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ENGAGING ARTISTS FELLOWS

Yemisi Juliana Luna: Changing Perspective Via the Power of the Moon

“I really live in a constant state of trust. I ask to be surprised all the time.”

Juliana Luna’s workshops (pictured here, pre-pandemic in Rio de Janeiro) encourage participants to develop a relationship with their own bodies, through movement, meditation, and self-reflection, in order to honor the energies of lunar ancestral guidance reflected in each individual. Photo by Olivia Nachle; courtesy of the artist.

By 2024, NASA plans to have landed the first woman on the moon under the auspices of the Artemis program. Named after the Greek goddess of the moon (and of wild animals, the hunt, and chastity), who is also the twin sister of Apollo, namesake of NASA’s previous lunar expeditions, the mission will explore more of the moon’s surface than ever before and serve as a crucial jumping-off point for sending the first astronauts to Mars. One giant leap for womankind, indeed!

What does this new journey mean in a social context? The poetic undertones are apparent — a convergence of ancient mythology and contemporary thinking played out across the landscape of a long-standing symbol of the feminine — but tapping into how to utilize those frankly cosmic connections seems murkier.

Enter Yemisi Juliana Luna, a multidisciplinary artist, yogi, and teacher, whose creative practice is grounded in a form of spiritual and physical pedagogy, self-described as moon wisdom through a Brazilian Yoruba perspective and an African-centered framework for self-awareness. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and currently based in Brooklyn, Luna created the Aluna Method, a system for holistic understanding of our emotional bodies through a lunar perspective. Her mission is to empower women through movement, ancestral awareness, and intuitive knowledge.

Photo by Gessica Hage; courtesy of the artist.

“The Aluna Method is a framework for self-awareness that’s centered in African and lunar knowledge,” she explains. “Through ancestral support, I help people find a sense of remembrance of who they are. The full framework is connected to the moon, so it’s a lunar system that acts as a tool to help people identify limiting patterns, really giving people an opportunity for liberation. The philosophy I use is the philosophy of my ancestral lineage, which is the Brazilian Yoruba philosophy,” the lens through which collective perspectives are mapped and shifted. The Aluna Method sees the moon writ large as a counter-balance to the forward-trajectory-only, patriarchal, imperialist way of thinking and living that disdains other, older forms of knowledge; its cyclical pull encourages turning back, rest, reflection, and replenishment. “More than anything it’s connected to intuition and the unknown, and it allows us to embrace that unknown,” she says. “I teach that we are more in-tune with nature than we think, as it is a reflection of us.”

Luna was one of More Art’s eight Engaging Artists (EA) Fellows for 2020. A two-tiered fellowship and residency program for artists seeking to both develop and sustain their public art and socially-engaged practice, the EA program curriculum encompasses a professional development series, public art commission opportunities, mentorship, and peer networking. 2021’s EA cohort was just recently announced.

Through stand-alone and multi-part workshops, incorporating readings, creative writing, meditation, music, and movement, her practice empowers the next generation of women, particularly women of color, to be confident in where they come from and the stories they’re meant to tell, as discussed here, in conversation with Jules Rochielle, Engaging Artists Artistic Coordinator, in the fall of 2020. Luna’s responses are excerpted below, lightly edited for length and clarity. Since speaking with Rochielle last year, Luna has launched several more online classes and workshops —all based around building out one’s spiritual toolkit — including most recently a 4-week course on reclaiming inner cycles through the power of the moon (this series is menstruation-inspired, but a period is not required). She is also currently working on an educational program with More Art that will engage high school students in the creative exploration of the power of ancestry within their own narratives, using the upcoming Artemis mission as a conceptual and historical point of reference.

Photo by Olivia Nachle; courtesy of the artist.

Juliana Luna: I have been navigating these challenging times by putting my work out into the world; organizing; categorizing; juicing up my methodology to teach people how to see the world through the lenses of my ancestors, the Yoruba people that arrived in Brazil through the process of colonialism and slavery in the 1600s and 1700s.

These last couple of months have been really productive for me. I realized that it was an opportunity for my work to be expressed in its totality and in its completed state. I have been holding back and only showing parts of my work here and there, and also kind of doing it on the down-low, so only people that knew me or had direct access to me would be impacted by the work. Now, I’ve made a complete shift. I turned around and I said to myself, “This is the opportunity for more people to know about what you do.” I’ve seen what I do impact the lives of many people that have been in contact with the work previously, so I know that it can be a very transformative experience for people.

I just want more people to know about what I do and how I see the world as [a way of] incorporating a different perspective into their own realities, which goes along with the idea of diversity. I think this pandemic has taught a lot of us a very good lesson. A lot of us are living this very narrow experience that is dictated by work or a culture that doesn’t really have our best interests at its core. A lot of people found themselves questioning their presence and how their impact in the world has been made.

These conversations around diversity and different points of view and perspective have been surfacing a little bit in the past couple of years, but I feel like now it’s louder and louder. This narrow view thing, it’s being forced to be expanded. We can look at the world with a much more diverse lens ourselves and understand that everything that is here represents that diversity. We just have been indoctrinated into a different story.

Photo by Olivia Nachle; courtesy of the artist.

My work is related to really bringing forth the idea of a diverse perspective that is specifically ancestral. It belongs to a group of people that have a civilization, that has a philosophy, that has a technology. That technology is very much connected to nature and to the ways of the Earth in a natural, organic, cyclical way. It informs us — the beings that are now starting to remember those very distant memories — that there is another way of living and there is another way of looking at things. This is what I feel like I’ve been excited about lately, to share what this other perspective is, and to honor my ancestors through that sharing of that perspective.

I’ve been taking Everything is Medicine as a study group course. I’ve been learning from Maestra Olivia. She is one of the most kind and beautiful people that I’ve encountered so far in this study quest that I’ve been on. The way she teaches is very much connected to the way I see the world as well. It has many correlations with my own ancestral philosophy, which really has led me to understand that the people of the Earth — the indigenous people — were very much in harmony with the kind of knowledge that everything in nature is here to teach us and to heal us and to talk to us about the stories of the ones that came before us. We can honor that and move forward in a much more supported way, honoring the rituals and the ceremonies that are necessary for us to keep evolving as a community of beings on this planet.

It’s been really great because I’m meeting wonderful women and wonderful people there that are also invested in sharing their gifts with the world through this perspective — it’s not really the one that we are all used to, but it’s also the one that is natural to us because we’re all craving it. We come together in this group with Maestra Olivia as the teacher. We realized that all that wisdom, it’s been vibrating and trying to communicate with us. It’s ancestral work.

Luna’s practice draws on her Yoruba ancestry; workshops are grounded in Yoruba philosophies and cultural signifiers, called up to create new rituals related to the moon phase. Photo by Olivia Nachle; courtesy of the artist.

The way I am putting my work out there is through social media and through my website. I put together a whole website where I’m offering classes and they are paid classes. People pay to be on this journey with me because that’s also a way for me to maintain myself, my living costs. People come on these four-week-long journeys where I teach them the very, very beginning of what this system is and how this system can support them in their own self-discovery journey. Then through those four weeks, we dive into this learning process where at the end, they know how to use the tool. The tool is based in lunar knowledge; it’s wisdom.

I really am trying not to [move] too far away from what I’m experiencing now, just because things are so uncertain and everything is changing a lot, like border access to different countries is limited. If I wanted to go back home, I could, but I don’t know if I can come back and I have a whole responsibility here. So I’m trying to be really close in my timeline. I’m trying to be really close to the day of today.

I have someone that helps me with my operations and we work as a unit and it’s been really great because I feel supported. I feel like if I set up a certain goal or set up a certain expectation, I have someone that is there to help me move towards that goal, towards that expectation, even though I’m not really good at holding expectations and plans. I really live in a constant state of trust. I ask to be surprised all the time.

Photo by Olivia Nachle; courtesy of the artist.

I feel like what I really want for my next steps is to be able to bring about an artistic practice that is connected to my work that has much more of a performance quality. I want to be able to use my body, to use elements that connect to what I’m teaching to do performance, to do video. I would like to do that in nature as well — but because right now I live in New York City, I haven’t been able to go to much nature — and have someone with me to record. So that’s what I’m now trying to figure out: how do I make that performance piece come into the mix? I also want to categorize the work, organize the information. Maybe put it in a small archive, like a book — but a book sounds so robust — some kind of written catalog material that can help inform my practice and give it a stronger written quality.

Read more about the 2020 and 2021 EA cohorts and follow More Art on Instagram to stay up to date with their projects.

To learn more about More Art, visit www.moreart.org.

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More Art is a nonprofit organization that supports collaborations between professional artists and communities to create public art and educational programs that inspire social justice.

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More Art

More Art

More Art creates thought-provoking public art projects and educational programs that inspire broad discourse around social and cultural issues.

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