by Mateo Biggs
Thursday, November 4th, Roanoke College was visited by LGBTQ+ activist and art therapist Elia Khalaf who hosted a workshop for both faculty and students to join in on where awareness cards were made. The event had been hosted inside Upper Smoyer Gallery and was sponsored by Center for Studying the Structures of Race, The Visiting Writers Program of the English Department, and The Jordan Endowment– with Dr. Melanie Almeder supervising the event itself.
For reference, an awareness card was a collage many members of the workshop put together to represent the inner feelings or the experiences that the individual has gone through, something unique to just the individual. At the start of the workshop, Elia made a circle of tape on the table in Upper Smoyer Gallery– the inside representing “socially normal ideas” while the outside represented “socially unusual” –and told the many participants of the workshop to write on a piece of note cards what they found that was part of their lives to be socially accepted versus unacceptable.
The many cards contained topics of mental health, of identity and orientation, of the stereotypes placed on them via the world around them. It allowed many of the participants an introspective look in themselves and even the ability to walk a mile in the shoes of other participants. Even I had joined in on the workshop, finding myself lost in the haze of putting together a story of me while surrounded by others who understood the turmoil of what we as people have gone through.
Many of the cards that were showcased on the wall of Smoyer once we were done had the differences of personality but the overarching feel of understanding. It displayed humanity and how we all feel– the ways we come together while also retaining our unique identities.
In the Gallery at that moment, it almost felt like none of us were truly alone in our experiences anymore.
Elias showed all of us there that we are not truly alone in our experiences, that walking the path of life didn’t mean we had to be alone in our understanding. It was an amazing experience to be a part of, and I’d recommend many students to opportunity to do this workshop if it is ever offered again.
To see some of the beautiful work that Elia Khalaf does, make sure to visit they’re website http://www.elia-khalaf.com