"My work at the moment is about healing my body at the same time as healing the earth, in my own little way.
In my own small part of the world, localised but which can also have global ramifications, through the people my words and voice reaches, I wish to bring about more of a nature connection so both people and nature can thrive together."
Extract from Conjur Woman (after Romare Bearden)
Apologies for the short notice
but this has been planned in a
deliberately spontaneous way.
This is a Black Feminist intervention
within the white cube.
We come to reclaim space.
We come to recover our rituals.
We come together as a collective.
Women only, children are welcome.
My visual journal is where I practice and process my craft, my art, my writing, my creativity.
It's where I feel safe enough to share my dreams, to plan out the projects I’d like to bring into fruition. To dream about the world I want to be part of.
It was here that my project Wayfinding; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Great Outdoors was conceived and developed.
This was a National Lottery Heritage Fund Project aiming to provide increased access to and knowledge of the North East of England’s countryside for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.
Working in collaboration with a number of key partner organisations and community groups, we aim to understand and eliminate the barriers in place which limit diverse ethnic communities experience, involvement and understanding of the surrounding landscapes and seascapes of the region.
We aim to increase the number and range of people enjoying and learning from the natural world. We believe that only from first-hand experiences, knowledge and understanding of the British countryside can a relationship with it be fostered and developed.
It so follows that from developing a relationship with our natural heritage, we as a group of people start to care about nature and hence start to conserve and protect our natural habitats and species for future generations.
We've seen a great uptake in our event outings with participants, particularly Black women, voicing prior concerns about not venturing out into the countryside alone because of fear. This is being eradicated through our project.
Listen to an extract from Sheree's Earth Sea Love podcast, which focuses on Black women’s relationship with nature and shares their stories regarding how nature has had a healing influence upon their lives.
My visual journal is where I practice staying alive against all the odds.
As a Black British woman, there is a ‘strong black woman’ mask that I, as well as other Black women, wear to cope with life‘s challenges and crises. You only have to look at how Black women are treated and perceived within society to understand our heightened stress and anxiety levels.
Stereotypes such as the ‘strong black woman’, ‘angry black woman’ and ‘hyper-sexualised black woman’ all feed into this perception and treatment of us by others as well as ourselves. If you are told often and long enough that you are these things, you start to believe them yourself.
This hatred is internalised and eats away at our self-esteem and sense of self.
In workplaces and educational settings around the country, Black women often find themselves the only one or the first one in position. In these circumstances, a Black woman has to be twice as good, if not more so, to just get by. We are seen as representing the race by others. These social anxieties take their toll on Black women’s mental health.
I’m trying to change the narrative for ourselves and others through the work that we do now with Black women with/in nature.
From personal experience, after a very traumatic experience where I’d reached rock bottom, I took to walking out my front door towards the sea. I would walk the seashore breathing in time with the waves. Here I found the headspace to place things into perspective. Here is where I learned how to live again from an authentic space within me.
And it wasn’t easy, but as the seasons changed, I learned from nature that as every thing is born, having new life, so follows death. But going through this death, rebirth can be possible.
Something In My Essence
"You are never empty-handed when you hold the earth." ~ Mary Oliver
On this early summer evening, she remembers
me and takes me back, so completely,
she arranges her dark arms around me.
Her silence is warm.
How I relish the feeling of earth between
my toes; how she is damp, cool and strong,
yet yields, easy to loosen and crumble.
There's no words wild and silky enough
to name our pleasure, the sense of belonging.
Nothing between us. Close.
So close, I hear her breathing, rising
and falling as if water, deep within her
centre, deep within our souls.
To forget her, my birthright,
is to be displaced. But she remembers
and so do I. We are one.
Sheree Mack is a Creatrix living on the North East Coast of England.
She facilitates visual journaling workshops, nationally and internationally, supporting women in their exploration of their authentic voices. She is currently writing about travelling and working in Iceland as well as a mixed-genre memoir.
More of her work is available at livingwildstudios.com.