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Conversations with Neena Massey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Neena Massey.

Hi Neena, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I am a performance artist. My art background is in Middle Eastern and South Indian dance. I’ve studied both since childhood. I am now combining my life’s dream of being an artist with my life skills as a Montessori educator to create spaces of healing and transformation for individuals and groups experiencing emotional distress from past trauma.

In my previous career, I worked with elementary children. I taught Montessori education and performance art in a dynamic social justice school called Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios in Denver, Colorado. The school’s teaching philosophy was based on the Chicano Movement of the 1960s. Working there for 15+ years taught me much about community organizing and social activism as learning models for the classroom.

In my new career, I work with adult populations individually and in small and large group settings, utilizing a variety of artistic expressions to emphasize healing and transformation.

Raven Speaks is my performance art moniker. My art practice is composed of classical South Indian dance (Bharatnatyam), Middle Eastern dance, and Urdu poetics. Through language reclamation work, I intend to transcend cultural perceptions through linguistics (neenaexpressions.com/education/language).

As a first-generation Pakistani American, my performance art engages traditional South Indian rituals and ceremonies with poetry, mantra and meditation that draws on diverse languages and cultures. I generally open each space with a sacred Indian dance from the ancient Balasaraswati dance lineage and a self-written Urdu poem, translated with the help of my parents. This opening is designed to welcome audience members and guests.

Neena Expressions

With respect to the greater community, I combine my skills as an educator and performance artist towards creating spaces to address emotional wounds, both individually and communally.

I allow my intuition, imagination and prayers guide me towards gentle, intuitive art practices. My intention is to create healing in the body, mind and soul, documenting my process in an interdisciplinary method, which takes form in live presentation, writing, photo and video.

Through integrative work, I create spaces of individual and collective healing in order to amplify the potential for trauma recovery, thus unlocking genuine self-awareness and potent self-transformation.

We heal better together.

An example of this type of project is demonstrated in a gathering I host annually called, “The Community Gathering.” This consists of a live event and includes artistic expressions, narratives, interviews of participants, original artwork, goals and outcomes of the live event. Mostly it encourages connection and inclusivity within the gathering and in times between the gathering. This event is always open to the public.

The vision of this project stems from my graduate work and thesis (2017-2019), which inquires about healing and transformation from trauma and displacement.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Around the time I began pursuing my Master of Fine Arts – Interdisciplinary Arts degree in 2017, my beloved school where I worked closed down due to economic reasons. I also began a high protein and weight lifting program. Within less than a year, I released 40+ pounds. Then I developed autoimmunity that greatly affected my joints and mobility. Perhaps the harsh weight loss plan that was recommended to me by a personal trainer and friends on myfitnesspal.com put too much stress on my body‘s internal operating system? Everything about my previous lifestyle that was familiar and comfortable ended abruptly and I have since then experienced different levels of pain, mobility issues and other complications of autoimmunity.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
My work has become an intentional practice of engaging my new life challenges with my art practice. My research in graduate school led me down a path of seeking the connection between autoimmune illness and unhealed emotional wounds within individuals and as a collective.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Hindsight hasn’t been 20/20 because a lot is still unknown, except that I know and believe I can heal naturally and that the answers are found within. I’m also extremely grateful for my graduate experience at Goddard College from 2017-2019. My advisors worked with me as my health issues progressed, and helped set me on a new path. Special thanks to Devora Newmark, Jamie Figueroa, Jupong Lin, Seitu Jones and Sharon Siskin.

Since I’m currently experiencing autoimmunity, I’ve been carefully examining all the steps that brought me to this place. In many ways, I see what happened as a gift. The gift of autoimmunity has taught me to be more aware of others with autoimmune illnesses. It reminds me to slow down, pay very close attention to how I’m feeling, which has helped me understand how stress levels, mental health, and emotional health need to be in harmony (most of the time) for my physical body to feel well. I’m developing powerful tools to deprogram from harmful emotions, learning a new way of being, and re-teaching my body and mind to mobilize harmoniously and in ways that feel completely different than anything I’ve known before.

Now I have a renewed sense of purpose. My art used to rely solely on aesthetics prior to graduate school. It has now become a healing practice for me and something I’m excited to share with others. To learn more about my journey or to tell me about yours, please reach out. Let’s explore healing and transformation together!

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Neenaexp John Mauser Rachel Abel Danny Setiawan

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