the land dreams in ceremonies: reparation

the land dreams in ceremonies: reparation

 nikki manzie talks about her relational land-based ceremonial-craft exhibition

As Ukrainian diaspora, as uninvited settler-occupier, and as someone in relationship with land, explore
through my eyes and experiences…

Then turn to yourself – what is your own:

 ~ Relationship to land
~ To your ancestral blood and bone memory
~ To the spirits and inhabitants of the land
~ And to each other?

 13 moons 13 ceremonies ₪ 13 locations  13 groupings of Ukrainian sacred folk-crafts ₪

“…we might discover a way to dream this land together – or let it dream us…

My name is Nikki Manzie.  I was named after my Ukrainian grandparents, Nicholas and Anastasia Manzie.  My blood and bones are predominantly Ukrainian (paternal side), and additionally include Irish and French roots (maternal side).

I was born in Dene Sųłiné Treaty 6 Territory.  My blood and bone memory is informed by the lands I was born within.  I have lived and moved within many territories over my 55+ years and each land I have spent time within has contributed something unique of itself to me.  What I “absorbed” from shared lands began to show up in dreamtime as well as waking experiences and took me decades to recognize, name, and understand.

Several years after my grandfather’s passing, when I was 21, I had a dream. 

I am in a house.  It is large and empty.  I am aware that the spirit of my grandfather – my Gigi – is next to me, and that this is the house of my grandparents.  He guides me to walk upstairs and along a hallway – my footsteps echoing in the hollowness of the building – to a closet where he motions me to look inside.  I open the door and peer in.  It, too, is empty, except for a shoe box that sits on the top shelf.  I reach for the box.  I am short and stand on my tiptoes to reach it.  As I begin to draw it down off the shelf, it falls to the ground.  The contents spill on the wooden floor – a large pool of blood and a few bones – the blood and bones of my ancestors.  I stare, unsure what to feel, how to react.

It took me until my late 40s to understand the dream.  I carried it with me all that time.  I still carry it with me. I understand today the gift he gave me – the blood and bone memories of my ancestors – and the responsibility to open the box, take out the memories, knowledge, and traditions, and work them for myself within the lands I find myself…

As I began to explore the contents of the box, many questions arose.  As diaspora, what are right relations with the sacred knowledge of my ancestors…? What are right relations with the lands I occupy and with all the inhabitants of those lands? Including the spirits and ancestors of those lands…? And, particularly, the ones that adopted me over time…?

Zoom forward to the middle of exploring these questions.  I was sitting in prayer and contemplation with the land we were living on at the time and reached out (in my heart), beyond the artificial boundaries of the property, to feel the mountains and the valley-bowl and the little forest I like to visit.  Ma Honeysuckle (my affectionate name for a plant I work with) called back to me from the little forest, and guided me down, like roots growing into the ground, through the layers of soil and time.  I could see the mountains witnessing the bowl-lands with the current-day farms and residences in this area, then felt below or deeper to the first clearings and farming of the area, and then (deeper yet) felt the original forest and paths through the region, and the impact and trauma of colonizers reaching here, taking from here, occupying here.  And then I was stopped – as if there was literally a stop sign that said I was not allowed to go any further/ deeper.  That I did not have permission to go beyond.  The roots and medicines and history below this level of trauma were not mine to access without permission, and that permission may not ever come my way.  It was not even within my rights to ask.  It was not mine to peer into.  It was not mine.

It became apparent that for all the surface appearances and distractions that keep us in denial (for example, the busy-ness of day-to-day life in an ailing capitalist system), the trauma and history held in the land affects us all.  And it is the responsibility of each person to do their part to support healing.

So that’s where I began.  Taking care of my own messes.  My own unconsciousness.  Retracing the steps of all the places I have lived and worked on Vancouver Island.  Campsite clean-up.

Through Ukrainian folk-knowledge and -crafts, along with ceremonies timed by the old calendar (moon cycles – misyats’), I explore the intersection of “tradition” with “direct relationship” with the land, and what it means to root ancestral knowledge in a “good way” in territories where I am an uninvited guest. My methodology includes: deep listening; reading the symbols and signs; dreams; research; relationship-building; mentorship and apprenticeship. 

This exhibit documents my experiences, the resulting crafts, and the progression of personal land reparation ceremonies.  And it asks audiences to engage in the questions and material for themselves.

I do not have answers.  My path is not the “right path”, nor the “only path.”  It is simply a path that I have walked.  You will find your own.  And together, perhaps, over time, we might discover a way to dream this land together – or let it dream us.