Conversations with the land

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Conversations with the Land is an invitation to artists, writers, thinkers, dancers, healers and teachers to spend time at lalela and create work with the land. It is guided by the question: Does the land tell the story if we listen?

Listening is a practise that connects different artistic and spiritual worlds. To listen before we act or create is to allow for ‘others’ to be present in our creations. The others may be people, animals, spirits, plants, water. It may be part of ourselves we’ve neglected. It may be the land.

Each piece of land carries stories. As we try to ‘make sense’ of this present moment to carve new ways, or simply to carve our way, how do we listen to the land? What can it tell us about this moment?

To listen to the land is to listen to ourselves in the land, or on the land. It is to listen to our own stories and dreams in relation to the land. It is to allow ourselves to be channels through which the land speaks and shares its stories and dreams.

A Conversation through Collaborative Poetics

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Between January 10-12, 2020, 13 women came together at lalela. place of listening. These women answered an open invitation to join A Retreat in Collaborative Poetics* facilitated by Refilwe Nkomo, Kathy Engel and Maia Marie. The invitation was to spend time with the question: When we listen to the land what do we hear? And to work with this question collaboratively – in a lyrical process of experiencing the making and living of poetry as something shared, interconnected and generative.



The retreat was pure magic. We listened in many ways, took silent walks to meet the wild beings on the land, shared in circles and sat around the fire and sang. We felt into our bodies, moved together and of course wrote. The greatest testament to our time together is the art that came out of these 2 and a half days.



We created a cento, a collaborative poem, from lines each of us wrote over the weekend and painted them on stones. The poem exists as an installation in the lalela veld. Annika Slabbert created a wonderful video with our voices speaking the poem, which you can watch below.

Kundai Moyo and Anna Sango, put together a beautiful publication with our writing and images titled Conversations with Lalela which you can download here:



This conversation is part of an ongoing project “Does the land tell the story if we listen?”, with lalela. a place of listening and manifested in collaboration with many beings. It is an invitation into listening to and with the land as a starting point for how we dream and act in the world, for ourselves and each other.

*Collaborative poetics is a term Kathy Engel uses to describe the way she works, coined by her best friend the writer Alexis De Veaux.

Thank you to New York University, Tisch School of Arts Dean’s Faculty Research and Travel Grants for enabling Kathy to travel to South Africa and co-facilitate this herstoric gathering at the invitation of Refilwe Nkomo, a Tisch Arts Politics Alumna, and for supporting the production of the zine.