The news that came through just before the Summer Solstice 2009 is that the examiners, Australian and American, have recommended that the PhD degree be awarded. I still have a little way to go with some re-consideration to be given to the the word ‘indigenous’ which I initially used in the title and is quite central to my thesis: ‘The creative process as sacred expression: women exploring an indigenous spirituality’ (lower case ‘i’). I have been requested to remove it, and will do so, with the inclusion of an explication. The satisfaction has occurred from having finally given voice to my own perceptions of women’s creative spirituality, but also to those of all the women involved in this project over a long period.
It seems to have been confusing for the examiners - and therefore could be for others possibly because the term has become associated exclusively with the First Peoples of the world, and can read either as that the research involves Australian Aborigines, or presumably as a type of appropriation (though this was not mentioned directly in the reports). Also possibly because, to be academically rigorous, I needed to explain more fully my particular use of the word, which was certainly not intended in either of these ways. However, I want to create a context for exploring and re-cognising an ancient indigenous spiritual practice (from Europe) that has great relevance for the whole globe today, which acknowledges our interdependency with all of Earth’s creation.
The research involved local women using their experience of creativity as a means to explore a personal spirituality as it was experienced inherently and identified with their inhabited space/place - that is, a spirituality that could be understood to be ‘native’ to a woman’s body-mind as her ‘land’ of origin; and as a recovery of soul-sense derived from being situated physically in the Southern Hemisphere. From this position, using the term indigenous according to the dictionary definition of ‘indigenous to’, meaning relating to place - is appropriate, not appropriated. From the broader perspective of the definition, as ‘innate, inherent’, I believe that the term ‘indigenous’ is applicable to women re-creating a sense of self in relation to her experience as embodied.
Another reason for choosing to employ the word ‘indigenous’ is as it relates to the methods being used to explore this notion of a spirituality, experienced as inherent and personal to the women involved. This was done by ritualising the the seasonal cycles of the Wheel of the Year, an Earth-centred spiritual perspective practised by the prehisotric groups indigenous to the European continent in the context of their personal creative experience. It was this seasonal ritual observance transferred to and seen from the perspective of the Southern Hemisphere that I reflected on in the making of my own art quilts, an observance which I had felt to be inherited from my ancestors, indigenous to the Northern Hemisphere and covered over by millennia of patriarchal stories and practices that have resulted in the colonisation of my own spiritual sensibilities - and, dare I say, those of my gender.
While the Northern Hemispheric sensibilities to seasonal changes, their symbolic religious and cultural significances have been disrupted by spatial dislocation, I theorised that these earlier sensibilities could be re-covered, uncovered through our experiences of creativity - beginning in the body (through the power to give life to another human being), and experienced through our creativity - in this case, quilt making. The aim was to recover, recreate the expression of these earlier religious and cultural sensibilities in re-alignment to our personal place of habitation through the seasonal cycle, the observance of which gave rise to such practices as are observed by the Abrahamic religions in the first place.
More to come…