Women of Wednesday: Tasha Ceyan on Spiritual Archives and the Terrors of Our Social Terrain

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a weekly micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

Tasha Ceyan, 30, Artist, Scholar, and Spiritual Archivist (California)

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

I’ll be starting my third and last year of graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute, where I’ve been pursuing a dual-degree in Studio Art (MFA) and Art History (MA). I completed the MFA portion at the end of this past semester (Spring 2016), and will be spending this last year (2016–17) writing my thesis, Glimpses. It’s based around developing the concept of the Black Femme Vitale as it relates to intersectional, -faith, -cultural, and -textual materials. I’ve structured my thesis writing to lend itself to full book form, and to potential Ph.D programs geared around both religious and African-American studies ( YALE! *cough, cough. Just putting it out there). 
 
 Through my studies, I’ve cultivated a spiritual-ethereal practice informed by intercultural and interfaith forms of thinking and doing. I see myself as a spiritual archive and archivist, rather than just as an “artist.” Art is a means to read into the archive I’ve inherited as a black, queer, femme-androgynous being, but mostly what I’m interested in is being a conduit/medium/psychic and turning art (visual, sound, literary and performance) into sacred spaces that allow me to be a channel for the non-fleshed beings in our midst all the time. Glimpses functions as a script and as a schematics for my thesis performance. It’s also text that will help me cultivate a space for blending theory and performance along the lines of faith, race, culture, gender, sex, and sexuality.
 
 As a conduit — and activator of — more ethereal and conceptual matters, I’ve lent myself to numerous collaborative works in the past two years, including Blank Map, a work featuring an all-black, all-queer cast of 5 artists. I also participated with Otobong Nkanga/Matrix 260 in her work, From Where I Stand: Constellations at the Berkeley Art Museum, as well as with Jaleesa Johnston in her work, Monument to 6%, both at SFAI’s Diego Rivera Gallery and at Qulture Collective for the Spirit Zine release event curated by Yetunde Olagbaju and Jade Ariana. I’m currently working with Guta Galli on separate Orisha-informed projects. Guta and I will perform a version of her latest work involving the orishas Oya, Ellegua-Eshu, and Shango at SOMArts in early September.

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

YOU ALREADY KNOW. We live a world that scorns certain kinds of wisdoms and powers, particular those derived from femme, queer and brown-skinned origins. This is a magical time-space, informed by a deeply femme power that most of us have been consciously severed from. I’m working my way back into those eternal folds and cultivating an unabashed practice of walking that walk, talking that talk. There is an active antagonistic energy hellbent on destroying everything that I come from and stand for. To speak and walk as I do — to be as I am — means I will face and have already faced violences that range from the sensational-spectacular to the insidiously mundane. White and Black hetero-patriarchy, anti-blackness, anti-queerness, anti-androgynous, anti-variety all work against me, and can kiss my “unnatural” ass. Freeing myself from the internalized nonsense and doing what I know I need to do has been an arduous and deeply rewarding process.

3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?

Sustained effort, collaborators and guides, enough space to work, faith in myself and the powers/energies looking after me, and unfortunately a lot mo’ money. Dealing with these antagonisms is exhausting and really takes a physical and emotional toll, so working despite not feeling up to it is probably the most important thing. That kind of productive habit which is divorced from any kind of “happy” motivation. The knowledge that it’s in my best interest to get up and do it even when I don’t wanna is vital in staying productive. It helps me get through the lows that come by navigating this social terrain and its longstanding hazards.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

Gimme some money, gimme some space. Work with me. Collaboration is MY JAM, as is doing what I can to put other dope folks on. I’m building my online presence as we speak. I haven’t been terribly into the social media stuffs that you whippersnappers are all about. My inner curmudgeon resists, but I’m in the midst of changing that. In the meantime, I’m on the ‘gram as @tashaceyan. Follow me there, and I’ll keep you posted on my works and other online profiles.

5. What is your favorite quote?

I have so many favorite quotes, but if I have to choose one it would be, “work with what I have.” It’s a life philosophy and an inheritance made all the richer by the knowledge of the severest forms of restriction and denial. Some call it “ghetto,” I call it “resourceful.” I’m of the belief that there’s always enough for you to get to the next stepping stone, and that it begins with self-belief, even and especially despite the terrors of our current social terrain. It’s important to have a consciousness of resources, which ought to always include oneself and the non-fleshed presences and energies who are eagerly available to us at any given moment.