toolkit that can meet the demands and questions of our time.
For Kaia, that means bringing in to her work her Māori culture, traditions and knowledge, her experience as an artist, her passion for social justice, and her commitment to confronting the devastation of colonization on each of our journeys to our full humanness.