Berlinerin of the Month: Indrani Ashe
Indrani Ashe, originally from Winston Salem, North Carolina, US, has been in Berlin for three years. Originally in Europe to complete her graduate degree, she settled in Berlin post university because of it’s widespread and supportive creative community. While working on her own individual projects she created the monthly writing course Spoken Word Sisterhood to empower other women to push the boundaries of their creative writing skills. Get to know March’s Berlinerin of the Month:
What drew you to Berlin?
I came here after I did my MFA at Goldsmiths, University of London. A number of us were not EU citizens and weren’t able to stay on in London after 2 and a half years. The UK got rid of its post graduate visa a long time ago and the government made it difficult and expensive for employers to hire foreign graduates. It was kind of highway robbery, selling an expensive international art education without the attached network. One of my friends, Shannon Lewis, suggested that all of us move to Berlin. The art community here would allow us to keep in touch and keep up with the European contacts we made in school. It’s a little more cost friendly, and we could get artist visas here. We were also working on an art project together; a web series called The Golden Brown Girls.
What led you to begin The Spoken Word Sisterhood?
Last year I had exhibitions in Berlin with 3 new bodies of work: The Golden Brown Girls, the show I created with my friends from Goldsmiths, fiftydatesofgrey.com, my London dating vlog, and ICUCM3. All three projects contained a lot of performance and writing. It’s an important part of my practice. One evening I invited some women for an artist talk about fiftydatesofgrey.com, and quite bizarrely a celebrity from my research on dating and sex blogs was among them, Lena Chen. In case you don’t know, Lena wrote one of the first wave of sex blogs in the US about her experiences at Harvard. It was Lena who introduced me to Kara Johnstad, the owner of the School of Voice, saying that Kara was looking for someone to teach a women’s writing class. I was thrilled because it was a chance to put all my artistic practice to use in a way that would benefit more people. During my interview I spent 3 hours in a sunny café performing a verbal intimacy ritual with Kara and then revising the course description of our class until it spoke to the heart of our vision. That’s how the Spoken Word Sisterhood was born. We started holding weekly classes in October 2017 and added the Writing Sisterhood this January.
What are the Spoken Word Sisterhood classes like?
The class is about writing as an act of empowerment. I want to create a weekly space for reflection and expression. The social structure of the class is also a source of support and inspiration on the journey. The students and myself learn so much from each other, whether we are collaborating with each other or performing for each other. I see people grow immeasurably in two months as they learn to own their story and explore inner worlds. After each session we have beautiful new work and new tools which we can apply to rejuvenate our writing practice. I collect the best pieces for publication in our zine at the end of the course. We will be ending our spring session in April and will start 2 new 8 session courses in late April. It’s easy to reserve a place. All you have to do is email the School of Voice.
What other projects are you working on?
I am working on an exhibition that opens March 17 at SOMA Gallery in Kreuzberg. It is called “My Goddess gave birth to a Goddess”. I will be performing as the goddess and showing a series of paintings and digital collages. The project is about a goddess I created to save me from a world of cultural capitalism riding high on commodified bodies and cultural appropriation. While she tries to infiltrate the system with her icons and psychedelic pin ups on display, she will also propose a more optimistic role for the gallery by performing rituals of intimacy and connection throughout the run of the show.
What do you have in the works for 2018?
After my show I will be designing the 2nd issue of the Sisterhood zine and promoting the next Spoken Word and Writing Course. The zine is cool for now, but we’re going to start performing at open mics together, and I’m hoping to curate our own performance night in the fall. I also want to open up a writing class at the School of Voice for teen girls. Even so I still have a lot of my own writing and artwork to attend to. I have half of an artist book and piles of unedited footage from post Golden Brown Girls collaborations on my laptop. Another version of the Goddess is already haunting the periphery of my thoughts as I create the show. I can get elated by progress and possibilities, then the next thing I know I’m overwhelmed by the number of projects in process. I try to stay positive and take one step at a time, although there’s nothing deliciously satisfying like finishing new work.