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The Water Mandala: An Excerpt from my Graduate Thesis















In the worlds of waking and dreaming, I have asked water to speak to me. In this humble request, this thesis may be summarized as an intimate conversation with water. What follows then  is a transmission of all that I have heard, seen, felt, and touched, as revealed to me through the water mandala.


The idea of a water mandala was conceived through what I strongly believe was an ancestral directive between cycles of waking and sleeping. In my curiosity to learn more about the Abenaki nations during my first residency on Goddard’s snowy Vermont campus, I stumbled on a video about the Abenaki tribe’s relationship to the water called Nebi: Abenaki Ways of Knowing Water, produced by Chief Don Stevens, Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe; and Kris Stepenuck & Ashley Eaton, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, UVM Extension, and the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. As the descendant of an indigenous Black African Zambian lineage, I belong to ancestors who are also water people. My father’s ancestors have lived and dwelled along the Luapula River for hundreds of years, in Luapula Province, which is bordered by the Democratic Republic of Congo in Northern Zambia. I was struck by the question posed at the end of the documentary clip, which asked: “What will you do to protect the water?” Since I was a child, I have dreamt and felt a strong kinship to water, and marine life-particularly to whales, dolphins and the mysterious and beloved mermaid figure.


I have always felt called to become an advocate for the water; having deeply admired the efforts of activists such as The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers who collectively prayed for the healing of the water on World Water Day in March of 2014; and the innovative Sankofa-driven initiatives

of the organization Diving With A Purpose, who on documenting and protecting the African slave shipwrecks that were left behind throughout the history and culture of the African Diaspora.


What is water?

Water is mysterious. For the last two years, I have devoted myself to articulating a sequence of intelligent movements that enable water to conceive, nourish, purify and remember. 


In The Hidden Messages In Water, Masaru Emoto writes:

“Water has the unique ability to dissolve other substances and carry them away...[how] this ability of water to dissolve other substances creates a type of ‘soup of life’ that supplies the oceans with the necessary nutrients to enable life...[that] water is the force that creates and gives life.”

This work is the culmination of many hours spent wondering about our body’s ability to dissolve other substances and carry them away in the wake of a global Coronavirus. I’ve been concerned about the ways our access or lack of access to life-giving resources like nutritious, non-genetically modified, organic food; clean water; adequate shelter, holistic medicine; sustainable electrical energy; and essential practices of joy, have meant the difference between life and death for so many.

In this thesis, I ask how water can continue to be a mirror for these inquiries; a container for the discovery of both ancient and future connections through the water mandala.

In the making of Nile Water during Isiac Rites in the Temple of Isis, water is honored as a purifying element. The presence of this consecrated water during ritual, is believed to nourish the practitioners in a re-membering of its fertile, life-giving aspects, as they were experienced in the world of ancient Kemet. Kemet, a word meaning “the black land”, referencedthe rich deposits of alluvial black sand that appeared on the banks of the Nile River after the season of inundation. The Nile River was venerated for thousands of years, as the lifeblood of Isis; the actual tears of the Goddess, who in Her eternal mourning, resurrected the body of the God Ausar after He was slain by their brother Set.  


In the book, Isis Magic, M. Isidora Forrest compiles a mosaic of ancient texts, including excerpts from ancient Egyptian and Greek liturgical sources to piece together the relationship that Isis has to water, and in turn, water’s relationship to all those that worshiped Her:

“I have heard a similar story from a man of Phoenicia that the Egyptians hold the feast for Isis at a time when they say she is mourning for Osiris. At this time the Nile begins to rise, and it is a saying among many of the natives that what makes the river rise and water their fields is the tears of Isis.”


Throughout these pages, I contemplate water’s rhythms; ancient blueprints of earth life and human purpose,hidden in the particles of the water?

Masaru Emoto writes:

“Water is the mother of life, while also being the energy of life. This is possible because of the unique characteristics of water..My investigation into water makes me think that water is something not of this earth.”

Like the cyclical reconstruction of the severed body of Osiris in the myth of Isis and Osiris, water re-members. My thesis aims to assemble memory and the

piecing together of fragments through the water mandala. In this thesis, the water mandala operates as the spine for in-depth investigations into my selected areas of inquiry, which include: water-keeping, the sacred feminine, indigenous identity, apiary culture, and the poetics of eros and eroticism. I have used it to research both human relationships to water and my unique purpose as a water keeper.

What is water?

Water is a substance that while so vitally essential, can often be taken for granted or dismissed as disposable and limitless. “Refreshing”, “cleansing”, “bathing”, “relaxing”, “flowing”, “humbling,” are some of the descriptions that have emerged in shared water experiments between family, friends, fellow artists, mentors,and strangers. That we all value water’s ability to nourish our bodies and our minds seems intuitive, and deeply personal. In seeking further insights into the nature of water, each person I have encountered throughout this has generously and thoughtfully engaged in conversations around the activation of their own relationship to both water and the natural world. I’ve come to realize that in this simple conversation about water, we are all becoming conscious of its seed and seeding; that somehow, we are being nourished through a re-membering of our relationship to it.


In turn, I have been inspired by this constant circuit of unique communication that takes place between Earth’s living organisms and the waters in which they

are submerged. My work has been concerned with exploring its movement and expression through various channels, including visual collage, written expositions, intuitive dance, and performance installation.

The water mandala has been a powerful tool in grounding my approaches to witnessing and documenting these discoveries. From participation in collective water activism and women’s healing ceremonies; to artistic collaborations on water based inquiries, and bee-centric beekeeping; I’ve been interested in excavating our human relationships to water and the natural world, in communities that exist both inside and outside of the African Diaspora.

Throughout this thesis, the water mandala serves as a psychic compass that guides the reader into and out of these spiraling dimensions of the labyrinth, which is the container for both my personal and academic journeys. Through an in depth exploration of its physical and metaphysical properties, I have aimed to stitch together a foundational blueprint that circumscribes water’s ability to conceive, nourish, purify, and re-member its mark upon this body of work, as an artist, mother, writer, priestess, and global community citizen. The water mandala has functioned as tableaux vivant; as the psychic roadmap from which I’ve divined and traced my footsteps along the arching lines and curves of this quest. In short, the water mandala has been the homing device that has allowed me to locate myself in space and place.

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