I spent the week creating with friends from around the world. We used as our source material letters, videos, and documents from my grandfather’s journey throughout the second world war and his subsequent emigration to Canada. He lost his entire family and then spent the post-war years becoming a dentist in Europe. Upon his arrival in Canada, he was denied to work as a dentist and told to recertify which he failed to do, not knowing the language and having to work nights. This caused him great sorrow.
They kept all of the letters that detailed this struggle. It was like a tomb that I found in my grandmother’s dresser. I have felt throughout the week a deep and raw connection to going through this material, to the point of losing my voice. It is as if I need to go to the bone to get at the emotions and memories that the family tried to survive.
One of my good friends and colleagues has spoken a lot about ancestral healing. I know that this has been a central premise of my artistic and psychological work, both for myself and with others. I think that the more that we can put our fingers in the soil of the past, the more it allows us to move forward. A lot of people come to therapy and one of the initial statements is that they do not want to go back. I respect that, but I often feel like it is some kind of resistance against the richness of what one has inherited but of course a deep acknowledgement and fear of the pain.
The iconic image of the tree comes to mind. Our relationship to our past, our attempt to gain knowledge and swim in our ancestors’ lives, is like the tree’s roots digging deep into the ground. This allows the tree to sway in the wind or when necessary, withstand terrible storms. It is not helpful for us in our lives to not have strong roots, life’s experiences will display these brittle connections or to put it differently, these are the moments when he have no choice but to go back in time and be curious.
I can say that I am amazed at how this journey of discovery never ends and seems to just get deeper and deeper.