A couple days ago, a car I was renting was broken into and my belongings were stolen from it.  Included in the list of stolen items was my laptop computer which contained a lot of writings I had compiled from my experiences so far in the residency.  It also housed a sound piece I have been working on for an exhibit I have coming up in a couple weeks.  I have been working on this sound piece for 5 months now and the loss of it was devastating.  When I saw the broken window, I ran to the car and crumbled to the pavement when I realized all of it was gone.  This work, would never be finished, it would never be heard, it didn't exist anymore.  After weeping for over an hour in and out of the house, I posted about it online.  A few minutes later, I learned about the massacre of 50 people at a night club in Orlando, Florida.  The date was June 12th, 2016.


Loss, is a very hard feeling to contextualize.  Asking ‘what does it mean to lose something?’ brings to mind, ‘what does it mean to have something?’  What does it mean to live in a society where you feel accepted?  What does it mean to lose that and live in a society where you are persecuted and hunted (even randomly)?  It is not a matter of wether or not we appreciate our circumstances; it is a matter of coming to terms with the eventual loss of it as the world is ever-changing, and we are mortal.  All we have now will eventually fade away.  Our bodies as well as our possessions, the places we live in as well as the people we know.  With this in mind, examining what we do have in this very moment becomes an important practice. 


I was speaking to Linda Wilshusen about Santa Cruz Scars and catharses - the idea that speaking about strong emotions releases you of it.  She brought up the idea of ‘movement’ - expressing that by participating, she didn't exactly feel cleansed of the pain but rather that she had exercised it by engaging and interacting with it.  This is a very thoughtful and powerful way of examining trauma.  We absolutely do not rid ourselves of the pain of traumatic experiences.  By bringing it to the surface and speaking about it, we acknowledge it, engage with it, and then set it down.  We may feel less affected by it, but it follows us.  There are times when we forget about it until we are triggered and all of a sudden, there it is again! 


With daily reminders of pain all around and within us, it is very important to recognize resilience and change.  Pain, loss and death are inevitably part of the world we live in.  But, so are joy, growth and beauty.  It is true that I live in a world where my possessions can be stolen from me, and I can be randomly gunned down.  It is also true that I live in a world where my community is not being bombed.  It is a world where I have many resources readily available to me. A world where I can move around freely and make plans for a future.  It doesn't make the pain of loss any less potent.  It doesn't make the fear for my safety go away.  But by acknowledging these realities together and individually when they come to the surface, I can be free of them when they are not in front of me.  By practicing acceptance of the world as it evolves and revolves around and through us, we can allow ourselves to grow and change as we move about the world. 


I wish you a balanced view of your world this week.

Brave Souls

Yesterday was inspiring. I met so many brave souls, generous enough to share their stories of pain and survival. From cancer patients and broken bones, to car accidents and unrequited love. Thank you all for taking the time to sit and share your story with me and the community. 


One person told me that getting into a car accident where they was pronounced 'dead at the scene' was transformative not only physically but also mentally. "I was finally able to meditate because I was immobile. All the shit in my head just disappeared." Another person told me "Getting hurt made me appreciate all the things I can do with my body when I'm healthy."


For internal scars, there were a lot of heartbreaks and stories of loving those that didn't love us back.  Stories of coming to the edge of wanting to continue living and finding our way back. Throughout all of these, there is a thread of resilience and pride that is rightfully earned. 


The night was busy and the line was long. Some people could not wait to get their scars printed in time and drew their scars instead, which was great. If you would like to get your scars printed and share your story, I will be here most days while the museum is open. Stop by to say hello and read others' stories.


Setting Up The Space


The first couple days since arriving here in Santa Cruz have been eventful.  My first task was framing twenty-one pieces for the concurrent exhibition of my previous work.  Luckily, I had a lot of help putting the pieces up afterwards.  I also met the other two Art Works artists who will be kicking off the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History summer residency program with me: Miss Tangq and Heidi Crammer - who are both talented artists.  Museum visitors are in for a treat this summer.  We are setting up the space and getting ready for the opening this Friday June 3rd, 2016. 


The space is lovely.  The studios are built in the SCMAH Solari gallery.  There is a very performative aspect to the residency as the walls to the studio have been removed for the most part and visitors will be able to see us working even if they are too shy to come in to participate.  The work, at this point, is to imagine what the visitors will see when they first come in and to anticipate how they will move around the space.


I look forward to seeing you this Friday.  The SCMAH is open and free all day.  First Friday events are from 5pm – 9pm.  See you soon!




Anticipatory Anxiety

On the plane heading to SJC.

I'm in a vulnerable state. It's hard for me to flush out all the emotions I am experiencing but I will try to.

I am still growing into this person I want to be that owns her faults and failures and uses them as fertilizer for creating good.

 I recognize that it's not very fashionable to say this. But good does not mean nice, or pleasant or accommodating. It is about living in the muck, acknowledging it and still being able to see the flowers for what they are. 

So here I am, on my way to a six-week residency in a town I'm unfamiliar with. I am worried. I worry that I will curl into myself and be too anxious to engage with others. I worry that I will have a panic attack far from my family and that it will derail me. I worry that I won't be sincere with participants of the performance. I worry that I will be too open and reveal things about myself that will make me even more vulnerable to strangers. I worry that I will be judged, that my efforts will be misinterpreted, that people will feel exploited. I worry that this is all a bad idea. 

I also know that this is a great idea. I remember the overwhelming feeling of lightness I felt when I was finally able to speak my truth.  It took a lot of work to be able to distinguish the separate emotions stewing within me (something I work on daily) and I don't expect that everyone is ready to do that.  But in the utterance lies the key.  That is what I want from this project.  It is the most important portion. The act of saying 'this happened to me' allows for the separation of the experience from the self. We are shaped by our experiences but we are not our experiences.

This work is about non-judgmentally acknowledging who we are, not just in our carefully mannered interactions with others, but also within ourselves. Using the metaphor of a physical scar, we can talk about when trauma came knocking and what it took with it. We can also see what was left and what was able to grow from the space that was suddenly open in our lives. 

I will be changed by this experience. It is inevitable. The question is how will I change? What will be the impact of sharing about trauma on such a large scale? How will I protect myself? Where is the line for what I can endure and how will I know when I come to it? I also have to be prepared to send people toward resources they may need. What meaningful direction should I point people to? This should be one of my first steps: finding trustworthy health organizations I can direct people towards.


Until then.


Nanci Amaka

Santa Cruz Scars Project Description

Santa Cruz Scars

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

Opening Friday June 3rd, 2016 - July 8th, 2016

As a child, my infant sisters and I were forcibly given traditional scars.  A woman we had only known for a few hours cut each of our cheeks, the center of our collarbones, and the top of our backs. The woman who scarred us was not given permission to by our parents, and even worse, the scars she gave us were the wrong ones for our tribe. This was not my first time getting scarred (or the last), but it was the most memorable as it was a shared experience with my sisters.  We revisit this memory frequently and the scars have since become a badge of our bond.

Today, I collect memories from people who have been through traumatic events that have redefined their identity. This includes refugees, the homeless, amputees, those dealing with the onset of mental illness (dementia, brain injury, emotional fragility). Even the kid who just scraped his knee for the first time.  From these recordings I make art. These result in poems, short stories, paintings, installation and audio recordings-- which I sometimes sew into soft sculptures.

Share your story with me at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History this summer as part of SCMAH’s Art Works Exhibition.  I’ll be one of the three artists kicking off the exhibition in its first phase. This summer, eleven artists will transform the gallery into artist studios and create amazing work with the public.

My practice, Santa Cruz Scars, will ask you to look at your body as a physical symbol of memory, trauma and identity. This project is a space to revisit an event that left a scar on your body or mind. It is both a chance to bear witness to what others in Santa Cruz have been through, while celebrating how they overcame their trauma.

During Santa Cruz Scars, I will share images of the scar stories and the work that I build around it.  Join me for the opening this Friday June 3rd, 2016. Share your own story and get a print of your physical scars. For those non-visible scars, I will also be making soft sculptures embedded with your story.

We do not begin our lives anticipating trauma, but it is inevitable. Though scars are reminders of what we have been through, they are also a reminder that we have survived.  Come share your story with me this summer from June 3rd to July 8th at the Solari Gallery at Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History 705 Front St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

See you there,