Ancestral Influence on Creativity.
Has someone ever asked you a really good question, a simple question even, that taps into that deep place inside of you and inspires a sudden realization of self or epiphany? Back in November, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Sera of SunMoon; a thoughtfully curated online shop of beautiful things inspired by Sera’s ancestral land of Morocco.
Sera asked me four, simple yet really good questions about my relationship with Hina Luna and how it overlaps with my relationship to my self, the earth, and the realm of magic. The process of sitting with these questions and allowing the answers to come forth was akin to a time-lapse video of the gentle unfurling of rose petals; layer upon layer opening up to reveal the center, the heart, il cuore.
The one in particular that allowed for a deep reflection into what feels like my current overarching wellspring of inspiration was this:
How has your ancestry or heritage played into your craft?
My answer, this:
“I became aware of the creative presence of my ancestry about two years ago [but I have to laugh because the more I deepen into this work, I realize it’s been a significant influence all along.] At that time I was beginning to deepen into my journey of researching my ancestry, with a focus on my father’s matrilineage from Italy. Part of that has been studying the language, talking to my living relatives, and preparing for an ancestral pilgrimage in early March of 2020 [which heartbreakingly was cancelled three days before departure due to the pandemic].
But it was really at this anticlimactic point of not making it to Italy after all that I immersed myself back in to Hina Luna and consciously took my ancestors with me. In my studies prior to my would-be departure date, there were passages in books that made me cry because I felt in my bones an affirmation, a deep knowing; I saw my grandmother [who’s passed] and her way explained to me and I felt closer to her. My work with Hina Luna didn’t necessarily change because of this, but rather I just became more aware of the ethereal “why” behind my process and embraced it.”
Last year it felt like [and honestly still feels like] a heartbreak to have been on the crest of making the first reconnection to my ancestral homeland in three generations and then to have very abruptly been pushed off from riding the wave, so to speak; a heartbreak rooted in the gutting feeling of the loss of potential. The pleasant surprise though, as life went on [or rather went on but in a very new way with the introduction of the virus to the United States], was that I had more space than ever before to continue weaving together threads of ancestral connection. I was filled with inspired energy that had to be redirected and after a couple of months of setting everything down, I wandered my way back slowly to Hina Luna.
To my eye, there was no dramatically noticeable visual distinction between my work pre-Italy and post- cancelled-Italy, like Picasso’s rose period after a bout with the blues. Rather, as I’d shared with Sera, the noticeable difference was personal, internal. With the change of events, I temporarily pivoted away from the reality of travel and redirected that energy I had by consciously inviting my ancestors onto my creative terrain. The creations that resulted are aesthetically consistent with my other works, but the authenticity feels deeper, and therefore so does the intention.
There are innate qualities in myself that I have inherited from being raised by the children of the children who came from this place I so desire to go to; their ancestral influence over my life is inevitable; it’s who I am. Although it’s been present in my creativity all along, by consciously deciding to invite in and welcome their energy into my space, I could begin to step into my role as facilitator in cultivating a relationship between my ancestors and my creative work. To witness magic requires presence, and I was freshly aware and receptive to experiencing my ancestors work through me.
Coincidentally, I write this on the five year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing and on the eve of the spring equinox; what a paradox of life and death, of beginning and ending. I am carrying with me today a tender heart full of gratitude for a long time together and for the lessons she likely unknowingly taught me. I experience her creatively when adorning myself or while in the kitchen, especially with good music on. I delight in remembering her sauntering and swaying about her modern black and silver kitchen, crooning with eyes closed, fingers snapping slow above her head in a dreamy state of Bossa Nova.
I still read articles and passages in books about Italian life and well up with mixed feelings of overwhelming love, self recognition, and a melancholy for things I do not yet know in this lifetime but that feel familiar to my bones, my DNA, my ancestral memory. When I am activated by the color palette of an Italian landscape, the ochre rainbow of the buildings, or read a sensual description of the most delectable dessert or dish of pasta, or am consumed by an ode to the cultural admiration and devotion to all that is beautiful and to the importance of rest and a good meal, I filter it through my creative lens and into what I offer to you through Hina Luna.
[one of my Italian ancestral provinces, Lucca, Toscana [Tuscany], inspiring with its color palette of ochre, umber, and warm butter yellows and golds.]
Before there was the awareness of the thread line connecting parts of myself to my ancestral land — the parts of me that, put simply, desire to create and curate beauty and a life of quality and simplicity — there were the lines connecting me to my nearer circle of family, like my grandmother. Our shared passion for the art of adornment and the simple pleasures of food, music, and good company, have woven together with the fibers of all parts of my creative being. As I responded in my interview with Sera, ancestral influence has always affected my life as an artist, even when I hadn’t yet acknowledged it. Although now that I have, my creative experiences feel richer, more authentic, and purposeful, like a collaboration that spans lifetimes and defies linear time; nothing short of magic.
Consider all of the ways you are creative in your life ["creative" meaning the act of creating something: a meal, a work of art, a garden, a written piece, constructing something...]
Are there traits that you knowingly inherited from your lineage that support your creative process? From whom did you inherit these traits?
More broadly, how might your ancestral cultural(s) be present in your creative processes?
Read my full interview for SunMoon here
*Cover photo of Hina Luna altar cloth provided by Rowan + Sage