Healer, political activist, artist and ancient eternal spirit Tabita Rezaire explores network sciences – organic, electronic and spiritual – as a basis for healing in her work. Rezaire treats oppressive social structures with humour and psychedelic imagery in videos and installation work; feminine sexuality is addressed by dancing in a pink wig, feather bower and shiny leotard (like in Hoetep Blessings) meanwhile the colonial reality of the Internet is questioned by a bright patterned carpet (like in Aquatic Return).
Fostering our inner child is a great beginning to strive for inner peace, and Rezaire spreads this message on a world stage. The artist reminds us technology does not always mean metal wire cables and computers; ancient technologies including spiritual plants, sexual experimentation and yoga remain valuable fonts of information. Deep Down Tidal video installation really locates the colonial aspects of the Internet; Rezaire explains as well as discriminative admittance and freedom of speech on the Internet the underwater cables providing connection even trace previous slave-ship routes. As our society and sciences re-embrace ancient spiritual traditions Rezaire acts as a guide to the decolonial trilogy – the erotic, scientific technology and spirituality.
As someone who is an ancient eternal spirit, do you navigate your surroundings differently from others?
We are all eternal spirits. This is our essence, who we are. Coming from the source of creation as expressions of it and going back to it. Yet some may not be conscious of this deeper self and hold onto the vehicle it is packaged in – the body – as their selves. Commonly, we get our sense of identity from our genetics, bodies, thoughts, feelings, histories, anxieties, pains, ambitions, desires, etc. We are far vaster; our depth contains the whole universe. The consciousness of the universe inhabits us, it is us. I’m on a path to anchor my sense of self in this depth, basically seeking to become nothing, transparent, so that this essence can shine through. People around me don’t always get it. Right now, I’m on a ten-day fast. My family is freaking out, urging me to stop this nonsense. I try to wake up by 4 am to do my morning practice. Many think my lifestyle is a torture or that I’m being too hard. For me, what I’m doing is self-care – actually, it’s infinity-care.
It seems in your teenage years you looked to religion to help you deal with discrimination and identity. How has your spirituality since evolved?
It was an attempt to relieve a deep suffering that had many different causes, some I’m still figuring out. Religion offered a place where I could get out of myself, a refuge (or yet another coping mechanism) in the embrace of God, which was said to be up in the sky. The science of yoga is designed to make you aware that the source of creation is within you, that it is you. Yoga – which means union, the union with infinity – is a technology that allows you to experience this merger. There is no belief involved; only your own experience of your self in its totality, and the depth of this experience grows as your consciousness expands through the practice. I went from being a believer to a seeker.
You have talked about healing from disconnection (disconnection as a tool for healing), yet continue to use certain technologies, like video and projection; what should we be disconnecting from?
What I mean by healing from disconnection is really reconciling our material selves with our spiritual longing, our finite and infinite selves, our earthly dying human beings and our eternal essence. This is about connecting; deeply connecting with who we are and, from there, connecting with everything that is. This doesn’t centre on media technology since these days our connection strategies are the Internet and social media. An important part of my work was to realise that our current technologies were producing a collective sense of disconnection.
To experience connection, which we are all longing to, there are many things we could disengage from: greed, ignorance, fear, domination, exploitation, violence, which mostly come from our attachments to our finite identities, material gains and social expectations. We may also unlearn to: depend on external validation/believe our thoughts/be ruled by our emotions, so we can choose consciously how to respond to circumstances and fight our urges for compulsive reactions which only spread our hurt and increase collective suffering.
You describe the power of the erotic, technological sciences and spirituality as the three pillars of your decolonial trinity. Hoetep Blessings video clearly explains these three unified realities, how did you make this discovery?
As I was growing conscious of the economic, social and ecological violence of the Internet, my spiritual path was unfolding, and through it, I was exposed to different communication systems. From ancestor communication to working with various knowledge centres in the body or with healing plants, I just realised these are also information and communication technologies, so I became fascinated with the relationships between electronic and spiritual technologies.
I was also on a journey towards decolonisation, seeking to decolonize my mind, my relationship to my body, to love, and to life in all its forms. The erotic has been a powerful energy to call on and bow to in this process. As our creative energy, I saw the erotic as a technological interface of transformation, the passage from the world of matter to more subtle realms of existence. Another word for it may be awareness or consciousness. It is only through channelling the energy of creation that we can experience the gift of life – otherwise, we can sink in struggle mode.
Audre Lorde wrote: “The dichotomy between the spiritual and the political is also false, resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge. For the bridge which connects them is formed by the erotic – the sensual those physical, emotional and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us, being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings.”
 With NTU collective, you have exhibited traditional South African spiritual plants, which open dreams to communicate with your ancestors, as well as having started to develop an independent Internet. Do traditional communication spaces inform how you are developing online technologies?
We didn’t develop an independent Internet but rather an attempt at independence on the Internet. We have our own server which hosts the platform Nervous Conditioner on the deep web. We open the network from time to time respecting a set of cyber/spiritual security protocols. As for our research on Ubulawu – a family of South African plants used in spiritual sciences –, it is still ongoing. NTU is very much interested as well in the worlds of science and spirituality and their respective mechanics. The research in both fields feeds on each other.
Both scientific knowledge and spiritual knowledge have their own political purpose; do you think one is more valid than the other?
Spiritual knowledge has no political purpose in itself. The thing is that spirituality is cultivated and spread by people in different states of consciousness. So if someone still very much affected by the energy field of greed or fear became a vehicle for spiritual teachings, it will necessarily turn bitter. This is why there has been more violence or killings in the name of spirituality than anything else. The only purpose of the spiritual path is to dive into yourself and find the universe within, which lifts the separation between the self and the world. As such, social justice is a spiritual practice.
As for scientific knowledge, it has a history of assuming the role of gatekeeper for the truth. And when one believes their knowledge is more valid than anybody else’s, we breed prejudice. The basis of spiritual teaching is the art of not knowing, never fixing oneself on any opinions or conclusions; only when you don’t know can you seek. Now with the advance of quantum physics, the scientific community is finally having the humility to say they don’t know. That is beautiful and I’m sure it will be very fertile. On many aspects, ‘modern science’ is coming to very similar findings as ancestral teachings have, it is only expressed in different ways, which can seem incompatible on the surface.
One of your Inner Fire pieces reads, “anti capitalist bae chasing the money”. Is this contradiction a comment on our schizophrenic society that insists colonialism has ended whilst continuing to oppress the same communities?
This was merely a comment on my own contradiction. The state of consciousness I was in at the time was trapped in that duality, it was hard to reconcile survival instinct and values. I was chasing validation, recognition and financial gain as a way to fill the emptiness inside. I feel this is one reason among many that is holding back our collective growth. It is easier to protest external institutional forces than to address them in oneself, face our complicities and the limits of our capacity to change. Our dependence on a system needs to change for a system of change; and changing our habits and patterns is very hard work. I’ve been contemplating this for a long time but haven’t had the courage to listen to my soul. I’m slowly building the capacity to detach from the pursuit of wealth and honour.
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What are you working on at the moment?
Letting go of ambition.
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