March 31, 2016
What changes are you noticing in the participants through the course of your workshops? Are you working with staff as well? What changes/impacts are happening with them?
When I first arrived, both storytelling and story were mostly associated with counselling, therapy or healing. This perception was very alive both among staff and clients who came to inquire about my presence in OCISO. A week or so into the residency, storytelling and story took up a new light: the shaping of the personal journey. “I’m here because I want to tell my story,” I was told one Tuesday morning. In the last two sessions, folktale, fairytale, story, personal, journey took on a new meaning. There was, I sensed, a new awareness of what story and storytelling may offer both as an art form, as a source of pleasure, and as a way of experiencing our very own lives.
What issues are the participants voicing through this artistic expression in their participation in Art Place?
Only now, at the end of the fourth week of this residency, is commitment consolidating into a small group of three. In the first three weeks, staff members and clients interested in the program dropped by and stayed either for a little while or for the whole morning/afternoon, but did not return. They never met each other. They did not share their paths. Yet, as I worked one-on-one with whoever walked into the room, it struck me as remarkable that in every case fundamental aspects of the immigrant experience were lent image and voice by the work. Forefront in my memory are: the challenge of emotionally connecting to here and now after having severed all the internal and external ties to there and then; Canada’s stunning natural beauty as a beacon of hope and a promise of a better life; the sense of home as an irretrievable, almost mythic moment in time and place; the need to find meaning, to sustain the new life; how long it may take to reclaim one’s joy, strength and trust; the urge to claim back our past, once we feel affirmed in our present if we are to thrive as who we fully are; the need to constantly reinvent ourselves; how, invariably, we do find our strength back; the all-affirming power of deep listening to support the shaping and the narrative of story and self.
What does a typical session look like and how do you work together to transition from exploring their personal journey and storytelling in a way that is moving towards a sense of transformation and empowerment?
We have not yet had a typical session (and although I did once long for one, I am now beginning to hope we will not have one!), because in all the sessions we have had, this has proved essential:
Taking the time to meet participants where they are in relationship to story.
Telling them a folktale or a fairytale.
Shining light on the images that the listening brings forth.
Engaging the senses, to allow these images to speak.
Building connections between the listeners and the fairytale.
When it has been appropriate or requested, mining a particular image for its current relevance in the participant’s life or journey.
Making myself vulnerable.
Listening with everything I have and everything I wish I had!
I don’t know how to move towards a sense of transformation and empowerment any more than I know to make a tree grow. The work we do has a way of its own. We do the work. Then the soil, the seed, the sun, the rain and the force that through the green fuse drives the flower do theirs.