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Hello everyone, this is Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, also known as Olomidara Yaya, and I’m the host of the Manifestations of Yaya. If you’ve read the first post, I want to thank you so much for your continued support. Manifestations of Yaya is a new initiative that charts the intersections between art and healing. I'm really excited to be here with you all for my second post on this blog.

The Origin of the Name Yaya:” Bibliomancy, Naming, and Retrieval

I have a deep, deep love and obsession with books. One of the saddest things about being in quarantine for me right now is my inability to go to libraries and archives in person. I have a kind of spiritual relationship with books. They always call out to me. I can walk over to a bookshelf, pick something off the shelf, open the page and find something that is exactly what I need to hear at that moment.

This process of bibliomancy is actually where the name of Yaya comes from. I remember when I was in art school at the Maryland Institute College of Art, I kept drawing this one particular femme figure. She held an extremely powerful presence, and she kept coming out in my sketchbook drawings. As I channeled her figure in my sketches, I felt that her name was Yaya, and I wrote Yaya on her forehead without knowing what the name meant at the time.

Coincidentally, around this time, maybe a year before, my first niece was born. I remember her mother and I discussing how it would be difficult for the baby to be able to say Kenyatta. So many adults can't say it properly. When I did my Fulbright in Nigeria, they told me that I was not pronouncing my own name right. “They” as in all of the Nigerians that I met. I believe they pronounced my name as “Ken-Yeht-Tah.” It was such an interesting vibration that I had never been called. I've been called “Ken-Yoda,” “Keyona,” “Kirara,” and many different types of variations of

my name. But I remember suddenly telling her (the mother of my first niece) in a very cool, calm, and collected way, “Oh she’ll just call me Yaya.”

About a year later, when I was constantly channelling this particular femme figure in my drawings, I visited the Decker Library, this amazing library at MICA where I studied for my undergraduate degree. I really loved going to an art school that had such a huge emphasis on liberal arts. I spent so much time rummaging through the stacks in college. These experiences at MICA are where my love for art that intersects with really intense research comes from.

That day in the library, I remember feeling deeply drawn to this one book on Haitian art., I was flipping through the pages when I saw a femme figure that held the same commanding presence of the women that I was drawing at the time. When I looked at the title of the work, it said Yaya. When I read that, I remember just looking around in that moment like “Oh my goodness, This is… Whoa. What is this?” These things happen to me all the time, and I definitely don't believe them to be coincidences. There have been so many manifestations and circumstances like this for me, and if you know me personally, you're probably laughing right now because it can get pretty weird.

Later, I found out that the name “Yaya” is translated to “High Priestess” in a lot of different cultural contexts. The “Yaya” in my name and for this blog/podcast series is central to what this project is about. Understanding the meaning of this name “Yaya” has inspired me to think about how I can show up as a High Priestess in my own life, in my own journey as an artist and healer, and in my artistic practice.

Going back to my love for books, I really do have a problem. I literally spend so much money on books. It’s my addiction, and it's really bad. I constantly run out of book space all around my home. I'm looking around right now, and it's just piles and piles of books. So many that I'll probably never be able to read every single one of these books in my life. But somehow I insist on having them around me. I remember speaking to my good friend Jen Everett, and she was talking about this idea that just by having her books around, they still feed your work through osmosis.

Currently, I'm obsessed with The Famished Road by Ben Okri. I'm a huge, huge fan of Nigerian literature: the storytelling, the cultural contexts, the politics of the land, the land itself as a character, and the spirits of the land. I really love how all these elements coalesce into these sonic-scapes, these colorscapes, these whole worlds. It definitely vibes with me on an ancestral level for sure, for sure.

I decided before COVID-19 happened that I wanted to read 50 books this year. I have a reading challenge on Goodreads that I really, really love. Last year, I set my goal for twelve books, and I was able to reach that goal. I shared the list of the twelve books that I want people to know that I read. (I probably read twenty-four books, but we don't talk about that.) I really want to read the whole Famished Road trilogy, and right now as we're gearing up for Fall semester during the current quarantine, there’s been much more time for me to read.

“Is the World Ending?” The Historical Present & the Refusal to Return to “Normalcy”

I’m based in California in the Bay, and the 2020 fire-season is raging right now. We just experienced a rare series of lightning and thunderstorms (which resulted in the ongoing). At first, I was like “Oooh get it Shango, get it Oya, get it y’all!” But now, those storms have resulted in the ongoing wildfires (dubbed the LNU lightning complex fires) that are raging across the northern California landscape. Just as we started to ease into being able to go outside a bit (using social distance practices) during this pandemic, it is no longer safe now if you have asthma like myself and my child. It's just unhealthy air, again.