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Essay: Reflections on Rites of Passage 20/20 Vision

Notes on “The Room of Dissolution” for the Rites of Passage Project, August 2021.


The Rites of Passage Project was originally conceived in 2013 by artist, writer and storyteller, Pooja Prema, out of a desire to acknowledge and celebrate shared experiences in women’s lives as archetypal rites of passage. The process of naming these rites of passage encouraged women to mark their life transitions and to honor their transformation from one way of knowing to another. Through a series of installation-performances, viewers were invited to take part in a discourse around the psycho-social, political, and spiritual dimensions of a woman’s life. In August of 2021, Pooja directed a second iteration of this project to address the unique narratives which define experiences of womanhood in communities of black and brown women. Both the first and second installations took place at The Whitney Center for the Arts, located in the Historic 1865 Thomas Colt House, which was also the former home of The Women's Club of the Berkshires.

Notes on the Rites of Passage Project

The Rites of Passage Project (ROP) touched on many of the themes in both form and function, that were explored by artists Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro in the iconic feminist cultural event Womanhouse, which took place in 1972 at an abandoned mansion, in Hollywood, California. Both the ROP and Womanhouse rented old buildings that were collectively transformed by the artists and performers into performance installation spaces that addressed the unique psychic landscapes of women. Having learned about the powerful connections between both of these projects, Judy Chicago has agreed to write the forward for the upcoming publication of the ROP 2021 debut.    

The ceremony of preparing for the ROP began the moment I said “yes” to the project to begin with.  I was connected to the Founder/Artistic Director Pooja Prema, through Sokhna Heathyre Mabin, yogini, artist, doula, friend, and curator/performer for the ROP. I learned that Pooja and I were kinfolk. Our spheres of experience crossed one another’s in ways that were palpable: Pooja was born in India and left by her parents to be raised by other family members in Zambia, during the earliest years of her life. I was born in Lusaka, Zambia; linked via first generation, to a Black African lineage; a daughter of the Bemba tribe. I am a red-earthed, diasporal “daughter of the lake” from both Luapulu Province by way of my father, and North India’s Gujarat, by way of my mother. Read the rest of the essay here.

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