I had a conversation with my good friend and inspiration, Wanjiku Mwangi about her path to caring for nature and the environment (she doesn’t like this word though, see below). In particular we spoke about the spirituality of nature which is what drives her work with communities to recover their heritage and ecological mores.
What is nature to you?
When we talk about nature there’s two main parts, the seen part: the animals, plants, birds, insects, mountains, water, the sun, the moon. But there is also the part that has predominantly been ignored over years and that’s the unseen part.
In Botswana the sangoma dancers invoked the spirits of the ancestors and said they are part of nature. They are around us. And there are many other spirits in that unseen part of nature: the spirits of the trees, of the mountains, of the water. So I look at nature, and look at the seen and the unseen parts. And to really get into the potency of nature one has to go into the realm of the unseen guided or self-propelled, but that is where the potency kicks in because it sheds the material distractions and the analytical mind part which always tries to reason. So depending on your level of connection you can use that realm to bring solutions to the seen world.
Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?
I like to call myself a naturalist. I don’t like to call myself an environmentalist because I don’t want to lose the nature part of it. When I think of an environmentalist I think of people who studied things in the classroom coming to dish out approaches and methodologies. But when you’re in the unseen world you don’t need that sort of approach. You know, you just know. You just connect.
How do you bring this view alive in your work?
It’s not been easy to tell people, “this is what I believe in”. After going through the Botswana Process we wanted to recreate a similar experience of being transformed in nature in Kenya. So that once you go through the process and you’re transformed by nature, you’re moved and inspired to do certain things. You do things differently, you start to respect how you use your water, you start to seek the permission of plants before you pick medicine or food. You start to bless your seeds before you plant them, you start to have more and more rituals that connect you to nature. You’re always aware of how much nature is gifting you and how much you need to reciprocate.
Her latest project, the African Honey Trail, is on the bee. She is on a mission to have a million hives installed, because through the bee, both ecosystems and communities can thrive. Read the rest of the awesome interview on the Transition Network to find out more about her ethos, how she recharges while doing this work, and how you can become a bee custodian (not a beekeeper!)