Home for the Holidays: The Art of Healing Conversations Potluck Workshop

Liza Njuguna hosted Home for the Holidays: The Art of Healing Conversations Potluck Workshop on Saturday, Nov. 12, an intimate conversation to strengthen connections and deepen understanding this holiday season, even if a relative wants to try you.

The program was based around Faith Ringgold, an internationally acclaimed visual and performance artist known for her narrative quilts. In the mid-seventies, Ringgold worked primarily with fabric, but she wanted to get back to painting. She decided to mix the two media by painting on cloth and by framing paintings with cloth. At the same time, she began to add text to her creations. The quilt, much like dinner with family, is a communal bonding activity.

Ringgold’s Dinner Quilt Series tells a story that is universal. In the text, the narrator is a young girl who describes a typical dinner with her extended family. Although the narrator is young, she is aware of the conflicts simmering between family members.  It is not until the narrator reached adulthood does she gain an understanding of the dynamics of the family dinner. Family dinners can be intimidating, but research shows breaking bread with your family can have a positive impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.

The family dinner is a relatively new concept. Before the 18th century, homes did not include a separate room for family dinners. Rooms and tables had multiple uses and the average family had to eat in shifts because it was highly likely there were enough chairs to accommodate the entire family. If there were not enough chairs, the men would sit, and the women and children would stand and eat. The concept of the modern Family Dinner is the result of images of families gathering around the dinner table seen in artwork and on television shows. During World War II, family mealtime was used as war time propaganda. The image of families eating together was a sign of social stability and strength. In modern times, families across the country gather for Family Dinner Series, especially for holidays. The dinner can begin as a celebratory gathering then quickly turn contentious resulting in hurtful words being exchanged, dismissive attitudes, and beliefs challenged. For the past two years, many have chosen to not attend large family gatherings due to the pandemic. Now that restrictions have been lifted, family gatherings will return.

Home for the Holidays: The Art of Healing Conversations Potluck Workshop uses Faith Ringgold’s Dinner Quilt Series as inspiration as participants had the opportunity to learn and practice using elements of effective communication that will empower them to nurture more equitable, cooperative and empathetic ways of being together, beginning with their family. The workshop was designed to equip participants with tangible skills they can use as they prepare to be with family members who have a knack for pushing the most sensitive buttons around the holidays. Strong, healthy families are key to fostering a more harmonious community, because the family unit is the cornerstone of our community.

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