Designing for the future with Tameika L. Hannah

A conversation with sound designer + screenprinter Tameika L. Hannah | 

Tameika L. Hannah | The Coffeeshop Blue Project

In this social and political moment, I’ve been seeking inspiration. Grounding. Uplift! How are creative / healer / activists reimagining the world, daily? I asked Tameika about her experience creating in the now:

Naya: What inspires you?

Tameika: I think what has really inspired me is absolutely my family. Especially my little nieces and nephews. They’re like 5, 7, 8. And so all I think about is about what would make their learning even more fun. Which is why I go to, you know, to all the other things I like doing with little people. Showing them how to make teeshirts, and taking their designs and putting them on teeshirts, and then screening them. That pushes me so, so much and inspires my work – all work, besides teeshirts.

My children’s books are focused on them. What I know they would love to read, and I can imagine, just seeing themselves in these books, and being familiar with their movements, and can pay attention, like, “That’s me”.

And music is another – I’ll show you [shows me soundboard], because I keep my music here – so it’s another thing that I work with. This right here, I can’t tell you how many sounds that I can get from this and frequencies. This is the main board I use to make my music and they inspire that as well. I know how much it heals me, just hearing all these different sounds. How I can just hit a button and I’m like, “Oh my goodness”. Or just turn a knob, and I’m like, “Why do I feel so calm? Why do I feel so rejuvenated?

Naya in a “Got Hegemony” shirt co-designed by Tameika and Mitsy Chanel-Blot

Naya: When we talk, you mention how healing nature is for you. You describe spending time outside. Tell me more about that.

Tameika: Just keeping my windows open and just hearing the birds. Birds, trees, sometimes I’ll park my car under a tree or just find different ways to keep close, because I feel like the further I get away from nature, the more chaotic I become. I feel like I have to use that word, because it really does feel like that. Even in my mind and everything else. Sometimes I just have to remind myself to pull myself way from all this other stuff and to be outside, you know, to do these other things.

Also it’s the sounds in nature. The sounds. Just being some place, and now, to be further away from cars or anything like that, you have to be away. You just have to live away. But those sounds start coming through, it reminds me that I’m hearing those sounds that I need to hear, that I’m not hearing, that can probably help my mind and me just move in a way that I want to. How far way from that stuff am I? Nature inspires that.  It’s just a reminder.

I’ve been reading this book about the intelligence of the cosmos. And I’m like, yeah. We’ve separated ourselves so much from nature, like us and nature are separate, like we’re separate from our environment. And we’re not. It’s crazy how much I love nature, [but] how I feel like I am separate in so many ways. That separation is probably affecting my understanding on another level. And all of our understanding. We’re disconnected from nature, we’re disconnected from each other. I don’t think we’re supposed to quite be that way.

Naya: You’ve mentioned the moon and moonwork being important for you. When did that relationship with the moon begin for you? What does that look like?

Tameika: It was probably five years back. It’s crazy when I go outside, I immediately look up. So sometimes I see a daytime or morning moon. I love when I’m driving and I have the moon in my sight. And it was one time when I realized that so much was going on in my mind, and I was just moving in a way that was just a lot. Just so much. And then, the moon was out. And I looked up. And all of a sudden I could breathe again.

I was like, “That’s big”. When I don’t have the moon to stop me, to say just stop, stop what you’re doing, stop running around, stop to look at and to let go, to breathe for a minute, to process, then, it’s going to continue to be like that. And I realized then that moon makes me stop. Makes me stop and look. Every single day, I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I thought you couldn’t be more beautiful, more gorgeous, and I’m like every day it’s like that. So every day there’s this amazing form that we see in the sky that’s just breathtaking. It’s like stop. Just stop. There’s time. You’ll get to where you’re going. Stop. Just take a minute. And I think that’s what it’s about. That’s the reminder that I have always. For sure. Just stop.

A friend once told me that the moon and us we’re connected because of water and how that connection is there. I always think to myself, I can imagine because I talk to the moon, you know my ancestors are just hanging out on the moon. Even if it were like that, I could see so many reasons why. And how lucky are we that we’re able to see the moon. Oh my goodness, we are so lucky. Even during the new moon time, you just feel it.

Naya: When I wear your teeshirts and experience your work, it feels like healing work. What does healing mean to you?

Tameika: Healing is about being self-centered, like centering yourself. Speaking to yourself. Finding out what you need. And listening to yourself. All in your intuition. You know having space for whatever feelings you’re having, and to be okay with that is the only way to feal with that as well. To be okay with the feeling and to know that it’s okay to be where you’re at. There’s no speed that you have to in order to do things, like you have to take care of yourself in order to do is in a way that is healing and healthy for you.

Of course reading. And when I think about how people have just allowed our food sources to be so outrageous and manipulated and modified in all these different ways. We have to find ways to undo that and to heal ourselves from what we have taken in, and to take it out, if you will. To work through that.

As far as healing, I think about how when I heal myself I can share more, too. And it would be unfortunate if I’m not able to share through healing, also. It just means slowing down. Realizing that something can happen tomorrow. There’s always time. Because we want that instant gratification, we think there’s not time. But just to remind ourselves that there is.

We are living in space. I hope we never not forget that. [Laughter]. We are living in space, and I hope we don’t forget that. Because it feel slike we stand on the ground and it’s nothing, but really we are – wow. You know? That’s healing. Remembering that. We are really special. Know that anything you do, except harm others, but we are living in a space in space. Just that alone let’s us know, there’s really not a limit is there. There isn’t. There really isn’t. We’re living in space.

Naya: Given the times we’re living in right now, what’s keeping you inspired?

Tameika: Definitely nature. So I have a teeshirt, and it’s a person that’s under a tree. There are so many nature shirts that I have that I can’t wait to share with people. It’s just earth-based and plant-based. So making sure that I don’t lose sight of what’s out here helps me not lose sight of my work there. You know, what guides me.

And of course my family. Just wanting rest for them. My mother, rest. My brothers, rest. My father, rest. I feel like they work so much so I can be out here, and try to  make all this stuff happen. So I can’t wait to say that it’s happened and it’s happening, and please rest and take care of yourselves.  

I feel like, you know people out here working in really and really putting in this hard work that’s absolutely needed guides me. I feel like the people that have the energy to do the [anti-racist and activist] work, to do the work that they do, I’m just thankful. I always think about how can I give back to them in a way. I feel like that guides a lot of my ideas, like programs that I hope to share with little ones but other people at that.

Tameika L. Hannah is a sound designer and screenprinter. She uses sound as a narration for documentaries, film, theater and other performance arenas.  She creates visual videos, vignettes and bioscapes with her original sounds for storytelling purposes as well.  As a screenprinter, Tameika designs and prints teeshirts from her collection and also prints designs created by family and friends. She is currently developing a program focused on showing young people how to take their own creative ideas and make screenprinted teeshirts, for the purpose of wearing, sharing, and creating financial opportunities for their other endeavors.