Hello! Welcome back to my Astro-Caribbean series with a double dose of Space:Queens for you! Last week, I had artist Shervone Neckles and now I present to you Damali Abrams! Damali is a talented visual artist, writer and herbalist, who is using her talents to help to heal the world. Enjoy my interview with her below:
1) Tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
I am Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess. I make art and herbal remedies.
My work is about healing and transcendence, as well as creating a space of liberation for the Black imagination.
2) As a visual artist, tell us about the transformative power of image.
I’m a visual thinker as well as a writer. There are certain ideas that I can only express as images, others only as words.
Our culture does not value visual art as much as it does writing but the things that we see affect us so deeply on a subconscious level, in ways we often don’t even realize. Images are very powerful and can be extremely transformative. The things we see most often profoundly affect who and what we become.
3) You include a lot of mermaid imagery in your current artwork. How has the image of the mermaid been meaningful for you and others?
I grew up hearing stories about mermaid sightings in Guyana.
There is also folklore that Africans who fled the Middle Passage by leaping into the ocean were transformed into mermaids.
The Yoruba orisha of the ocean Yemaya is often depicted as a mermaid.
Also, I have always loved mermaids and we rarely see images of mermaids, faeries or otherworldly beings of color. So I am rectifying that as much as I can in my work and having a lot of fun doing it!
4) In what ways does your Guyanese culture influence your work?
In every way. What is considered supernatural or otherworldly is the everyday in Guyanese culture: Sprits, herbal medicine, psychic ability, are all commonplace.
I also grew up with a perspective that stretched outside of the U.S. and a pan-Africanism that I lived daily before I even knew the term.
5) In the major religions of the West, the divine feminine figure is either missing or demoted to human form. Why do you feel it is important to resurrect and immerse the divine feminine back into our cultures?
We are so out of balance as a planet because we have spent so long focusing mainly on the divine masculine and worshipping out-of-balance masculine traits such as power-over, violence, colonization, force.
The Divine Feminine embodies traits of destruction but also creation, love, allowing, surrender. These we take for granted and see as weakness. We scoff at trigger warnings and safe spaces but let’s imagine a world where we all care so deeply for one another that we don’t even want to hurt each other’s feelings. Surely we would not consider raising a hand in violence, shooting someone as the solution to conflict, or bombing each other’s children merely because they are in a different country.
People are in pain all over the world. Even the wealthiest people are suffering from anxiety, depression, and feelings of emptiness. I believe that we have to honor our bodies and emotions, which are also devalued in an overly masculine world, and connect with Mother Earth in order to heal collectively.
I also have to say that my first exposure to the Divine Feminine was through my sister Abiola’s play Goddess City.
6) As an herbalist and healer, how has the natural world shaped your artistic practice and how has it become a pathway for Afro-diaspora communities to survive and heal
from the trauma of the world and to imagine other possibilities of existing?
I love this question. We are nature. We are part of the ecosystem. Nature is not a separate entity to be exploited by humans. Part of our trauma is that we don’t know who we are as humans. Indigenous cultures around the world have always known this and lived in harmony with the earth. Colonization has forced us to forget who we are on so many levels.
For those of us in the African diaspora, our trauma includes being brainwashed to feel that we are inherently inferior. This affects the way that we approach our health, our relationships, our finances, our education, our children, everything.
Mother Nature or Mother Earth provides so much free natural medicine for us that is readily available and often easily accessible. Once we realize that we have the power to heal ourselves, each other, and our communities, we are limitless.
I cannot separate my healing practice from my artistic practice. They are one and the same, just sometimes expressed in different ways. Likewise my spirituality and political beliefs. After I graduated from college I struggled to integrate all of these aspects of myself, believing that I had to compartmentalize because I felt more safe expressing masculine traits and feared the vulnerability that comes with expressing fully who we are.
I’ve studied and read piles of books, worked with different coaches and teachers and healers in order to learn to synthesize my spirituality with being an artist, activist and healer. All of this has led me to the path of the Divine Feminine.
7) Why did you name yourself the Glitter Priestess? And what inspired you to launch this new service?
I used to write a column in Mahogany Blues Magazine (a magazine started by my cousin Cookins years ago), and produce videos using the name Herb Grrl. I got to an age where “girl” no longer felt appropriate. Through coaching sessions with my sister Abiola, we came up with Glitter Priestess to encompass what I do as an artist and a healer.
I decided to launch GlitterPriestess.com because I have learned so much about natural healing and so many of us are facing health challenges, emotional and physical as well as spiritual. We are living in intense times. It feels like the whole world is at war. White supremacy is flaring up in a pretty nasty way. There is so much love here on this planet, though. I just want to share what I’ve been learning over the years and spread the love.
I have been making remedies for myself and my friends and family for the past 15 years, and I took a course in herbal medicine in 2003-4. I feel like it’s way overdue to share with everyone else.
8 ) What are some upcoming projects on which you are currently working?
I am an artist-in-residence at JCAL (Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning) and my work will be exhibited there on Friday January 6, 2017 for their First Friday event.
I will be presenting my work at University of Connecticut, Stamford on March 5, 2017 in a talk about art and activism.
I am hoping to finish the Glitter Priestess Recipe Book in the coming year.
9) How do you see Queens as a place of futuristic and/or speculative possibility?
Queens is the most diverse place on the planet. We are the future because we embody all cultures. We coexist but we are mostly segregated. Our speculative possibility? I am sure that with all of the various ancestral and cultural knowledge and genius here, we could solve all of the worlds problems.
10) Since the blog is Futuristically Ancient, in what ways are you both futuristic and ancient?
I am embodying ancient wisdom. I read in Ariadne’s Thread by Shekinah Mountainwater that ancient priestesses used art, music, herbs, dance, anything available for healing and spiritual growth. That is my intention.
I am futuristic because I believe that Love can heal the world. I believe that we can create a healing equivalent to the level of destruction possible with a nuclear bomb. That is secretly the intention of my work. Shhh…