The Indian Summer Festival Society smartly summarized its objective when it invited applications for the second year of its Artist as Healer program. According to the website, the project “creates the space and resources for artists to come up with remedies against despair and potions for joy”. Today, the society announced the winning applicant: artist, herbalist, and vocalist Alisha Lettman.
“Over the next 5 months, Alisha will bring together youth, seniors, and healthcare professionals to consider the role that South Asian traditional knowledge has in climate change adaptation,” the society states on its website. “This interdisciplinary project brings together medicinal plant knowledge, diverse music and art traditions, and land-based learning.”
According to the society, Lettman’s work “seeks to dismantle systems of oppression on an embodied level while stewarding systems of liberation and pathways for healing”. She’s now artist in residence at the Medicinal Garden at the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre.
Her ancestry is Jamaican on her father’s side and Sindhi on her mother’s side. On the society’s website, Lettman declares that the Artist as Healer project is “deeply needed in our modern world”.
“Artists translate the essential spark of inspiration and express truths that to be impactful, must be socially responsible and appropriately contextualized,” Lettman says.
She also cautions against addressing current ecological challenges with “rigid, hyper-individualized roles of the past”.
“Through this project, ways of healing and truth-telling emerge rooted in interdependence, traditional ecological knowledge, and cultural knowledge,” Lettman states. “Facing climate change, one of the most urgent threats of our times, we practice ways of engaging with the health of ourselves, our neighbors, and the land, knowing our health is deeply tied to the health of the natural world.”