Some experiences in life are so rare and spectacular, that they leave us feeling connected to the entire cosmos, the eternity of existence past present and future all rolled into NOW. Grateful for the winds that swoop me up into life's fortune and grace, after returning from a once in a lifetime experience in the Amazon jungle of Manu, Peru with Jessica Bertram and her Harakmbut team and family.
Other moments in life are fleeting and seemingly insignificant....
My month’s rental was coming to an end, and as often the case, my next moves were still unknown. I had long forgotten about my reply to Jessica’s Facebook advertisement for photographer in her upcoming Jungle Ayahuasca retreat, when I received her call. Jessica’s retreat fit nicely into the unknown, and I had never spent much time in the jungle of Peru - I had responded without hesitation or much consideration, as spirit guided me to reach out. Jessica called to let me know that I was the one she had chosen and ask when we could meet and confirm the details. Our first meeting was intriguing and exciting, learning about this wondrous courageous woman and anticipating the 7 day adventure ahead. Conveniently, my bags were already packed.
Jessica Bertram: Born in Germany with a Peruvian soul, fluent in English, Spanish and Quechua, mother of two Peruvian daughters, member of the School of Traditional Shipibo Medicine, with 22 years experience leading tours into the rainforests of Southeastern Peru - and family of the Harakbut People.
The Harakbut Tribes of the Madre de Dios River were discovered in the 1940’s and today consist of a population of only 2000. Within this group are the Huachipaeri and Amarakaeri people, amongst other tribes - all of which suffered greatly in their years of first contact with Catholic Missionaries, which continue to have a very real presence in their lives today. With the introduction of white supremacist missionaries, the majority of Huachepiri people were wiped out by diseases, leaving only 200 people left today to tell their story. Victoria, our hostess, Huachipiri woman and matriarch of ‘Grandma’s Home’ Retreat, is one of these rare people, sharing the tale of her father’s ‘first contact’. Today, ‘mission’ imposed beliefs and dependancies have left the Harakbut necessarily redefining themselves in stark contrast to their parents and grandparents generations. A fast changing world has forced the Indigenous worlds of the Madre de Dios River to conform in the ultimate confrontation of capitalist/consumer civilisation.
Jessica Bertram too shares a big history, that lead her directly into the arms of the sacred medicinal plant Ayahuasca. For the last 16 years Jessica has been working with Ayahuasca (also referred to as the Grandmother), and contributing to the community by facilitating healing ceremonies, both to bridge the gap between self and identity, as well as between ancient cultural values and introduced (now somewhat internalised) Catholic ideals. Twelve years ago, Victoria could barely breathe and the doctors told her that she was going to die and there was nothing to be done. Jessica met Victoria in the throes of her illness, and through Jessica’s Ayahuasca treatment, Victoria was able to heal herself from a ’shrunken lung’, the consequence of a life burdened with divorce, abuse and colonisation. Together, their commitment to the healing practice of Ayahuasca is secured in the humble retreat space that they have built.
Nestled deep in the banana plantations of the jungle, accessible only by boat, are the huts that home the hearts of those wanting to expand and heal. Here, in this buzzing and alive corner of the world, lives Victoria, her second husband Albert, and Victoria’s two sons, Jose and Steve. I was brought along to Grandma’s Home as the photographer, to capture the essence of their work and their space. What I experienced was one of the richest encounters of my life, an invaluable first hand experience learning, growing and loving (and painting) with ancient people of the lands.
Our little huts awaited, as we huddled around Victoria and Albert who welcomed us and gave us a few guidelines to liven in the jungle. Don’t walk off on your own, wear socks with your sandals, and listen… always listen. The sounds of the jungle would teach us lots over the coming days, if we would just learn how to listen. Our intimate group of four included a Canadian school teacher, two medical students studying the health benefits of Ayahuasca, a Swedish film maker and myself. Together we humbly joined Jessica and the family and embarked upon an experience that would stay with each of us for the rest of our lives.
The days that followed saw us creeping through viney jungle, wading through pebbled rivers, drinking sacred water from bamboo, identifying Puma tracks from Tapirs, rafting through Amazonian waters whilst bird watching, learning about plants that cower when you touch them and others that hurt you to heal you. We Immersed ourselves in the healing natural hot springs, ate at least 10 different meals made of bananas at different stages in their ripening process, and appreciated every spare moment we had to simply breath, rest and consolidate the plant teachings from our three powerful ayahuasca ceremonies set amongst howling nocturnal monkeys and noisy giant jungle rats.
As meals were being prepared, we would curiously peel back pages of a giant folder, lovingly packed with an extensive collection of rare historical photos, photos of bare bodies, marked with the traditional wito* designs, as the pages turned the clothes began to creep in, the occasional image presented the catholic priest, surrounded by the people of the jungle, characteristically out of place, on mission to convert, conform and ultimately control. Jaws dropped at the incredible nature of such images, whilst both Alberto and Victoria identified family and friends from generations passed. Many persons they recalled are still alive, an ancient testament to worlds of extreme transition.
One day as the others were asleep resting, I sat with Victoria and Jose, threading beads onto necklaces that were to be given as offerings to the guests. As we threaded, I asked questions in my broken Spanish, and was privy to absorb the energy of Harakmbut family life, as jokes were made between mother and son, I understood the meaning without understanding words; marriage was the topic and Jose was the subject - being of the same age as Jose, and recognising the banter, I recognised again that some things in life cross cultures - indeed we are closer to one another than we might think at times. Victoria gifted me a monkey tooth and a piece of iguana skin. I painted her hair with Wito to cover her greys. The intimacy of the moments shared will stay with me forever.
No two ayahuasca ceremonies are ever the same. Most of what we experience is unable to be shared in words - and so, it seems fitting that our second ceremony left us somewhat speechless, having been escorted into multidimensional universes all existing simultaneously, past present and futute, now and only now in all of our minds and hearts… Let’s simply say that something BIG happened and I wouldn’t dare try to tell you about it.. It was clear, however, that things would never be the same for any of us.
Tobacco Insights and Breakthroughs
The two young medical students who joined the retreat encountered ayahuasca for the first time. One of them had clearly been a big smoker upon arrival, each break we took on our 5 hour drive to Manu saw him lighting up a tailor cigarette and puffing away as if his life depended on it. By the second ceremony, we could hear him crying out for help, for he believed that the tobacco was going to kill him and he was evidently afraid. He didn’t smoke another cigarette for the rest of the week, and I doubt he would ever touch a tailor cigarette again. On the other hand, if it were not for the sacred Tobacco, Mapacho, I do not think I would have made it out the other end. I give thanks for my reunion with a sacred medicinal plant that supports me in being grounded, centred and safe.
Though it was not my first priority, I was definitely hoping to have the opportunity to honour my hosts by painting them into their world… As part of my Emerging Earth People project, I aspire to recognise our indigenous origins through the people who have lived in harmony with the earth - and simultaneously be part of the SHARING of history… but as I have learnt along the way, 'mutual enthusiasm' is paramount and creating this experience/artwork was not my agenda in any way. Nevertheless, Victoria and Alberto were wanting to be painted and chose their special tree for the occasion. It was my first time painting people into the world who spoke a different language to me, which definitely added an extra challenge, but nothing that would hold us back. As we merged, Jessica swatted gigantic ants and mosquitos, and the two held one another as lovers do, whilst I honoured them for their creation of ‘Grandma’s Home’. The outcome, more than a million words. Ancient Love Lives on.
When it was time to leave, we bid our gracious hosts farewell, and each received a threaded gift, as a memory of our time together. Mine had a little frog on it, reminding me again of the frog medicine that has been appearing before my mind’s eye every ceremony... Our farewell was heartfelt, and a little bit sad - we had become family in a very short time, worlds apart united through our willingness to learn, heal and grow.
Giving thanks, Dákichi, for my time in the jungle, as I await the opportunity to return again to Grandma’s Home, one day.
For more info www.grandashome.com coming soon!
Photography and Web Design by Orly Faya
*wito - a natural dye that comes from a tree in the jungle.
The Harakbut Lovers, 2016
Life does not follow our plans. Spirit is naturally unpredictable, spontaneous and mischievous. Her manifestations are timely, organic and reveal much more than what meets the eye. There have been many times I have wondered why I bother to make plans at all, yet, as I journey along, I realise that it is not the plans themselves that are problematic, nor is the fact that the outcomes often differ from what we intended. Rather, it is our attachment to plans and outcomes that causes us to fall when they don’t ‘turn out’ as we had desired. We may confuse this misalignment of desire with outcome, as equating a measure of our own self worth and success, as if what 'seems to be' is the only perspective to digest. As children of the earth, we may cry out for the injustice of life's unexpected twists, without fully grasping the fact that this reality is made up of layers and dimensions - and hat all 'turns out' just as it needs to, according to the perfection of existence. We are made of stars, and the divine plan is written in the cosmos.
When it comes to our determination of plans, we are lead by the masculine. The ‘masculine’ energy lives within the domain of doing, striving, measuring, analysing and defining and forms the basis of our western way of living. We are bred to make plans, to set goals, and measure cause and effect as linear principles. The feminine knows how to flow, knows how to surrender our little plans to the great plan, understands that The Highest Good is always being served, albeit sometimes in mystical and unknowable ways. The feminine is about patience and collaborates with spirit and nature. The weather is the true determining factor and the great plan is always met through our BEING-NESS. If our plans stand as structures of possibility, frameworks of intention, then we are free to surrender, free to trust the great flow, and relinquish our earthly dreams to the unimaginable creative perfection of life's unfolding… If we are able to connect with the feminine flow, then we can accept whole heartedly that things are not what they seem, and that LIFE is far deeper and layered than anything it looks like on the surface of our senses. Through this understanding, is it so that all of our plans are merely vehicles for us to face ourselves through the great magical reflection of life happenings and each other. Our visions and dreams reflect only the surface of that which brews within us… the unfolding of our plans is a continuous revelation into that which we have requested to learn, on a soul level. Who we BE in the face of thwarted expectations is our key to the magic of LIFE.
And so, I have a story to share, about my recent happenings and their respective unravellings…
Recently I met a fellow creative, a siSTAR whose reciprocal admiration had been building through online streams for some time... In other words, we loved each others work! When we met in Peru in person, the air instantly bubbled with beauty, excitement and anticipation! I offered a collaboration, a sharing of our hearts and art, money free, pure and simple - an exchange of celebration. She agreed and we set about planning an extraordinary adventure, honouring The Goddess through both of our crafts and each others bodies and beings. For the first time in a long time, I was going to be the focus of the art form, I was going to be the actual figure inside the image, celebrated, not for what I do but for who I am in my entirety. The possibility of such an incredible experience stirred feelings inside me that I hadn’t realised I had had, and I recognised the ‘medicine’ of our work. The more I attuned to the possibility, the more I began to believe that it was a destined outcome, the more attached I became to the plan. I suggested the most incredible place I could think of... -Vinicunca aka 'The Rainbow Mountains'! I had only seen photos but it looked like a piece of land that mirrored my soul. She too beamed at the possibility, we worked out dates and I set about organising the logistics.
I googled Rainbow Mountains tours, and the first group that popped up was Ayni Tours Peru. I wrote in the customer service box with questions after question, and every time, the kind lady behind the screen named Amanda would respond with a a reasonable and rational answer. Finally I wrote an email explaining our intention to paint and produce certain creations, with links to my work. We needed to know for sure if it would be ok with them to bare breasts up on the mountains? How cold would it be? and whether this was truly possible…?? She replied that indeed it would be, as long as the tour guide didn’t have to be naked also! I assured her that this wasn’t necessary. Our wickedly outrageous idea was being met with the necessary logistics, making it... possible! Without me even realising, my excitement became the glue of attachment. Though confirmation had been achieved by all parties… the morning would reveal a new perspective of this dream.
Upon waking, the wonderful 24years old Creaturess told me that she had 'changed her mind.' Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed, unsure if my upset lay more in not doing the actual project, or in the fact that someone had confirmed a project, broadcasted the collaboration to the online world, and then changed their mind. Questions about integrity stampeded through my consciousness: what exactly was integrity in this case? She was ‘honouring her feelings’ rather than 'honouring her word'… surely integrity must come from within? An honouring of self! Then why do I feel so let down...? There we were, living together in a small house for another 7 days, no where to hide or escape. Disappointed to the core, struggling to sift through my emotions, I reached out to my online networks and received many words of wisdom that helped me understand, be vulnerable and accept 'the way life goes' - it simply wasn’t meant to be for now. I wrote to Amanda, told her of the unfolding, thanked her for her time, and surrendered to spirit’s flow.
A couple of days later, in the midst of a synchronistic meeting with J’aime, a talented Canadian filmmaker with a passion for celebrating Indigenous wisdom, I received an email from Amanda from Ayni Tours Peru. She wrote that they were interested in my work and asked me what would I need to make it happen? Knowing at this point how big an event it is to paint someone into the world, I responded clearly: there are two options, I either paint people into the world on commission, OR I honour my other project, Emerging Earth People and collaborate with Indigenous people through this creative expression to honour our origins as human beings.
Her reply began “This is a stream of consciousness kind of email” and told me that her partner Domingo was Indigenous to the Cusco regions, and that they had a big story to tell about the environment, tourism and 'The Rainbow Mountain’. As I read her email, I sensed spirit’s great plan unfolding and my deep sense of disappointment swiftly transforming into an emotion that words struggle to define, but that evolved into deep deep sense of gratitude.
AYNI means ‘reciprocity’ in Quechua, the language of the Inca Empire and the local language of many from these regions and surrounds. Amanda and Domingo founded their company, Ayni Tours Peru, five years ago in the name of giving back to the local communities from the entourage of tourists coming to ’see’ other worlds. Their teams are made up of people Indigenous to the local areas, and local ‘homestays’ play a huge part in their tour packages. Visits to Vinicunca, also knows as the Rainbow Mountain, had been restricted to only a few local tour groups because that was all demand had required for all of history… until one fateful Instagram post last October. Instantly one stunning image of the Rainbow Mountains went Viral and the world quickly discovered a hidden magical and sacred piece of earth. The people started to flock in great numbers to see the magical rainbow mountains and small unauthorised tour groups from the city of Cusco began to take large groups of people to see the site, leading unconscious brigades of people on one day journeys, leaving rubbish behind whilst literally walking through the backyard of people's villages on the way. Amanda and Domingo continued their work with small groups, and witnessed the calamity of changes as they swept in, scatterings of littered packagings dotted the paths as hundreds of people a day from countries far and wide began flocking in to see the magical mountains - with no idea that their presence was changing this world forever.
Amanda shared this story with me and their desire to bring consciousness to travellers in these regions. My insatiable imagination rippled with possibility, yet again. As my work has developed over the last years, so has my intention deepened - and the opportunity to story tell through art and cross cultural collaboration via Indigenous Wisdoms has become a central focus of my work, and my life. For me it was clear, this project had taken on a life of its own, and had majestically evolved into something so much greater than I could ever have imagined! I shared the news with J’aime, invited her on a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and she jumped for joy at the opportunity! Spirit quickly manifests that which is in flow!
I wrote back to Amanda with our plan to co-create and collaborate, money free, promotion for all, and most importantly, in the name of our shared intention for elevating consciousness about the earth, connecting the visitors to the people of the lands and highlighting our human responsibility to care and reciprocate whilst we travel. Amanda agreed, we set a date and the dream became a reality - Again.
J’aime had to disappear after that day to complete other productions, and so we planned to connect the evening before the date that we were booked to journey to the mountains. the tour guide Domingo was also out and about on tours and was only available to connect the night before the date of our magical tour also. And so, I waited with bated breath to coordinate our meetings, what was needed from all parties and how this was actually going to happen… the night arrived and I trudged down the mountains to get wifi signal. I waited, and waited - and eventually Domingo and I connected. He tells me we need to be in Cusco (1 hr away) at 7am - 7am!? Meanwhile J’aime is no where to be found, not a peep. I tell Domingo OK, and hang up the phone feeling anxious. Although it would be a wonderful thing to paint him into the mountains, without J’aime to document the process, my enthusiasm is halved. Its a huge endeavour! And to be honest, I wasn’t even feeling 100%. I waited another hour and walked back up the mountain, feeling more and more comfortable with cancelling the journey the next morning..
5:30am - Dawn broke and still no word from Jaime. I called Domingo and he answered sleepily… Apologising for waking him up, I hesitantly told him that I had not heard from Jaime and did not know where she was or what to do. The film maker was missing! He replied that everything had been already been booked and we had to go. Again, I simply agreed. I hung up, had a shower, packed my bags and walked down the mountain again to catch the collectivo to Cusco, all the way breathing into surrender and trust.. And then, that joyful familiar trill of a whatsapp message sounded! Jaime was awake and well in a not-too-far away mountain, and just in time to find out that she had an hour to taxi it to Cusco and meet us. I told her we would wait for her, then breathed into gratitude as I skipped the rest of the way to the collectivo!
I arrived, shortly followed by Jaime. I noticed Jamie had packed extra light and asked if she had warm clothes? ( we were going to be sleeping in -15degree!) She had literally bundled herself and her camera out of bed, beanie-less, gloves-less, scarf-less… with one layer of tights on. Luckily in Peru you can buy warm things around every corner for very cheap. “Oh we are climbing?” she asked… “uhhh… yep” I replied. “..About 5000masl!” Jaime seemed to be taking the reality in, meanwhile I was so grateful that she had showed up... We had had very little time to discuss any details - and here we were, traveling directly into The Calling, whilst flying on the wings of trust.
Domingo, his team and the Ayni 4WD minibus soon rolled into Calle Puputi, and began bundling us and our equipment into the car. As we headed off we started to talk about the details of the projects, the climb and the journey, when Domingo suddenly asked, “So who are you going to paint?”. Jaime and I looked at each other in disbelief. “You!” I said. Domingo laughed as he replied, “Oh no no no not me.” My face must have changed from smile, to confusion… “Yes, Domingo - Amanda organised YOU to be painted. She didn’t tell you?” Domingo’s face became very serious as he turned around, faced the front and mumbled something about calling Amanda. Already this journey had been one surprise after the next - already I felt completely surrendered. What will be will be. I had already released the painting of this project so many times, that I wasn’t far from accepting that as a possible outcome. I was happy to be going on the adventure and not have to think about pulling off a rainbow mountain merge at this point! The five hour drive continue with Jaime and I chatting away. Our first stop allowed us to buy warm things for Jaime, have a juice, and stretch our legs. I sat on the step next to Domingo and asked him how his chat went with Amanda? He replied simply - “Yes, Ok I will do it!”. Hooray! A willing Emerging Earth Paintee, man of the land; it was on. We celebrated as we drove the next 3 hours to destination.
We arrived at the stop where we would begin our trek. Our mules and muleteer, Daniel, waited patiently for us. Next to him, a beautiful older Abuela sat with her tapestries and creations laid out for sale. I crouched down and began to sift through colourful hand woven bags, fabrics and threads. She smiled and waited patiently for me to choose. Finally, I skipped down to the team with a couple of precious creations, a full heart and the song of Gracias on my lips. A table had already been set up in the middle of the open terrain, tablecloth and all, ready to serve us warm vegetable soup. Jaime and I were feeling life guests of honour, and graciously sat down to our humble meal. Warm and soothing and light, for as Domingo explained to us, we would need all our energy to walk at this altitude, and too much food would require too much digestion. As the sun beat down, and Jaime managed to nut out an interview with me before we began our trek up the mountain.
The walk was beautiful! The mountains bore down upon us with their majestic colours and the streams of water revealed themselves all the way, signifying healthy earth and abundance. The air grew thinner and the coca leaves we chewed connected us to the earth and gave us the strength to keep going. Meeting locals on the way we stopped, greeted, sat and shared coca together, choosing the best three leaves from the bag and handing them to our new friends. One at a time, whispers of prayers and gratitude were blowed upon the leaves before they met their destiny inside the mouths of humble travellers. Blessings were passed to one another as we all continued on our ways.
Two hours later we arrived at base camp - somehow the muleteers had already arrived, set up a food tent, two tents for sleeping and had almost finished preparing tea and dinner - a beautiful warming vegetarian set made with lots of love. As we ate, we spoke openly of our agreement, our expectations and the art of collaboration and set the tone for open dialogue, and clear communications. After dinner we set up our humble home and settled into the starriest night ever seen, the galaxies above sparkled upon us and our cosmic mission. I showed Domingo an image of a spot I wished to find in the mountains and asked him if he knew where to find it… - he replied to my surprise “China!” Confused, I asked again… and he clarified that the rainbow mountains in the picture were found in CHINA. Literally. We laughed into the evening whilst taking one minute exposure galaxy photos.
We woke up at 4am and headed up the mountain by 5… Apart from two eager people who overtook us and beat us to the top, we were alone in our early morning climb. By the last 20 minutes, our climb had become a slow laborious stride as we struggled to breathe, each step was huge effort. The air thin, and the incline steep, the rainbows revealed themselves more and more with every step, egging us on until finally, we made it to the top! ….What we saw from the top was out of this world. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a place so magnificent could exist. Bliss. And yet, there was no time to waste. The production was on and the sun was making its journey across the sky. Finding the right location wasn’t hard, as every perspective glowed with possibility. Though Domingo had done this climb 100’s of times, this was definitely the first time he would take his clothes off to be merged with the landscape. I felt honoured to be able to offer him a new experience in a place he knew so well.
The moment had arrived. I declared my gratitude to the spirits of the land, the people of the land, the synchronised perfect moment in time, pacha mama and padre sielo. We hugged. I wished him a good journey. He took off his jacket, then his jumper, then his shirt, revealing his bare body to the Apus and to two foreign women who he had only just met. Without a doubt in my mind, this had never happened before in human history! I began to work, as fast as I could, painting him, stroke by stroke, into the glorious magical rainbow streaks of earth, formed over thousands of years, immortalised through this merging experience in one hour! As we came towards the end, I was conscious of not wanting to cut his hands off in my post-production magic - so I asked Domingo where his hands might feel most comfortable, anywhere above the waist. Unable to connect with the question, I suggested he raise one arm as if pointing to a place in the distance, a stance I had seen him take on many times already in the short time we had been together. He raised an arm, but didn’t seem to be able to connect with the movement. It looked superficial and forced, and a shadow formed under his arm. Suddenly I realised if he simply pointed to the heavens, both the energy of the stance and the shadow under the arm would be healed. I suggested that he raise his arm right up, and it worked. Quickly I painted his arm into place, and snapped my picture. We made it! An expedition of the spirit, a collaboration of great magnitude - and we had done it. Quick hugs of congratulation before Domingo hurriedly put his clothes back on. His blue face smiled at the oncoming entourage of tourists, who had thankfully missed the show.
I was spent, needed to drink, pee, and all of the above. After fulfilling my needs I sat - and stared at the magnificent view. I knew that there was one more piece to do - as Jaime, superstar filmmaker, was awaiting her moment. But I needed a moment to breathe. As I took my time, Jaime interviews Domingo about the significance of being painted into the earth. The people had begun to arrive, we were no longer alone. I scoped the space to find the chosen spot for Jaime, and she finished the interview with Domingo. For some reason, I was struck by this beautiful understated greeny-blue space right in between the rainbow land and the black and white striped snow capped mountains. It was the space of sacred transformation, a space of sacred feminine energy. Jaime had wanted to include her grandmothers sapphire ring in the artwork, which looked like she was adorned with a piece of the sky! Somehow it felt right to Merge her with this seemingly understated, poignant perspective where rainbow meets light and dark. By this time, there were many people around! Some stopped to watch; most moved on to the higher perspectives. Jaime bared herself to the shoulders and braved the wind that had begun to pick up. We sang the tunes of the grandmothers as we Merged and sent prayers out to the earth, prayers of gratitude and love for the transformation of life. Half an hour later, painting was complete and I took the final pictures. Our work for the day was done.
It took us a while to decide that we were too tired to explore further, and eventually realised that climbing back down to camp to rest was the most tempting option. To our surprise, it was still only 10’oclock in the morning - but we were completely spent. As we walked back down, hundreds made their way up, marvelling at the blue faced people by my side. Most travellers were on foot and some on little horses that struggled to take their heavy human loads up the mountain. The view was spectacular the whole way. Between the thin air and the picturesque mountains, my breath was taken again and again. My feet carried me back to camp but my heart fought to stay, to explore a land that mirrored my spirit... All the way I promised that I would return, one day.
Jaime and I collapsed as soon as we made it back to camp. Our sleepless night, coupled with the biggest expedition of our lives had taken its toll. We basked in the warm sun and memories of what we had just accomplished. Eventually sleep evaded us, so we sat together and shared feelings, stories, coca and cacoa until dinner time. As always, treated like princesses, we ate delicious food and the air was filled with gratitude. It had been a super special day, one that none of us would ever forget, and that the whole world was going to share soon.
After dinner we played under the galaxy again and made light art, writing our names and making pictures with my LED light and long exposure until the cold bit so hard we retreated to bed. Jaime and I agreed that the first night had been one of the most painful experiences ever - freezing cold, and so so uncomfortable! Having only just met a few days earlier, we hadn’t reached a ‘spooning' point in our relationship yet - but now, our life-changing day coupled with the icey night found us easily resolving to stick to one other like glue for the entire night. and it really really helped!! Its amazing what 48 hours in the mountains can do for a relationship! I managed to stay warm for most of the night, the dreams flowed and the morning didn’t come a minute too soon.
When I woke, the lake was frozen. I wondered how little ducks we had seen the day earlier survived the frost? Even the cacti had furry jackets to protect them from the cold... Hot cacao and eggs warmed us up before the sweet walk back to the bottom of the mountain. It had been an exceptional experience! First class service from all ends, exquisite teamwork, magical energy and final products that are sure to bring magic into the hearts of those who have forgotten… We revelled in our experiences the whole way back to Cusco. Domingo left us at the restaurant for our 'included lunch', to be taken care of before we made our respective ways back ‘home'. Big hugs and grateful acknowledgments were passed, and promises of footage to be shared were declared- we bid each other farewell with anticipation of post-production creations and final works to share.
Each of us came together with our own project. Me, with Emerging Earth People, Jaime with her Indigenous Documentary and Ayni Tours Peru with their project to Protect the Mountains. Each of our projects weaved into one masterful collaboration that will take us further with our respective projects - but ultimately, each project’s intention was and is the same: To honour the earth we live upon, to respect the people of the lands we visit, and to re-member ourselves as pieces of the earth, children of the gods, family of creation born to collaborate and work together.
I send these blessings out to ALL of you who have chosen to read this LONG blog!!
Thank you for sharing this journey, your energy is felt and means a lot. May your days be met with magical synchronistic meetings and may we all remember to TRUST the great plan and see our goals as ’structures of possibility’ rather than outcomes we need to achieve! As we surrender, she weaves her magic into our lives with grace, humility and the most unexpected, unimaginable perfection.
WITH SO MUCH LOVE AND GRATITUDE,
Today, the 11th May, at 11 o’clock I will go and meet with the other 11 women who I am about to spend 11 days with on retreat with the sacred medicine ayahuasca and a powerful shaman, a Shipibo woman from Pulcalpa, a place far away in the hills of Peru.
Yes, I am nervous. Im not sure if its nervousness about the medicine itself and what it will reveal to me, or simply a sudden anxiety about spending 11 days with 11 women whilst drinking medicine. In any case, I have chosen this path by investing a significant amount of money to participate. The choice was mine, and now - here i am. No turning back.
Its been an eventful couple of weeks (months, years..!) leading up to this point. Having recently posted a Bored Panda article (online media of 'interesting people doing interesting things' publication with 20-30M reach/day) , relatively absent minded to the consequences of putting my images out to the masses, I have been inundated with media requests and invitations. Totally amazing! I even got picked up by channel 7 and starred on Sunrise one early morning last week in the Blue Mountains! (Check it out here). It's been fun to be a superstar but overwhelming considering I needed to prepare to jump on a plane to Peru 2 days later. The logistics of living without a home, preparing to leave without a return date whilst receiving the biggest exposure possible via National TV in the country that I was leaving, has been altogether - insane.
I left Australia at 12:30pm on the 8.5 and arrived 12 hours later in Santiago, at 12:10pm on the 8.5. Longest day of my life. But that wasn’t the end… I had another 6 hours to wait for another 4 hour flight to Lima. Grateful to see the little Peruvian grandmama waiting for me at the airport with a sign that read, “Welcome to Peru Orly”, we trundled ‘home’ and I slept for the next 24 hours - enough time to recoup before my next flight to Cuzco.
Now sitting here in The Sacred Valley of Peru, I feel somewhat displaced, that familiar feeling of having ‘just moved’. The hills, the apus, are familiar - but I have changed. Truthfully I didn’t feel ready to leave Australia, projects have been going well and so has my work Painting People into the World. I am relieved to think that I can return on my pre purchased return ticket in September to honour Spring bookings and hopefully receive the government grant to support Merging with the Earth: First People project. On the other hand, I know this moment with transform and Peru will warm again as time goes on - last time I was here, I wanted to stay forever!
This is it. I am about to go offline and enter a very intense session of healing work. I have chosen to go deep into this experience to get clarity about the direction I am to take with my work from here on in, to clear old 'stuff' that holds me back from expansion and to heal and understand some health issues that have been plaguing me since I arrived back in Australia. Ready or not, this is it. Spirit I trust you! Hold me and protect me as I grow.
To all my friend, family and fans around the world, I feel you with me always. See you on the other side.
Love Orly Faya
The Biosphere Foundation and the ship MIR. 2015-2016
I travel through the night and arrive in Singapore whilst its still dark. Gaie awaits my arrival at the lobby, and greets me as a sister would. I feel like we already know each other even though we just met. We are buggy carted to The Mir, the 105 year old ship that is to be my home for the next 5 weeks. Captain Laser welcomes me aboard as my heavy overpacked suitcase is lugged on deck. I am tired but excited. Six months ago, I was invited to join The Biosphere crew to honour their work in the world and celebrate our connection to our planet by painting them into their world. My arrival felt like a dream become ‘reality’, and as I crawled into my bunk for my first nights sleep, I disappeared into the mystery of wild sailing adventures ahead, grateful and satisfied.
I awoke on Christmas day - the sails still needed to go up so we decide to delay our exit from Singapore. That night, family members of the Singaporean shipmates joined our christmas dinner. Sitting on pillows on deck, our faces glowed under the full moonlight. We feasted on turkey with cranberry sauce, potatoes and broccoli and the vibe was of family, love and humble beginnings.
Sailing Singapore to Bali - 10 days at sea
As we pushed off into the sea, my moon cycled into flow. Impeccable timing a.k.a. a fucking disaster. Pain permeated my whole body as the ship began it’s rock and roll… A day passed and we arrived at immigration in Indonesia. Thick black smoke bellowed from the immigration boat whilst papers were passed over sea via fishing nets. Permissions were granted. Our crew filmed the black layer of oil on the surface of the water as we sailed away. Meanwhile, a headache started to pound to the beat of my creeping nausea. A squall set in and the rain washed us into submission, the team came to life with exuberance as Laser thundered his orders upon us as only a Captain on a ship knows how.. By the end of the next day, my headache had washed away. Gaie and Laser began to share their story with me, 30 years working in the realms of conservation, education and environmental connection, and the original ‘Biospherians’ from Biosphere Two. Biosphere Two was the world’s largest scientific enclosure, a $200 million dollar experiment funded by Ed Bass, a white sheep philanthropist from a family with an accumulated oil fortune. The multi million dollar initiative was born to mimic the earth itself as a research institute, set in the desert of Oracle, Arizona. Gaie and Laser lived inside for two years, breathing air only from within and eating food only from what was grown. The experience that ended in a savage armed seize for reasons mysteriously unanswered, set the foundation and life’s purpose for Abigail Alling (Gaei) and Mark van Thillo’s (Laser). As I listened to them share their story with me, I began to awaken more and more to the gravity of my presence their on The Mir, that through painting them into the biosphere itself, we would be expressing their message in the most direct visual way, honour their story through my paintbrush.
As the days went on, planning ensued, and meetings were had. Each person within our 10 piece ship ensemble was assigned a vital and significant role in the execution of our upcoming unprecedented production. It was finally decided that Gaie and Laser were to be painted naked into the sea and the ship whilst sailing through Indonesian waters. As usual, I agreed to the plan without knowing how I would be able to do it and prayed to Spirit to support me in seeing it through! In the meantime, life on the ship continued with our voyage to Bali only halfway there, 4 hours shifts cycled between the crew for helming, deck checks, and meal preparations, and the starlit sky guided our way, through the deep sway of the nights. The weather rumbled with anticipation for a choice had to be made on which day we would create. A gamble, in pure faith - we chose. We prayed to the mother for stillness on the chosen day so we could express our love for her and then we surrendered in trust and respect; I asked them to trust me, trust her, and they did.
The day arrived, I awoke at 4:44am to meditate and pray before the Merge. The sky was dark excepts for a trifecta of light. Mars, Venus and the moon gathered in a perfect isosceles triangle, symbolic of the unification we were about to honour between the people, the messenger and the almighty. I breathed it in and sat in stillness, inhaling trust and exhaling prayers of gratitude. Eventually i made my way to front deck to meet the crew. Gaie and Laser were ready and prepped in their sarongs, and Qi, our camera man was waiting to be hoisted up the mast to install the go pro for the time-lapse footage. As they leveraged him up, Gaie and Laser and I huddled together, arms around each other, to give thanks, honouring the essence of the creation and joining our intentions for the healing of the planet and humanity. The world became lighter with the dawn approaching and time beckoned us to begin. Hair was woven into plaits, gelled back, sprayed white and left to dry, positions were taken, marked out and secured - heads faced the same direction and hands held one another at the meeting point of the flag pole whilst feet sunk into the deck. A path of sea stretched out before us, and the stillness of the water affirmed the perfection of the moment. The Merge had begun.
The next four hours that ensued were holy. Our synchronised purpose revealed the magic of teamwork and Spirit kept the world still and peaceful whilst we worked. Our shared message was reborn through our hands, our hearts and our Art, to be told forever through the works created. As the heat beat down, the speed at which I needed to paint began to take its toll.. after about 3 hours my head was spinning and I needed to keep myself from blacking out. Breathing consciously until the dizziness past again and again. Meanwhile, Gaie and Laser seemed to be blissed out on the sparkles of the sea, with barely a quiver and certainly no complaints. Strong as the 105 year old ship we sailed upon, their legs solid, connected and merged held them in place as I painted straight lines of the decking on the curves of their steady ankles.
And then, without warning, we were done. Photos were painstakingly taken whilst the sun glared against my camera screen, and I squinted and struggled to see whether I had got the shot..! Within seconds of me declaring the word 'OK', the Biospherians had jumped off the edge of the boat with no second chances offered; paint was released from its body-bound form whilst the blessed two baptised in the cool baths of the gods.
My job was done.
Ever grateful for the unique experience with the Biosphere Foundation, for witnessing the difference that a small group of people can make in the world when they follow their heart, take risks in life and live integrally with purpose to the calling.
Life is full - creation, erosion, rebirth exudes my every movement...
Having been back in Australia for less than four months, I am blown away by the enormity of everything that has happened. Learning how to stay balanced within myself as I fly from the highs to the lows, savouring everything in between for the lessons both obvious and unseen.
- At times, not much else to do but give thanks to spirit (spirit: the molecular level of energy [i.e.everything] that connects ALL things; thoughts; ebbs and flows and ripples), for all the guidance and support that I receive - unbounded, unconditional extremes of relating that continually teaching me how to delve deeper into love and acceptance. And so life is a showering of reciprocal blessings… whether circumstance seems ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There is a continuum of experience and for sure, things are never what they seem.
Collaborations Festival: Big Thank You to Arlene, Ned and little Kashali for inviting me to paint in the 4th year of their amazing magical festival. It was undoubtedly one of the most grounded and open hearted festivals I have been lucky enough to be a part of. Spirit had it from the start. Minutes after confirmation came through, I ran into Adam and Mellow, a beautiful couple that I met and played with at Bush week… Standing in lifeline, chatting about the outcomes of life’s mysterious unravellings, Mellow told me that she had just received a cancellation in Bali and was now coming to Collaborations without a plan. Adam being super magical with a camera made us a complete team and spirit birthed the eventuation of the avatar vision for Collaboration Festival. What happened in Collaborations was beyond our wildest dreams, with Mellow becoming more and more spectacular as I layered her with new skin… Live Body Painting of Sacred geometry had a deep impact upon us and those who watched us. It brought to life the sense of us all being on a spiritual journey - out and about to discover our own inner magical creature and mathematical perfection of our soul… Yes indeed this was a perfect piece :) Crowned with Mellow’s own exquisite headpiece creation, skulls and feathers alluding to our insides and outsides whilst the blue sky body of the avatar, and the overlaying threads of sacred geometric lines spoke of the space in between the physical and non-physical worlds. Collaborative practice cannot be undermined. Working together is the recipe for alchemic transformation of ourselves; and humanity at large.
As with all faery tales, the joy of success is not the whole picture, and it seems that we must wade through life’s breakdowns in order for lessons to be revealed. Without wanting to fail twice, I am cautious about how to tell this story, a story about one woman feeling exposed and exploited through my work - an extremely painful outcome that stretches far from my intentions - and yet points to a discrepancy in this process worth examining. Whilst I do not want to add to the feelings of exploitation by sharing this story from my perspective it feels important to share what I have learnt:
A few weeks ago, I met this beautiful woman. She has autochthonous (better word for indigenous) lineage and I felt connected to her from the moment I saw her. I was both excited and tentative to tell her about my project here in Australia because of the intimacy of it, the honesty and trust required for it to come about authentically, and the sensitivity of the issues between original and introduced Australians.
Despite feeling confident of my intentions, my anthropological background gave me perspective into the sensitivity of this work against the backdrop of Australia’s bloody history. I felt sick to the stomach at the thought that I could and most probably would be grouped into “white Australia”. I do not relate to the culture of anglo mentality; I have eastern european/israeli jewish background. I have barely lived in Australia throughout my adult life and for as long as I have known the dirty details of Australia’s history (conquer, kill, attempt genocide, effectively give up/fail, give money to make everything better, and largely sweep the situation under the carpet), I have only felt less and less a part of this story. It is not uncommon for me to feel like stranger here in Australia, amongst Christmas carols and “Australia Day” bbq’s. And yet - it cannot be denied, I am white - I was born here, in Sydney - The first time I met an Original person was in high school, where there were two originals out of 600 students, about half of which were from various Asian countries. 13 years travelling around the world and living in continents of every corner, sitting with the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich, I do not wish to be grouped into any category. I am a human, on earth, trying to make my way, my intention is to serve humanity and the earth as much as I possibly can - but I am a human - and there is no doubt that I must feed myself first in order to feed the world.
“The Spirit of Oz” highlights the significance and value of non-financial exchanges. It is a way of making this experience accessible to those who cannot afford to pay whilst allowing me the opportunity to create something meaningful whilst I live here in Australia. It is a simple exchange. Art for Art. You can either pay me for the artwork and its entirely yours - or you don’t pay for it and its yours to enjoy and mine for all intents and purposes. For me, this is like maths. The finished artwork becomes my property - my art, for the purpose of sustaining me and my life so that I continue creating projects that serve the earth and humanity. As money is just another form of energy, one that the world recognises with ease, selling my art is how I intend to continue making it...
Undermined by this discussion of money is the reality, that of a far deeper exchange between myself, the one I paint and the rest who see the work, than money could possibly offer. The energetic exchange of body painting is powerful and I imbue my brush strokes with intention of well-being and abundance. Those who get it, shower me with blessings for my life and I feel the blessings ripple back and forth. It is hard to express quite how profound a gifting ceremony this process can be and has been.
Here in Australia, I have encountered a different experience; aka ‘a big fucking mess’. Indeed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions...
So, what happened…? in short: I didn't manage that the paperwork was read and understood, nor were my release forms signed before we began and completed the work. I wasn’t clear as clear can be. Work was done, confusion was met, trust was broken and everyone ended up feeling shit. Of course there are plenty of wonderful details to this story but I won't bore you all with that...
Despite having to rubbish one of the most powerfully stunning and magical pieces… I have officially learnt a few extremely important lessons that I wish to share:
Lesson #1. Do not rely on people to read paperwork! I must be accountable for people understanding what this is all about.
Lesson #2 - Read documents out loud to ensure clarity and chose the images together for behind the scenes social media posts.
Lesson #3. State the value of the money-free exchange so people understand what they are receiving. ** Even magical faeries who live as humans have to eat…
Lesson # 4 - Add cancellation clause in contract.
It has been a painful and very important round of lessons. I stayed in Australia because of distinct vision to connect with the original australians and paint. I have dived into the fire as I tend to do and entered a very complicated and sensitive arena of Australia’s people, the historical-to-present relationship and dialogue between white and black. I feel like half the issues are lying dormant because people are not talking about them and so I invite conversation in this area... Better we learn how to engage through respectful dialogue and discussion rather than silence ourselves for fear of saying the wrong thing. This is how we grow to understand one another and heal.
Having been burnt, and run out of steam for now, the project is on hold while the ash settles and lessons solidify. Many other wonderful things are in the making and its important to focus on what we want to create.
As a fiery faery, Its not easy for me to be still. It never has been. I have always been a frenetic spirit, darting like a firefly from here to there to everywhere… I have grown to understand that I must harness this energy if I wish to expand in the ways of my dreams that are so enormously huge. And so here I am, ready and willing to embrace the settled life for a time.
I arrived in my old home of Mullumbimby a few days ago, a place known as the biggest little town in Australia. Once upon a time felt like home, once again, …could be. I am going to stay here for a while, grow some roots, connect to the land and myself. Blessed to be welcomed back by dear friends, old acquaintances from the streets - feels like family. Staying in a little caravan thanks to Avichai and Sarah, I enjoy my moments playing with their magical 3 year old son ‘Khayam’, (meaning: existence), brings joys to my every moment whilst reminding me how wonderful it actually is that I still have time to myself… Grateful for what is.
Last week was my birthday, a celebration of my own existence. I got an opportunity to acknowledge a pattern that has run through my life - moving too fast for my own good. Born in a flurry I smashed my way passed my mum’s pelvis and covered my head with big bumps and bruises before I had even begun. I feel like I have been racing my way through life for some reason and now, 31 years young, its time to slow down. All the goodness of life must be savoured in order to be felt. I have had the biggest year of my life and its time to sit with it all… and breathe it in. Digest the journey and consolidate my being-ness.
For my fellow seekers, travelling the path of exploration, integration and self-reflection; Asking the questions: “How can we connect to ourselves even deeper; see ourselves in each other; and celebrate the earth through everything we create in life?”.
May we learn how to talk to one another, see truth through the experiences of one another, and bless the process of growth no matter how painful it can be… Life is a constant process of hurting and healing. Nothing more and nothing less. It is perfect in being imperfect. Moving on, letting go with love, and opening our hearts to infinite possibility. Life’s too short to hold on to anything.
Blessings of peace to all.
As with all great adventures, the winds of spontaneous and mysterious perfect flow are guiding my way. Painting the Spirit of Oz, has transformed into an expression of ALL Australia’s people - The rainbow of beings from all over as well as the original custodians of the land who were here for thousands and thousands of years before us. Together we teach and learn about our sacred connection to nature and how she can sustain us forever if we maintain respect for our origins and live sustainably and harmoniously.
I see people painted into the land everywhere I go. I think "obsession" might be the right word here. Unfailingly blown away by the beauty of the human form combined with the beauty of the earth and the infinitely unique compilation of each piece I paint. Every moment changing every second - the magic of the creation born through triangles of energetic collaboration. And of course, painting on bare bodies is an honour and a very intimate way of connecting. in its rawness it cannot escape being intimate - and this comes with trust, gifting and blessings. It is the dance of energy within trusting spirit.
And so it is that I am putting the message out to all that I am offering to paint Australia's diverse and eccentric and regular people who will share their story with the world.
The questions are:
Where would you want to merge with? (map location)
What does it meant to you to be connected to this land?
What is your Australian Story?
What do you want to share with the people of the world through your story?
“Painting the Spirit of Oz” is ALIVE.
A production guided by the same principles of “Creation’s Calling”; Collaborative creative and meaningful activism. Aimed at capturing the essence of Australia, through the people who live here, the lands we live on and from - and ultimately the connection that we have to the land. This project is a book, a documentary, a festival and most definitely a self-propelled quest to learn and discover my own connection with Australia - the land where I grew up, yet simultaneously the place that propelled me out into the world of worlds as soon as I was old enough to fly alone; other worlds which welcomed me as family and taught me even more about who I am and where I come from.
This project is an ode to the coming together of old and new here in Australia. A celebration of cultures and an acknowledgement of the existence and development of rainbow culture, myriads of ways all united in honouring the earth that birthed us, and gives life to all we know.
Nature has all the metaphors to help us understand this crazy world. There is a perfection and an order to all this seeming chaos. Sometimes we just need to trust, regain faith, and receive direction from spirit within the stillness of listening, observing and keeping an open heart.
Up here in the Daintree where the forest meets the sea, I have learnt much. I have looked to the Strangler Figs to understand life, referred to as ‘parasites’ as they wrap their embrace of coiling arms around other trees, relentlessly growing on top of the old, wrapping and encasing the tree underneath with intricate swirls of suffocating love until… it dies. And all that is left is the beautiful structure of the Strangler Fig - hollowed with the memory of what was before, retaining the existence of the old tree in the empty spaces. The new is undoubtedly a combination of old and that which “took over” and nature is harmonious and non-judgemental in the recreation of life. The old and the new seamlessly dance the dance of attachment, release, and new life - the cycle destruction and creation is undoubtedly natural and perfect. Life is continuous, we break down and we re-create. Ultimately, we have to let go for nature will be dancing either way.
I have much to look at from the horizon of my world. Its a 360 view, past present and future merge. After an exciting time driving 4500 km form my debut exhibition in The Dandenongs of Victoria all the way to Laura Aboriginal Dancing Festival, to painting at Bushweek, to filming and documenting coconut tree climbs, painting new lovers merging in the white tree that stood in front of the black granite rocks of Black Mountain, to abandoned resorts in the Daintree being run by as eccentric escapee from the anglo-woes of Sydney… towards another booking to paint at Collaboration’s Festival (http://www.collaborationsfestival.com)next week, a collaborative Showcase with RAW artists (http://www.rawartists.org/orlyfaya) in Byron Bay on August 28th followed by a PEACE DAY/CREATION’S CALLING #2 event hosted at the lush gardens of STARSEED (http://www.starseedgardens.com), a collaborative festival day of Earth Devotion. A new home awaits me in Northern NSW… I am currently manifesting it and looking forward to settling in for a while as soon as we meet.
Turning 31 at the end of this month signifies a time for me to take my visions and lessons and plant them with care and love, respect and patience. It is time for me to nurture myself as I do my projects and learn to be still as I write the story of stories, trusting in spirits perfect flow and the majesty of endless time and space. There is much to do in this dance of life but sometimes progress is as simple as stillness. Manifesting a little cottage in the forest for a magical faery with much to do... Stay posted... much to come.
“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” ― T.S. Elliot
With my heart open, vulnerable and pumping and alive,
Having ventured far and wide all over the world for the last 13 years, truth be told, I have never been wooed about living in Australia. Perhaps its my lack of resonance with anglo culture... or maybe its simply the fact that the world is all too delicious and beautiful, RAW and ALIVE! In discovering humanities depth, colour and richness, I have discovered myself and my purpose as a human being this round of life… So, when I landed back on Aussie soil a few months ago, to put on my debut art show, I had planned to fly straight back out to Austria to teach in the World Body Painting Festival in Vienna. But new inspiration unsuspectingly hit home and a hypnotic vision was born. Plans change with the ebb and flow of life's spontaneous breath - and I trust spirit as my guide.
Now, having completed the hugely beautiful and successful debut event of Creation’s Calling (creationscalling.org), with one week left for my debut exhibition, I have officially begun a new and overwhelmingly inspiring project… "The Spirit of Oz”.
When friend and master artist, Sioux Dollman, invited me to come with her to Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place to build and render two Australia animal sculptures with the residents, a mix of young indigenous men on criminal probation and drug and alcohol rehabilitation, I jumped at the opportunity! This was the perfect place to start getting acquainted with a world I have never known. From the minute we arrived on the grounds of the converted Ron Ron Prison, I knew I had landed a unique opportunity to connect with the very real worlds of Australia’s first nation peoples.
Wulgunggo Ngalu is an offshoot initiative of the Department of Justice. Whilst indigenous Australia make up only 3% of the total population, they account for 30% of the prison population, an ongoing disproportionate representation that lead to the Royal Commissions enquiry into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, a fact that continues to present disturbing revelations into Australia’s ‘first nation' situation. Today, the issues of the past reverberate into the new generations being born. At Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place I met seven young ‘Koori' men from lands all over Victoria. Ranging from 20 -31 years old, each had at least 2 children, most were married, some had been there before and some were there for the first time. There convictions ranged from car theft, to supply, to domestic violence and each one battled with some form of addiction, either to ice, alcohol or marijuana. Simultaneously, these seven men had big beautiful open hearts, were respectful, committed to their recovery in varying degrees, and willing to talk about their lives with me - a white jewish artist they had only just met. Their stories were explicitly connected to their largely unspoken genocidal history here in Australia. Most of them did not know much about the worlds that their ancestors came from, their parents had avoided those kind of conversations, and they expressed feeling embarrassment growing up as indigenous kids. “It wasn’t cool” Pauly explained.
Each one had been given the opportunity to come to Wulgunggo Ngalu to heal and reconnect to themselves to the land and their cultures, and find space to integrate their new learnings into a new life. As I listened to Shaun Braybook, the manager of Wulgunggo Ngalu, describe the intention and focus of this magical residence, forgiveness and self love jumped out as the qualities that necessitated change and transcendence - and 70% of these men succeeded to transform their lives through the facilitated process offered by Wulgunggo Ngalu. This supportive journey, however, lay in contrast to the very real issues of life outside in the world of family, history and mainstream attitudes… Whilst the men were inside healing, the women were alone in the homes with many kids to look after, addictions of partners and parents remained and workplaces maintain a right to refuse criminal history in work placement. The obstacles are huge and the individual’s ability to go beyond the odds requires the highest level of will and determination.
Ready to dive into the Spirit of Oz, my vision has become rather gigantic…
Though the initial vision was painting First Nation Australians into their lands all over Australia, I now understand that this project within a project is the “carriage" for creation, and only one aspect of expression that will make up a Festival called “The Spirit of Oz” , an opportunity for us to connect and reconnect to each other and the earth, the history and the future, through creativity and collaboration. A true celebration of today’s people here in Australia and quite possibly an annual gathering of the tribes of all colours, a collaborative gestation and rebirthing of Australian culture, remembering who we are and our connection to the earth in the name of a sustainable, loving, compassionate and all encompassing magical future. I am officially inviting all interest, especially from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to get involved and join me on an adventure of a lifetime - rather than fight the world that is, lets create the world we want...
Many roles available including social media, accounts, PR, promotions manager, creative inclusions.
More info coming soon - interested should be sent to email@example.com
Painting has always been one of my favourite things to do and is definitely one of the most important activities for my wellbeing. When I paint, my breathing slows and a sense of peace and calm overtakes whatever babble is circling my mind. Something inside me lights up and I become whole again.
My body painting journey began five short years ago, when I was inspired to expand on my face painting adventures after seeing the work of fellow Aussie body painter Elena Lieu. I was stunned by the awesomeness of it and wanted to know more... My admiring comments on the posted Facebook image was met with Elena's encouraging words to give it a go. Woah! Really? I started researching body painting and discovered some of the biggest names in the industry that were to become mentors for me later in the journey; Craig Tracy, Johannes Stoetter and Emma Hack. Naturally, inspiration exuded from every body painted image I saw thereafter and nothing could stop me from diving head first into the body painting world! I was hooked before I started.
And so it began.
Rocking out with my first set of body paints, I painted everyone and anyone who was willing. Some of my first works are still my favourites and became favourites amongst the online world too.
Everything changed when I landed my first camouflage job only days after breaking up with "the love of my life". I discovered a new skill, to disappear people into oneness with everything.
Its been almost two years since that time and much has happened as I continued my journey around the world... keeping myself busy with my creations, merging myself with the moments I breath and practising gratitude for my blessings.
I worked very hard from cafes all around South, Central and North America to single handedly put on my Debut Exhibition in Victoria Australia. Last weekend was the opening. It was beautiful and momentous and the first of many I hope. I gave a short talk about my work and recorded it for all of you who couldn't make it.
I have a new inspiring vision to begin here in Australia, and it is bigger than I almost dare to dream... but I think a little rest in required first. When there is no distinction between work and play, it is easy to become a workaholic - i have discovered. It is time to consolidate my learnings, have some fun, breathe, smile, dance and relax. Stay posted for incredible things to come.
Love light and gratitude.
Here at the airport on my way back to Costa Rica after the first of 12 blessed months-to-be of 2015 ... What a journey! I knew before I arrived here in Guatemala that I wasn't going to be satisfied with a measly 10 days, and ended up changing my flight to the end of the month before the week was up. Immediately welcomed by my new lifelong friends, Ginou and wolf, I spent my first week at their place. It didn't take long for me to feel anxious and lost, as I tend to when I arrive in a new place. Some things never change. But once I established my purpose to paint people into the world, I became settled into extreme busyness. Ginou described me as a bee with fire shooting out of its ass... And it seems that this might very well be my natural state. I buzz with endless creativity and I don't chill out easily so i have been practising balancing my days with meditation and yoga. Gandhi said "I'm such a busy man that I have to meditate twice a day" and I totally resonate. In order to juggle all these projects and visions whilst travelling with my home in a bag on wheels, stillness is my best friend. Those small glimpses of eternal silence and calm existence instil me with a sense of connectedness that is required in order to keep going... With intentions to make some money I secured a gig painting a wall at a sweet motel! After three days of negotiations, agreement was made and I arrived with all my bags, not expecting him to cancel the agreement after it was made! Things tend to work out for the best, and his guilt lead him to give me a free room for the week... And what a lovely room it was! :) super blessed with good fortune, I was then offered the best room in San Marcos which was something like living in a lighthouse or a boat. A platform glass house on the water, I watched the rainbow sunrise from my bed every morning and only had to open a door to be welcomed by bellowing volcanoes that overlooked the magical lake Atitlan. An experience I will never forget, those two weeks in that room were filled with creative inspiration! A beautiful woman named Vanesa had asked to shoot some pics of me, and having somehow gathered an incredible collection of handmade clothes that somehow matched my mystical bedroom, we played dress up and recreated the scenes made only in dreams. Two camouflage paintings where created, and deep meditations were shared. And because spirit is very generous, I house sat my beautiful friends Faery house for the remaining three days of my time in San Marcos, whilst they went to the rainbow gathering. Walking through the small streets of that town could end up being a whole days excursion of socialising with the beautiful people... Eating tamales and tostadas was heavenly, so cheap and so good, imbued with the love of the women who fed us every day. I had intentions to go to different places, see more, travel etc... but in the end I stayed in San Marcos and got to truly feel the vibe of that one town. I created seven artworks in total and performed my poetry at three events, sharing parts of my heart never share before. Each experience with its own story, lessons and memories... I have climbed a few mountains in vain and accepted the spontaneous change of plans, allowing magic to happen through the unplanned synchronicities is worth each and every supposed breakdown. Learning how to flow is one of my greatest lessons.
I will never forget January 2015 on the magical lake Atitlan that rises mysteriously 3cm a year and holds the secrets of ancient Maayan culture. Surrounded by volcanoes, no doubt this lake has bubbled and boiled once upon a time long ago. One of the volcanoes fumed many times a day, and bellowing smoke could be seen from across the lake whilst I painted. It's seems there is always more In this world that I have not seen or experienced, more to enrich my mind and heart and soul. My gratitude for this life is overwhelming. Every single being I have met has enriched my experience in some way, as is always the case. Whether through alignment and resonance or insight and reflection, each person offers me the opportunity to grow. It is always our choice whether we receive the lessons presented to us. Practising trust and discernment and walking the tightrope of self love and humility is central to the happenings of this story. This is indeed a never ending journey of spiracular growth and I am so honoured that creative collaborations shower my trail of adventures. I continue unquestioningly in my callings paint, to merge, to reflect, to write, to travel and to connect deeply with those who are ready and willing. Indeed like a bee with fire shooting out of my ass, I continue to buzz with excitement and enthusiasm for the possibilities of this life.
Now as I fly over Guatemala back to Costa Rica, I prepare for another adventure of painting and presenting in three festivals over the next 6 weeks whilst doing my by to organise my debut exhibition in Australia for May. So much to do, I breathe in every moment, one step at a time, trusting that my drive to create and inspire the world is worthy of all my efforts. Tomorrow I shoot my crowd funding video and begin my campaign to support me support pachamama. Looking forward to including you all in this process of creation. Together we make a dream of life. Remember to ask for what you need, spirit is looking out for each and everyone.
16 years world traveller, internationally recognised award winning body painter with a background in Anthropology, Orly delves deep into the enquiry of what it means to be a human being and ceaselessly expresses her art whilst following her heart. Nowadays, specialising in mimitism (camouflage), Orly's current expressions are a moving living creative and expansive entity that represents her passion for re-merging humanity with the earth from which we came, sustainable conscious living, healing the sacred feminine as we learn to respect our mother earth and advocacy for balancing commercial gain with global and local contributions.