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Sustainable Together with Nneka
Togetherness Healing Circle

“Sustainable Together” is project connecting a handful of Goethe-Institut's in Sub-Saharan Africa. They seek to improve their environment by creating impactful programs for public engagement and by supporting structures that improve on the social wellbeing of local communities.

By Gloria Ssanyu Mukasa

“I have gone through a lot the last two years. What have other people been going through? What has COVID done to our minds?” - Those were the first questions that sparked the idea for the “Togetherness Healing Circle”. They rose in the head of Nneka, a singer-songwriter from Nigeria who was coming to perform in Kigali for the fourth time since 2012. This time would be different – not only did she want to share her internationally admired art but longed to connect with people whom she could identify with, specifically women. She has observed that females often compete each other and barely come together to listen to one another or simply be. Yet, this special and sisterly connection is what she defines as healing and crucial for female individuals who face the challenge of sustaining themselves in a harmful system created and lived in.

On a cloudy Thursday evening in November the idea was realized as a live podcast held at the creative lab L’ESPACE in Kigali. Twenty guests were invited to the gathering organized by Eric Soul also known as AFROGROOV, creator of diverse musical experiences. The atmosphere was intimate, benevolent and caring. At the entry all guests were invited to write down what they came with, what they would like to give and what they wished to take back home from the gathering. Most of them identifying themselves as Black and as women who felt that coming together in a real circle was a way of rejuvenating oneself - a way that promises healing from all kinds of traumas collected during the cold lock-downs and their daily lives.

Firstly, Nneka shared some of the wisdom she gained from her life journey in an interview with AFROGROOV. After a break, moderators Anne Mazimhaka, co-founder and director of Illume Creative Studio, as well as Carole Umulinga Karemera, executive director of Ishyo Arts Center, took on moderation and guided the newly formed community through a special conversation. Seated in a circle of togetherness, they allowed each other to become vulnerable and understood by empathy and indulgence.

Natacha was the first one to share a story in the circle. Hers was about the journey of deconstructing being. She shared how she had recognized that it meant to mute the many outside voices within your own head and shed from the self; to get to the “true nucleus”. Truth is also what Bose is looking for when she is asking herself “Who am I, if I let all of this go?”. In the circle she shared how overwhelming the fear was that kept her from embracing the present. Yet, she realized that love, especially self-love was the key to set oneself free. Stories about isolation, post-pandemic pressure and embracing emptiness came to the imaginary table. Meanwhile, rain fell heavily on the iron roof. However, its rhythm did not interrupt the circle’s flow. “Surreal”, as Anzazi described it when she realized how all individuals were interconnected through sharing the same space, similar thoughts or the same experience.

The circle became a joint journey to “what lies beyond the skin of a woman”, as Carole put it. What the communion found there was the awareness that self-determination is possible. The connected ones agreed that they do not need to ask for permission to free themselves from everything that kept them from sustaining a healthy self. Similarly, they got aware of common wounds and the potential to heal. “Healing is a processes that needs us coming together”, as Nneka expressed earlier
– A believe that resonated with the circle’s conclusion.

All in all, the gathering refuelled many emotional, personal and spiritual human tanks. What could be learned that day is that a huge part of personal sustainability comes from the quality of personal connections we decide to make. We can decide to make circles like these the norm. It lies within the healing powers of the collective.

This article does not include everthing that was shared. That is why we are are happy that the live podcast was recorded and highly recommend watching it soon.