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Divine In i: Honoring Ancestral and Spiritual Wisdom from Haiti, Brazil, and the Philippines

Folkloric music from Haiti, Brazil, and the Philippines resonated through the air as people joined together at Kapwa Gardens for the “Divine in i,” an intercultural community arts festival honoring the Divine Spirits within. Sponsored by California Arts Council and Dancing Earth, this all-day event held on September 10 officially launched “The Divine Coloring Book” by Filipina American creator, author, and designer Christine Joy Amagan Ferrer (aka Tine/tinejoy).

“I have received so much love from folks, saying they are grateful to learn more about the spirituality behind these cultures, can see the similarities between these sacred stories and connect with their indigenous roots,” said Ferrer. “They have used my book in their mindfulness practices and prayers, taught it in their classrooms, and read with their children. People who are also of mixed ancestry or who have connections to more than one culture have been deeply moved by this work. Especially because these spiritualities are often misunderstood or not given focus due to colonization and Western ways of thinking.”

Inspired by folklore and spirituality from the Philippines (Diwatas), Haiti (Lwas of Vodou), and Brazil (Orixás of Candomble and deities of the Indigenous Brazilian Tupi Tribe), Ferrer has drawn from her own spiritual growth and healing over the years, and ritual ceremonies she experienced during her travels to Haiti and the Philippines. The 100-page multicultural coloring book includes the folklore and symbolism associated with thirteen divinities from each culture, along with inspirational quotes, mindfulness activities, poetry, and songs for all ages.

Tiombe Wiley as Afro-Brazilian orixá, “Yansa.” Photo: Jeanina Casusi

According to Ferrer, the intention behind “Divine in i” was to “create a collective-shared experience that celebrates the interconnection between the Spirit world and the tangible, as we remember our power and acknowledge that we are not separate from the Divine, but we are the Divine too.” This creative space honored ancestral and folkloric wisdom inter-culturally across diasporas and channeled energy from the Divine forces of nature as people came together in celebration and performance rituals.

“Let’s tap into the Divine within, to see the Divine in each other and connect with the Divine in ALL things. As we flow with this sacred intention and reverence on the daily, it will be a LIT spiritual journey towards healing, radical expansion, elevation, and deeper love. It’s time to revel in Divine Love with all our heart, soul, and mind,” Ferrer wrote on her website.

Ferrer is a multidisciplinary creative soul from San Francisco and a journalism and dance graduate from San Francisco State University; spirituality, folklore, indigenous art forms, and rhythms across diasporas ground her. As a curator of sacred wellness, cultural arts practitioner, and healing arts facilitator rooted in Philippine, Haitian, and Afro-Brazilian folkloric music and dance, she has been empowering youth through movement arts for over a decade.

During her time teaching a summer camp at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco, Ferrer guided students to create inspired movements centered around the Divine feminine spirits of the ocean: Magwayen (Visaya, Philippines), La Sirenn (Haiti), and Yemanja (Brazil).

Ferrer wondered how she could create something where people can learn and connect with the stories of the divinities, apply it to their lives, and realize those spiritual energies are what they already possess within themselves. Thus, “The Divine Coloring Book” was born, and the intercultural arts experience at Kapwa Gardens soon after.

“At the beginning of the art installation, a Filipina elder [Alleluia Panis/KulArts Director] blessed the space with a performance dance ritual. It set the tone for the whole event,” Pedro Gomez said.

Gomez, a percussionist, drummer, and art educator, joined the team of collaborating artists in the summer of 2021 to participate in the Living Divine Performance Art Installation. Through his 30 years of percussion and music studies, Gomez was able to dive deeper into understanding the divinities represented in Ferrer’s book and see its effect on the youth, including his seven-year-old daughter.

“I had some kids come up to me and say, ‘Wow, that was amazing.’ I think a coloring book is a great idea because the storytelling and narration of these gods and goddesses are accessible to kids and something they can connect with. I enjoyed that,” Gomez said.

The festival offered folkloric dance workshops led by Dandha Da Hora and Portsha Jefferson and performances by local artists, including Parangal, Loco Bloco, La Mezcla, Omulu Capoeira SF, AudioPharmacy, TruPeople, and Hella Spirit. Those in attendance were not only introduced to the ancestral and folkloric wisdom of Filipino, Haitian and Brazilian cultures and diasporas but also encouraged to celebrate and connect with their indigenous roots.

“It was just such a beautiful thing. And again, it was always the music; it was always the drumming. There is nothing that does not happen without music and dance. That is how the ancestors like to connect with us,” Ferrer said.

Christine Joy Amagan Ferrer, creative director and producer of “Divine in i." Photo: Jeanina Casusi

Two years in the making, the Living Divine Art Installation was a curation of dance and performance artists who represented a divinity of their choice. Channeling each divinity’s spirit, performers encircled Ferrer as she read from her book to a crowd of viewers.

“It was like you stepped into the book in full color, taste, smell, spirituality that became a multicultural experience of oneness,” said Martha L.Z. Pamintuan, a performing artist in the Divine Art Installation. “The music at the festival supported the dance and assisted in translating what is being expressed spiritually and emotionally in Tine’s book.”

Pamintuan and Ferrer’s friendship grew during their time at San Francisco State as dance majors. Being so deeply rooted in the art community for over a decade, Ferrer wanted to include those she knew and who had some connection to the Divine, cultural or spiritual.

With the love and support from participating artists and community organizers, Ferrer hopes to expand on her coloring book, create workshops incorporating movement, writing, coloring, and mindfulness, and continue performance pieces similar to the Living Divine Art Installation.

“Works such as ‘The Divine Coloring Book’ and the ‘Divine in i’ festival are important because it bridges people together and captures being human, love, community, harmony, and unity. This project affected me because I was performing, participating in my healing process, and bridging the community,” Pamintuan said. “It was incredible to see people partake in the festival’s entirety. That is power.”

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