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Creating space for grieving and healing through art

Performer Pedra Pepa in she who lives on the road to war. (Valerie Oliveiro/Rosy Simas Dance)

Rosy Simas Danse is hosting an immersive installation and performance called “she who lives on the road to war” to facilitate grieving, peace and reconciliation. Performances at All My Relations Art Gallery concluded this past week; they continue at the Weisman Art Museum through Feb 5, 2023.

Sam Aros Mitchell, one of the performers, says the performance installation has a lot of layers to it.

“This practice is an extension of a practice we had been working on for about a year. We started doing this practice of resting, consoling, and grieving right after the pandemic.”

At one point in the performance, Mitchell untangles a bundle of deer lace. He says it has a powerful effect on him.

“There was an invitation to consider a Haudenosaunee philosophy,” Mitchell said. “This idea of working with deer lace, which is actual deer skin cut into very thin threads, and to work with it in our hands. And so it was always this sensory experience connected to this very real material that has a long history with the Haudenosaunee people.”

“It’s an immersive installation that's really focused on a collective place to console and grieve” said Juleana Enright, the All My Relations gallery programs coordinator. “It's just a place that … welcomes peace and welcomes an environment of tranquility and reflection, whatever that looks to the audience member.”

The art installation by Rosy Simas Dance, made to look like a collection of maple leaves (Elijah Todd-Walden/ BLCK Press)

More than anything, the performers say the showcase was about grief.

“I would say that from this experience, that grief is so specific to each person,” Pedra Pepa, another performer at the exhibit, said. “And that grief is [still] some collective [act] and to have a space to process and work through it, and [we’ve] come to understand that work is never done.”

Performer Lela Pierce in she who lives on the road to war. (Valerie Oliveiro/Rosy Simas Dance)

Performer Lela Pierce said they danced as a form of transformation.

“What does it feel like? I think it is very complex.” Pierce said. “There is a sense of movement for me, and it feels related to water … like riding a wave, and each time one of these sensations - like grief or condolence - go through myself, my body, the space.”

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