“It’s too soon to feel a certain way about the future. There’s too much uncertainty. We’re used to a 10 day forecast, and instant updates, so it’s hard for us to deal with [the current situation] and sit in so much uncertainty. But I’m trying to not let the fear I have today dictate the hope I have about tomorrow.”
Zariya Allen is a 21 year old poet and artist living in Los Angeles. Her many creative modes – writing, acting, music, slam poetry, photography or the latest zine she is working on – all come together in the end, offering a unique blend of critical thought and artistic reflection on the world around her.
When CUUP spoke to Zariya in February, she reflected on what it means, as a young artist, to have a dream, to have a passion, and to follow those things with authenticity in this age of social media and hyper-connectivity. Zariya spoke about the future with a sense of responsibility.
ZARIYA WEARS THE PLUNGE IN LEOPARD
A few weeks later and that future looks very different. Amidst the uncertainty of a new COVID-19 reality, we caught back up with Zariya to discuss the ways artists are pausing, reflecting and recollecting their dreams.
“Every artistic thing I had planned is no longer happening. Every show and every shoot has been canceled. We live in such fast-paced times, that there is this pressure to have the perfect [response to our new reality] or to say the perfect word. That's hard for me to give right now. Words can be so concrete, yet this thing is still forming. It’s hard to say something solid about something that isn’t yet complete. So, I’ve been trying to sit in it and think about what our duty as artists is at this time.”
“I’ve been writing a lot. I feel like the stillness allows for that. I’ve been thinking about this concept of masculine energy and feminine energy. In a way, the world has been overcome by masculine energy – not just in the past years, but the past decades and centuries. War, greed, power – all of these things are masculine energy.”
ZARIYA WEARS THE BIKINI IN BLACK
“Feminine energy has been suppressed for so long, but there is a shift in psyche occurring. The feminine is rising up. Right now, especially, we are being forced into a feminine energy space; we’re being forced into reflection and stillness and empathy and understanding; into holding space and listening. I’m trying to focus on those things.”
Zariya is not advocating for an expulsion of masculine energy, but a healing of it. She is not asking everyone to jump right into that healing process, either, but to pay attention to the ways that this work is already happening around us. Much of our world’s healing will come from that innately female strength of sitting still enough to listen.
“Last summer, I was on a beach with a friend who is so connected in these ways. I remember her saying that the feminine is coming to heal the earth, that the masculine is wounded, and that we need to use this moment to heal our masculine energies.”
“We need to learn how to wield the masculine in a productive way, because that energy has always been used to crush people, to make them feel less than, to disenfranchise them, to exploit them. We need masculinity though. We need masculinity to advocate for ourselves, to advocate for peace, to get to the places we want to be. It is possible to heal our masculine for the positive.”
ZARIYA WEARS THE DEMI IN BLACK
“There has been so much negative masculine energy in the past few years. The shift really occurred in 2016, when people thought the election would go the other way. When it didn't, people had to look in the mirror and really recognize the state our world was in. The toolbox we have been using has been full of this harshly separatist, masculine energy that can be brute. But masculinity can alternatively be strong, unifying and connective, and that’s what we need right now. Not a removal of masculinity, but a healing of it.”
When Zariya talks about societal healing, she expresses hope for art to shape our health and progress – but she is quick to note the more immediate physical healing that so many are struggling through. For many, these seemingly disparate experiences of a global pandemic are difficult to orient ourselves within.
“There are people that are directly experiencing this virus – the sickness and the death of it. Then, there are the people that are experiencing this virus remotely – through numbers and articles and the very real, but less direct ways it's affecting their lives. Within that split, social media is both bringing us together and creating a disconnect. We all feel like we’re in the same room, but we’re not.”
ZARIYA WEARS THE BIKINI IN TAUPE
“We feel stressed about the headlines and the numbers. We feel like the world is inside our living room with this outpouring of livestream yoga classes and digital creativity, which is amazing in many ways, but we also feel removed and disconnected. It’s hard to reconcile all of this. And as a result, people feel powerless, while also feeling pressured to feel productive.”
“There is all this chaos happening, but there is also a hidden agenda emerging; a hidden path we are being led down to center and reconnect with people, to figure things out. It’s a little dysphoric, but that’s what nature is. The duality where you least expect it. Two things are true at once. Some of us are still searching for the words, while others are going through their biggest creative births right now.”
“It’s been fascinating to me that, in this time, people are still finding time to dedicate to themselves and nurture something inside of themselves that they may have left behind or never thought they could focus on. This time is causing a shift in people to open up in new ways and say, ‘Maybe I want to make something! Maybe I want to paint! Maybe I want to write! Maybe I want to try this new thing!’”
ZARIYA WEARS THE PLUNGE IN BLACK AND THE BIKINI IN BLACK
The opportunity to dive into long-lost hobbies or dig into creative passion projects is, of course, an incredible privilege. Our differing modes of quarantine reveal deep social divides. Zariya looks critically at the fault lines, seeing them as an opportunity to root even deeper in that rising feminine energy.
“There’s a disconnect, too, in what our quarantines look like. Some people are quarantined in the lap of luxury while others are quarantined in crowded or unsafe spaces. While it’s inspiring to see people continue to find ways to follow their passions, it’s also important to remember that that creative headspace is a privilege. Other people are experiencing this in different ways.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the complicated ways the virus moves through our community – not just through our healthcare system, but through our education systems, our prison systems, our housing systems, everything. This virus continues to expose so many things that can be done better, that we need to do better. And when the virus passes, and we’re allowed to go outside again, all of those issues will still be there. They will still need to be addressed.”
“That’s why I keep coming back to the feminine collective healing our masculine collective, and our masculine collective healing their masculine, so that we can all continue to advocate for what needs to be advocated for. We’re still shaping the future, even though the uncertainty, even when it doesn’t feel like it.”
ZARIYA WEARS THE BIKINI IN TAUPE
Interview and Article by Molly Virostek. Photographed by Ira Chernova.