How do we create space to be human together? How does mysticism show up in environmental justice work? And, what can decolonized relationships to land look like for people of color in practical—rather than political or ideological—terms?
These are some of the questions we began exploring in collaboration with Nikki Silvestri of Soil & Shadow and an extraordinary group of twenty leaders of color from across the country, first through a series of interviews and an in-person gathering in 2019. This group of artists, educators, activists, and community leaders continued to meet virtually throughout the pandemic to bring together historical and ancestral knowledge, sharp insight into socio-political conditions, and love of Mother Earth. These conversations birthed The Living Altar, an audio-visual tribute to our planet and a winding tale of spirit, ecology, and culture.
Under the creative direction of Noni Limar, the eleven-piece multimedia experience uses imagery and original music to wrap the audience in the sensation of sitting at the feet of elders. Currently on exhibit virtually at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art through October 2021, The Living Altar offers wisdom from ecological futurists like Tracy Lloyd McCurty of the Acres of Ancestry Initiative / Black Agrarian Fund, an organization that defines itself as “a cooperative nonprofit ecosystem rooted in Black ecocultural traditions and textile arts”; author and creative Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, whose work focuses on urging us to “renegotiate our relationship with the earth”; and Toni Anderson, an urban ecologist and founder of Chicago’s Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab.
As part of the launch of the exhibit, Soil & Shadow is hosting a virtual ceremony on July 23rd, with an open invitation to be “both witness and participant as we continue to build our Living Altar.”