Belonging & Home in the Temporary Village of 20/20 Vision: Reflections
By Pooja Prema, Rites of Passage Project Founder & Artistic Director
Photo by Jill Goldman
Rites of Passage: 20/20 Vision brought to life what I and so many others had been longing for since forever – a living village that offered us a sense of belonging that's so rare for most of us, especially as Women of Color. This is inherently healing. But as a temporary village, it was a moment in space and time, not the reality most of us live in every day or would return to. And that truth is a deep heartbreak for me. There are so many reason why our ancestors lived in villages, and somewhere in our blood and bones we long for this like an echo. This beauty and belonging are seeds we carry that can’t be lost - just waiting for the right conditions to sprout again into the blossoms of our basic sanity and at-one-ness with everything. Rites of Passage was a season of the garden of our ancestors remembered. And what a beautiful garden it was. But is it possible, in this time, for it to live beyond just one season? A way of life. A way of being, with Life.
So many of the women in Rites of Passage shared how “at home” they felt, and how much love permeated that space. Yet creating a home for 45 women was a massive for all of us. It was an imperfect and exquisite experiment in learning Love and creating Home. By definition, initiation is a passage into a new way of being – a more expanded, more true way of being. Much in the way that being pregnant reveals to a mother how healthy or resourced she/they are or are not, Rites of Passage revealed to many of us our own places of depletion or under-resourced-ness, along with the ways in which we were willing to be opened, or not. The house wasn’t a place for only our beauty to belong, but also our shadows. This meant loving all the ways that we may feel unseen, unappreciated or unknown. For so many of us, our childhood home was not a safe place, maybe not a place at all. We don’t know what family is, let alone a village. We made it up as we went along – making literal rooms for all the places in us that the colonized world at large, and also our families of origin - had discounted, ignored, or exiled. This was a place our souls could be at home in kinship, which is why we loved it so much.
At the same time, the reality of village life is that it’s often messy, and busy, and intense. For Western/ modern folks not acquainted with village life, and even for those of us who are – it can be overwhelming. And fast-track one-time villages (like Rites of Passage and Burning Man) are energy-intensive to create, even though they are breathtakingly beautiful and immensely healing. I wish we had had a month, not just 10 days, and I know I’m not alone in that. Re-indigenizing our minds & hearts & relationships takes time, maybe lifetimes. As a collective, I think we all recognized through the rush and the push, how time allows for greater peace and rest, and how profoundly we each needed that. We squeezed 20/20 Vision into 10 days, not because we wanted to, but because we weren’t able to give ourselves the time and space needed. Rites of Passage bloomed & lived within the larger context of our shared reality – of patriarchy, of capitalism, of grind culture – or what we call simply: “modern life”. After 39 years of close observation, I have concluded that this modern life just isn’t conducive to us being fully human, or sane. Still, Rites of Passage: 20/20 Vision showed us the potential for something far more whole. Now after all this village-making and dismantling, these essential questions remain: What is required to sustain wellness and sanity in the midst of this world?And, how can we nurture home & belonging in a long-term, sustainable way?
Coming home isn’t linear. We may make the journey dozens of times in our lives before we finally return home, and then even then, it’s just momentary, because we are always arriving and departing in these dream permutations of what it is to be here. James Baldwin poignantly wrote, “What if home is not so much a place, but an irrevocable condition?” And yet even so, homecoming – to a place, to a people – is a deep longing in our bones. We all long to be known, to come home. And what is it to be truly sane but to be at home?