Portraits of Strong Girls, Ferocious Women, Warrior Activists and Epic Elders, by Photographer Lisa Levart
By Photographer/ Visual Artist Lisa Levart
As a photographer, working at the intersection of the women’s movement and earth based spirituality; I have met powerful women who walk through life with a deep connection to nature, fierce integrity and a relentless determination to stand for environmental and social justice. During these dark, turbulent times, I look toward these women and hope does return.
For the past eight months of the pandemic, I’ve also kept my spirits up by working on a new project; Goddess on Earth: ORACLE, a deck and guidebook that features portraits of strong, independent girls, ferocious women, powerful warrior activists and epic elders.
One millennial included in this project is Kiri Laurelle Davis, a filmmaker; social activist; a change maker; and an artist with a mission. We made her Goddess portrait in 2017, and she chose to portray Oshun, the Yoruba Goddess of sweet waters and beauty. Oshun, she said, is a benevolent river Goddess of love, abundance, and femininity. She personifies self-love, self-care, and unapologetically knows and embraces ones worth. Oshun clearly resonated with her.
In 2005, 16-year-old Kiri directed a short documentary film entitled, “A Girl Like Me.” Kiri used her film to explore the standards of beauty being imposed on today’s black girls. This powerful, award-winning film underscored the negative toll Eurocentric standards were having on African American young women, harming their self-esteem, self-image and fundamental self-worth. To accompany her portrait, Kiri wrote:
“Oshun is noted for her beauty, which I feel goes beyond skin deep. I know the beauty in my reflection represents a rich culture of strength, creativity and brilliance. My blackness is beautiful to me because it symbolizes a fierce determination and perseverance. It depicts my own style, grace and a regal beauty that stem from my own distinctive and unique roots. I come from a people who have been exploited, enslaved, dehumanized, stereotyped and continue to rise in spite of tremendous obstacles.
Creating “A Girl Like Me” helped me develop a newfound courage and understanding when it comes to beauty and self-love. Like Oshun, who represents beauty, love and art, I have found a loving strength and confidence in myself.
I no longer look for others to affirm me. I affirm myself. I define myself. And with my art, I want to help women and girls celebrate themselves —- even when others don’t.”
In 2017, Kiri continued to fuse her passion for art and activism by creating the Just Us Project, a multi-media platform to actively address social justice issues through media, art and community outreach. Kiri’s first media piece under this new platform was: Our Lives Matter, a public service announcement that poignantly focuses on the racial profiling of young black and Latino boys.
I hadn’t been in touch with Kiri for a while, so I reached out to tell her about the Oracle deck. I felt sure she was up to “good trouble,” as John Lewis called it. Indeed, she was and still is.
During this year’s wave of Black Lives Matter marches and rallies, Kiri has been in the streets, protesting, organizing, and continuing to use her camera as tool for change. While actively documenting powerful and at times distressing moments, Kiri has been developing new platforms with the intent to highlight voices mainstream media often overlooks. When I recently spoke with her she sharedthe following:
“Black people here have always had to live in a pandemic, where racism consistently puts our health and lives at risk. With COVID-19 it’s as if we’re living in a pandemic within a pandemic. Racial inequities that have long run rampant among systems from criminal justice to healthcare are becoming more visible and harder to dismiss. And though it’s a undoubtably scary time, I’ve been fortunate to experience some incredible moments of empowerment, watching so many in my community coming together. I also relish in being part of a movement where Black women are truly leading the way. From designing policy change, demanding radical changes in policing, to creating safe places for us to come together to support one another.
I see the protective, loving and confident spirit that first drew me to Oshun embodied by so many Black young women, dedicating themselves to the fight for justice. It is my goal to help tell their stories and ensure their voices are heard.”
I created the Goddess on Earth: ORACLE deck and guidebook to bring forth the wisdom of Kiri and the thirty-nine other women portrayed. Though diverse in age and backgrounds, every woman exudes a generosity of spirit. Each woman offers her voice and wisdom on the power of archetypes as a gift to others. The message of the Goddess on Earth: Oracle is simple yet powerful; We are all here to lift, hold and be present for one another as we travel on our journeys.
In order to make Goddess on Earth: Oracle a reality we need your support – whether that’s through donation, pre-sales, or sharing the campaign. Please visit the Kickstarter page here through November 10th.