Connecting with nature is essential to help us heal ourselves and the planet.
This was one of the many messages that the Lotus Princess Guardians took away from the 3rd Edition of the Tounché Global Consciousness Summit in Tulbagh on November 30. The word tounché (Pronounced /toon-shei/) means shift in the Yorouba language of Benin & Nigeria. The project aims to forge deep connections around the world to create an international community that can manifest healing and change.
The Princess Vlei Forum was invited to send young nature-lovers to the international summit. Six learners and one teacher assistant from Lotus High went to the event, with two other Forum members and Priscilla de Wet, a Khoi cultural activist and teacher from Primrose Park Primary.
The summit aimed to offer participants an opportunity to interact with and learn from top healers, activists and facilitators who shared wisdom and real-world experiences, aimed at restoring the harmony between humanity and nature. Attending the event were a mixture of international thought-leaders, wisdom keepers, global experts, spiritual visionaries, healers, storytellers and meditation teachers representing the diversity of the African diaspora and the world, as well as several members from local NGO’s.
'It was a day of new experiences for the Lotus Learners. As Nicole Anthony remarked, ‘There are so many people involved and I didn’t even know that there are so many things that the people are doing… it’s actually a big thing, how you can connect with nature…’
The program opened with an interview with Simon Jongenotter, originally from THE Netherlands but now the Chef/co-creator of Zest Ubud, the food at Bali Silent Retreat, food forest custodian and founder of the New Earth Cooking School. All the Lotus Learners were very inspired by his philosophy. In the words of teacher assistant Curtley Fortuin, ‘I enjoyed Simon’s speech about how he would collect everyone in his work place and make them all happy, and see if someone is sad, or someone is angry, and then everybody help that person in the workplace, and that really was interesting because a lot of bosses won’t take that interest in a worker … “
Curtley was also inspired by Simon’s message to connect with your inner child. ‘when Simon was talking about finding your inner self, your little wild child self, because that child was free, and that child didn’t care about what anyone else thinks Because now that we are grown up, we always think about what other people think … that’s why if we find our inner self we will be more free and carefree about anything and we will still be mature but we will be less worried about what other people might think
Simon’s talk was followed by a panel discussion with Annette Muller, an international model turned Green Witch; Portia Dianne Lee (USA), founder of DBA Day Seven Wellness Center, a non-profit wellness center focused on providing our global community with access to proven and practiced strategies helping to heal and contribute to the human collective’s overall emotional and spiritual wellbeing; and Melissa Bartholomew (USA)Racial justice and healing practitioner, Racial Justice Fellow at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), and an Instructor in Ministry at HDS, Doctoral candidate & part-time faculty at Boston College School of Social Work.
The panel spoke about the need to heal the inside and the outside, and to re-establish our connections with the earth and each other; and reflected on the deep woundedness inflicted on the natural and human world by colonialism and racial injustice. In the words of Portia Lee, ‘If a land has no collective atonement the trauma is still in the body and in the world. When something happens that trauma can be triggered.’
After the Panel discussion, the group from the Princess Vlei Forum was invited to say a few words. Bridget Pitt spoke about the history of Princess Vlei, and the intersection of painful historical narratives rooted in the space, and the ways in which the Forum tried to use the space to bring healing to the community. Damica Fortuin said ‘I am a member of the princess Vlei Guardians, well I basically realised that people fail to recognise how we neglect nature, the guardians help to minimise pollution, we clean up the vlei, we plant.’
Nicole Anthony said, ‘Princess Vlei really showed me how important nature is and also drew me closer to nature, and helped me to accept nature… because not many people see what we see, in the way of how important nature is. So we try to get Princess Vlei to be how it was in the beginning and show the importance of the birds and animals at Princess Vlei. So we are the custodians of nature, and we are the guardians of Princess Vlei’s future.’
Curtley Fortuin reflected on his own journey, from a young boy who cared nothing about nature and would kill snakes for fun, to becoming a nature warrior. ‘In grade 8 I met an interesting teacher, Mr Isaacs, who drives us all and drives the school. I got punished, and he said I must go work in the garden for two weeks, and that changed me. I saw two of the most interesting birds, I saw a pintailed wydah, and I thought, wow, this is different, because where I come from, we don’t see that, because I grew up in the kind of Ghetto area of Cape Town; and then I saw a Southern double collared sunbird and that was the most beautiful bird I’d ever seen. Then I was asked by an environmental organisation called CTEET to be an international ambassador for them because of the work I’d done at the school and the trees we’d planted in the community. They paid for my studies to go and study nature conservation. So now I love nature.’
People were very interested in the project, and particularly taken by our t-shirts.
Next on the programme was a poem performed in isiXhosa by a member of the #Langaformen, a group dedicated to combating gender based violence by working with men and boys. This too had a very profound impact on the Lotus team. In the words of Damica Fortuin, ‘basically they were saying that they would never abuse women and women should be respected, so I think for us young girls, we should discuss how we should be treated, and we should respect ourselves, and see how men are supposed to treat us, and stand up if we see someone getting abused don’t just keep quiet.’
The morning ended with a healing session, lead by Silfath Pinto (Benin), a mindset reprogramming and energy healing practitioner. Silfath also made a deep impression on the Lotus learners. Jody Maans spoke about how she enjoyed the breathing and movements. ‘There’s a lot of stuff to take in in our lives … and the stretches and stuff that she showed us, like the morning stretches, that’s how you release it.’
Jae-Lee Marthinus was touched by a technique to put your hands on your heart to shield it from harm. Reflecting on how she could take this knowledge into her life, she said, ‘if I get into and argument with my friends, I will just lay back and cover my heart with my hands.’
After lunch, there was an interview with Gary Dourdan (USA), a highly acclaimed film and TV actor, artist and musician who turned his back on a celebrity life to reconnect with nature and his ancestors. Gary spoke about the need to cultivate lightness. Curtley Fortuin found his input extremely inspiring. ‘When Gary talked about how his daddy wasn’t rich or anything and then from a car wash his daddy became a multi millionaire and that really took me in because it shows you can do anything. I also loved Gary’s life story as well, and about how he still connects to his ancestors and still speaks to them and connects to them, and how he connects to earth. That also really inspires me.’
Gary’s interview was followed by a panel discussion with Catherine Constantinides (South Africa) International climate and human rights activist, Archbishop Tutu African Oxford Fellow and Mandela Washington Fellow; SARAH COLLINS (SOUTH Africa Inventor, CEO and equality innovator, Fortune Magazine’s Top 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, Oprah’s African Heroines, Fair Lady’s prestigious Woman of the Future Award and 2019 Forbes Africa’s top six wealth creators on the continent ; and Thebe Ikalafeng (South Africa), Founder & CEO Brand Leadership Group, Founder & Chairman Brand Africa who has worked on over 100 brands across Africa, and has been to every country in Africa.
Gary then delighted the group with a musical performance. Damica Fortuin said, I loved this one song that Gary was singing, called “God is a woman” … its basically showing that a woman is independent and a man actually needs a woman … a woman … she nurtures you and she feeds you so its basically showing that a man needs a woman to be successful. People think a woman is weaker than a man but women actually have the real strength.’
Speaking afterwards, the Lotus learners reflected on the message of the need to connect with nature, not only to save planet from environmental destruction, but to save ourselves from mental distress and depression. Nicole Anthony said, 'we need to connect with nature by planting more plants will make you more connected because now that you have planted this plant you are going to look after it because you planted it so that actually means a lot to you ... you put it into the ground to be part of nature … and cleaning up because, the dirt and stuff, nature don’t want that and we don’t want that for nature; and we can connect by talking to to people about nature, give them advice and tell them what nature has done for you … so that they can also connect to nature and see the importance of it …and just sitting there and looking at the plants.”
Curtley reflected that connecting with nature can get more difficult when you get older. “It’s very funny also how when you’re younger you connect more with nature even though you don’t know anything about nature but when you grow older you start to disconnect with nature even though you know so much more about nature… you want to connect, but you don’t have that connection you had when you were younger and you didn’t know what nature does for everything … so that is really interesting.
He felt that people can connect with nature from the inside by learning about and ingesting healing plants, rather than turning to drugs to make you feel better.
The day certainly brought many shifts these learners, and to all of the Princess Vlei team. We would like to thank the organisers and sponsors for giving our young nature guardians this remarkable opportunity. Read more about the event and the project here: https://www.tounche.com/south-africa-20
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.