MEKDELA MASKAL

IN THE EVERYDAY

I met Mekdela through the sometimes beautiful Internet, and I have to say, while my feelings about instagram are conflicted, I have been connected to some truly amazing women there, who have become friends, collaborators and allies.  I'm so grateful for that and for this worldwide community of people sharing stories and supporting each other's work in the world.

Mekdela is a media activist and researcher.  She was born in Northern California but has been in New York for the past seven years and is currently in residency with an organization called Mama Hope.  She is also an artist and photographer, and the images in this story are her own ❤️

In Mekdela's Words ...

ON LIFE'S WORK AT THE MOMENT

I'm enamored with the way storytelling and digital literacy can change lives, for better and for worse (it changed mine). Most of my work and play stems from this interest. Whether it's focused on equity within the human race or our relationship with the earth.  

I'm gearing up for a trip to Tanzania this summer to partner with a few incredibly inspiring grassroots organizations that are leading their communities in socially and environmentally sustainable health and educational initiatives.  I'll be collaborating with them on supporting their self-actualization efforts by building indigenous-led media narratives and digital storytelling tactics.


I do marketing and tech work for impact-oriented businesses as well. That could include, photography, project management, creative consultation, copywriting, automating systems, or all of the above. 

I'm also working on some personal multimedia pieces about my experience with the western gaze - hoping to gain the time and confidence to pitch them soon. 

ON THE WESTERN GAZE...

As a child, I found myself sensitive to, and inquisitive about, the preconceived notions, assumptions, and ideas that were constructed about me, by others, and then widely distributed via movies, "news", magazines, etc. I was more familiar with people telling me who I was, than asking me. This was ever-present in the public sphere, but not at home. Reconciling these vastly different reflections of myself was a daily feat.
I realized how debilitating the gaze could be. Especially if one didn't ever have a safe space, and instead digested the stories of themselves as truth. I studied Media and Culture in undergrad while also starting to share my family photos, and taking my own. I didn't quite know what I was doing at the time, but looking back, I think I was reckoning with sensationalized news vs. othering within "art" vs. my own family history. The latter being completely absent from public dialogue. Which is why I think I received such overwhelming surprise to my family photos. It shocked me, because this history isn't rare. It's erased. 
 

ON STAYING GROUNDED

Scheduling my time to connect with nature. Staying in tune with the energy flows in my relationships. Actively trying and learning new ways. Getting out of my mind and into my body. It's euphoric for me when all of these practices intersect. 

BOOKS THAT HAVE CHANGED YOUR LIFE

So many at different times in my life....
The Bright Continent, by Dayo Olopade
Widow Basquiat, by Jennifer Clement
Big Bang, by Simon Sing
The Untethered Soul, by Michael A Singer
Most of Teju Cole's words
and so so many more . . . 

STAPLES IN THIS LIFE 

I only have a few, but the ones I do have are very rooted. 

Oiling is an important one. My mom always lathered herself with oil after a bath or shower, and did the same to my brothers and I when we were younger. She would alternate between almond oil, lavender oil, or use a mixture of many depending on what we could afford. It brought us such calm and connection to our bodies. I still embrace the ritual.

Also meditation, yoga, and breath work. Although, I didn't make the connection between these words and what I was doing until maybe 3 years ago. My mom and dad just had different practices to shift energies when needed, and I would follow suit. When mom was feeling low or ridden with doubt, she'd breathe in and out, deep and slow. Then, she'd raise her hands above her head and yell happily. My brothers and I would giggle as she'd finish and tell us to join.

My dad would take us on long walks or hikes with just a blanket and some snacks. He wouldn't keep us occupied or talking, we'd just walk, sit, lay, or swim in silence for hours. There are so many other examples of these practices that I keep close and intertwined in my daily life.

And one more, trading clothes. My high school friends and I always traded clothes with each other, and went to goodwill or alike stores after school to trade-in clothes there. Best clothing routine in my opinion! My boyfriend's sister organized a clothing swap in her community upstate, and I'm so excited to attend. I wish shopping and connecting this way was more common than buying new. We have enough clothing on this planet for everyone and their current and future children for generations!

 THANK YOU FOR SHARING THESE BEAUTIFUL WORDS + YOUR BEAUTIFUL WORLD