The Power of Art and Spirituality in Healing Injustice

I have a lot of respect for the clinical, scientific fields of psychology and psychiatry. In fact, when I first left school, I went to Uni thinking I’d become a clinical counsellor. . What I found instead was a system (and many practitioners, not all) that was deeply unequipped to heal or empower marginalised people, especially BIPOC. . And so instead I made the decision to publicly practice the intuitive, healing, ‘spiritual’ work I’d been doing privately since childhood. . It wasn’t easy, and like most ‘model minorities’, my parents would be much happier if I were a financial planner or a lawyer. . It’s challenging in the wellness industry itself too, because I treat my work like it has a clinical framework - I’m forever studying, poring through medical journals and history texts and completing Professional Further Education on trauma, child protection, human rights. I regularly get told that this is 'boring', 'unnecessary' and 'low vibrational' by other spiritual and wellness practitioners. . In the beginning, my white, middle-class clients tended to have trouble with my business model too, forever asking ‘why don’t you do tarot readings at my hens party?’ or ‘hey, predict my future!’ because to them, spiritual work is a kind of fun, sparkly escape from reality. Whereas in my culture spirituality, storytelling and healing mahi (work) is part of ‘real’ life as much as eating food or taking a bath. .

I realised: When an auntie needed strength to get out of a violent relationship, she didn’t go to the police that would likely brutalise her and her partner, she’d speak to another wise woman. When a BIPOC girl was struggling with breakouts, she didn’t go to an expensive dermatologist who would tell her that her natural skin was ‘bad’, she’d go to a sis who made her own herbal remedies. When I was processing deep trauma, I found no help in the Western medical model, only harm. However I DID work through and transform into a strong powerful wahine with astrology, tarot, korero (storytelling), romiromi (bodywork) and plant medicine.

When my autistic friend needed to understand his diagnosis in a way that didn’t make him feel like a broken monster, he found solace in the stories of our ancestors who had a respect for every type of brain and person. When I was recovering from disordered eating, I did it through being immersed in artworks by women, of women, of all sizes and shapes and skintones. . This shows you why art, spiritual practice, and storytelling are so powerful and essential in healing injustice especially among marginalised people. When the coloniser-based clinical systems and institutions have historically been unsafe, unwelcoming, unprepared and even dangerous, we have created our own doorways into healing, empowerment, accountability and wisdom. . I totally understand why things like tarot reading or astrology are dismissed; because there are absolutely practitioners out there who make things up on the fly, know nothing of their history or whakapapa, and see these arts as simply another party trick to assert their own specialness. (There are just as many delusional and dangerous 'spiritual' practitioners as there are absolutely bonkers clinical therapists). Which is fine, it can be done very well on that level for fun and special attention if that’s your thing! . But also, for many of us who work through these mediums as a tool of decolonisation, therapy, trauma-healing, this work is deeply sacred and done properly, with ethics, study, education, accountability and cultural respect. . When you engage with a marginalised person’s mahi, whether it’s a tarot reading or a massage or a piece of artwork, you’re doing so much more than buying a nice treat for yourself - you’re becoming part of a revolution.

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