An interview with Dr Sally Adnams Jones – human transformation and expressive arts educator and retreat facilitator
When Megsie met Sally
One begins to serve others spontaneously, as one’s identity begins to expand.
I remember the day I met Sally; it was a balmy Sunday afternoon, a quiet and relaxed atmosphere in the air.
Sally, a stranger at the time, soon appeared from her room. The moment I saw her time slowed down and I could hear myself telling her a lengthy story about a mystical experience I had undergone some 12 years previously.
I was like a shadow of myself, removed, watching from a distance; enduring my own voice, timeless, lucid and totally aware of her presence. She was with me in every syllable, calm, entirely present and luminous to some part of me that remained alert. It felt magnificent.
I had no idea what had happened that afternoon and as I drifted into the evening’s reflective contemplation I was left none the wiser.
I did however feel deeply blessed, with a gnawing feeling that I had met a Life teacher.
But, as the months passed and I got to know Sally a little better, I realised I had been in the presence of an extraordinary human being, a deeply conscious and compassionate woman who has Self realised AND is a beautiful artist.
When I do my own work, I love to use images of growth in nature. This helps me externalize the transformation I feel occurring in my soul. – Sally Adnams Jones
Hello Darling! Thank you Sally for taking the time to chat with me
I’m really excited! Your knowledge and deep insight into the arts, as well as spiritual wisdom, is extraordinary and I feel very privileged to have this opportunity.
You have quite a fascinating story.
So can you give us a short introduction of yourself? I believe you are an arts educator working at the University of Victoria, Canada but are currently dedicated to writing books on this topic – at what point did you realise this was yr path and how did you transition?
Thanks for your time Megsie and for your generous introduction. Yes I am an artist, and teach and write about how art and creative practices transform us. I grew up in Africa in a creative family and loved all the arts from a young child. I was also drawn early to spiritual practices including yoga and meditation.
I soon noticed that both creative and meditative practices were transformative. I then went on to study how transformation occurs, and researched particularly how creativity transforms us for my PhD. Some of my art shows this human transformation through biological or ecological visual metaphors.
I have worked in several communities with art therapy , including wood carving with indigenous Canadians, architectural mosaic work in Australia, and mandala work in the tradition of Jungs depth psychology.
My book on art making with refugees and survivors of global traumas comes out in March 2018. This book shares stories about making art with those who have lived through war, genocide, tsunami, climate change, pandemic, gang warfare, poverty etc. It explains exactly how art can heal trauma.
What are you seeking to portray in your work? What is fundamental to your art practice/education – your philosophy and your approach?
When I do my own work, I love to use images of growth in nature. This helps me externalize the transformation I feel occurring in my soul. I also do my own visual dream work or spontaneous expression from the subconscious in order to understand myself more deeply.
When I work with others, I facilitate projects that help to visually narrate autobiography, and personal meaning. This is deep identity work for my students. When we use our visual voices to reframe our stories, we transform and empower ourselves.
We can go on a journey through making images that reframe who we are, from victim to survivor to warrior to evolutionary.
Can you tell us a little bit about your PhD and how it relates to your journey so far. How it has effected your inner life and your life work?
For my research, I went to live in an African village that was living with the trauma of the HIV pandemic, and processing grief and loss through an extensive art practice. Their richly embroidered tapestry work told their stigmatized and silenced story of being HIV positive.
They had developed their own creative practice as a kind of therapy and I went to study the many ways their art had transformed their village, both psychosocially and economically. It was a truly empowering story they shared with me.
(Sally’s experience in Africa is rich and full and is described further in these interviews. I’d thoroughly recommend listening to them : Interview 1 – Sally Adnams Jones and Interview 2 – Sally Adnams Jones.)
Here’s a little synchronicity for you – About 2 weeks before I met Sally, I listened to the above podcast (interview 2) and thought to myself “I really want to meet that woman”. When I met Sally, on her trip from Canada to Australia, 2 weeks later, I had no idea she was the same woman. It dawned on me some time later.
I have noticed a strong desire, in you and your work, to contribute to ‘making the world a better place’ or to helping us as a human race overcome suffering and/or hindrances to a positive evolutionary process, can you elaborate and tell us where you believe this desire is coming from or what this means to you?
I also see you have an integrated and beautiful expression of spiritual wisdom in your person and your work. Can you tell us a bit about this side of your journey. You said you grew up In Africa, how has this effected your path? and also I read somewhere that there was a large Hindu community in your African town, I find this extraordinary, It feels very karmic. Can you tell us a little about this and how this may have impacted your life journey?
I grew up in South Africa practicing yoga with a Hindu community well before it was popular in the west – almost 40 years ago. This path lead me later to study extensively with several Indian Gurus in America. Later I did my Masters degree in Yoga education and became a director of a residential yoga community in Canada. This yogic path influences how I see the world – that we are literally one.
I also understand from studying psychology and education that as one transforms, ones circle of care naturally increases. One begins to serve others spontaneously, as one’s identity begins to expand. Our sense of meaning and pleasure shift to include helping others as we transform. This is one of the delightful side effects of spiritual practice – which for me, include both my creative and meditative practices.
That’s beautifully humble of you. What are you working on now or what is your most recent art project? Can you tell us about the medium you used and how the project is relevant to fashion and art and possibly spirituality?
I have recently been involved in an art exhibition called “Disobedient Women” . My four paintings each included five portraits – so 20 portraits in all- of women through history who changed the status quo by being Disobedient – by breaking the rules, by using their heads to break the glass ceiling, to oppose patriarchy. I wanted to celebrate this tradition of emergent female wisdom and power – that requires we disobey that which does not serve us , and rather obey our own callings and instincts.
In the show I used irony to lighten the tone – each woman had essential “headgear” for breaking the glass ceilings. Hats are usually a symbol of status and power for men , and veiling or glamour for women, and so I noticed that as women disobeyed the rules they put on the hats of power – Queen Elizabeth the first , for example, or Joan of Arch, or Queen Hatsepshut etc wearing the headgear previously only worn by men. I also portrayed modern heroines putting on astronaut helmets or knitted Pink Pussy hats.
I love it! They make my heart sing. My favorite art piece of yrs is the one of the woman and the avocado as a symbol for a personal journey you underwent. Are you able to tell us about this artwork?
The painting is of a naked woman, almost white, perhaps in death. Her heart however is regenerating with a seedling- it happens to be an avocado, my favourite food and related to my childhood in Africa. This painting is a visual metaphor of my own transformation or rebirth, when parts of me that are no longer functional have died, temporarily showing up as depression, and new growth has then followed.
I have come to recognize that “Dark Nights of the soul “ serve as portents for deep transformation. Seeds need the dark in order to sprout – and entelechy – or the realization of potential – can then occur. In each acorn there is the potential for a fully grown oak tree.
I have been known to weep at an early Egyptian scarab ring I saw, or at Gustav Klimts female forms half revealed by geometric gold fractal patterns – Sally
That’s truly beautiful Sally. OK, let’s have some fun! What’s your favorite quote?
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” Einstein. This implies constant creativity is necessary – thinking has to be new and vital to uplevel our problem solving , especially relevant now , as our world becomes endangered.
Whats yr favorite outfit (fashion) at the moment?
Always yoga pants – so comfortable, you can be undisturbed by zippers, belts or crutch riders.
Crutch riders? That’s a new term. We call it Camel’s Toe fashion here 🙂
What is your favorite art book?
I can get lost in the classics- gazing at a piece of renaissance marble that looks like real flesh, such as the work of Bernini. I have been known to weep at an early Egyptian scarab ring I saw, or at Gustav Klimts female forms half revealed by geometric gold fractal patterns. My taste runs to the lavish sensuality and generosity of work that worships robust curves.
Most transformative spiritual practice or wisdom you can impart?
Lose your mind to find it. Relax. Let go.
Who is the funniest Gay woman you know?
You run a close race with Ellen de Generes – except your humour is also a truly teachable moment- your illustrated, contemporary aphorisms border on the Sahaj practice of divine wisdom madness. Truly brilliant. But Ellen is merely hilarious.
The practice of Boderline Spirituality Syndrome !I think we’ll end on that note! Thank you, this was really amazing and so much fun! I love your authenticity and appreciate the DEEP (ness) of your art and your Life work. You’ll have to come and spend some time with us at the Women in Need retreat!
I’d love to Megsie. Thank you for this, you are so funny and wonderful! Awaiting actual response from Sally 🙂
Take a look at Sally’s Art Therapy website
or if you are up for some challenging Theorisms grab a big cup of tea and dip into her PhD article here
Listen to her juicy interviews about her experience in Africa:
Order a copy of Sally’s book Art making with Refugees
WE HOPE YOU ARE GOING WITH THE FLOW.