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Art for Healing and Social Change

Since its founding, MUA has always utilized the arts and cultural work as fundamental building blocks of social change. The incorporation of arts and culture into our work helps us find our voices, celebrate and reclaim pride in our ancestral cultures, overcome trauma and internalized racism, and bring creativity and fun into every area of our work. 

In the early 1990s, MUA collaborated with sister organizations to produce theater pieces performed on street corners and public spaces in San Francisco on issues such as what to do in case of an immigration raid, confronting domestic violence, and destigmatizing HIV/AIDS. To this day, MUA continues utilizing theater as a tool for raising our voices about ‘taboo’ subjects and demanding change.  

MUA has always incorporated cultural practices into our work, including celebrating traditional Latin American holidays in ways that further our mission, including yearly Day of the Dead celebration to mourn those we have lost, traditional dance and music projects, a yearly Day of the Child celebration to honor and enjoy the children in our lives, and an annual dance party that coincides with the celebration of independence from colonialism in Mexico and Central America.  More recently, MUA has worked with indigenous healers to incorporate ancestral healing practices into our staff and member retreats, including danza (ritual dancing and drumming), altars to Mother Nature, and herbal limpias.

MUA has organized writing and poetry workshops as a mode of healing and self expression for members, and for over 10 years held a yearly poetry and short prose reading event with a group of well-known Bay Area writers. In 2019 Las Malcriadas, a writing group that grew out of a MUA writing workshop, published a bilingual book of their work, Mujeres Mágicas: Domestic Workers’ Right to Write, in collaboration with Freedom Voices, Reimagine: Movements Making Media and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.  You can order a copy of this powerful work here.

In 2016, MUA began collaborating with NAKA Dance Theater, an art collaborative founded by Debby Kajiyama and Jose Navarrete that combines dance, somatics, and expressive arts with ancestral healing practices.  Artists affiliated with NAKA have collaborated with MUA on multiple theater productions, including:  For Those Who are No Longer With Us: A Poetic Action against Femicide and Enough is Enough!, both ensemble productions consisting of poems, songs, and skits drawn from the life experiences and dreams of our members. NAKA and Boom Shake Music additionally collaborated with MUA to bring drumming, singing and dance into our protest marches, as a way to celebrate our power as women. 

Photo by: Brooke Anderson

NAKA artist Violeta Luna developed an arts-based somatics healing manual for MUA group facilitators, and worked closely with our sexual assault survivors’ support group to develop screenplays based on their lived experiences for two short videos used for conducting outreach on social media: 

Video: You are Not Alone

Video: Your Struggle is My Struggle

Before and during the COVID19 pandemic, NAKA Dance Theater brought in weekly guest speakers to MUA support groups to teach somatics, dance, ancestral healing with herbs, and other artistic and healing practices.   Member-leaders also collaborated with NAKA artists to create mutual aid and group learning circles, supporting one another to incorporate textile art, drawing, collage, weaving and quilting as a group healing and sharing practice.  In 2020, one of the learning groups produced a beautiful and moving video of their work, Playeras

In 2022, the NAKA-MUA learning groups produced both a new ensemble theater production as well as a full color zine or fotonovelaof their visual artwork.  The artworks were also displayed at an art exhibit at the Richmond Art Center, which also hosted MUA members in a series of arts workshops.  The learning groups also launched a series of weaving workshops led by Maya Mam indigenous women members. You can order a printed copy of the fotonovela here, or view the PDF online.