ABOUT YELENA CALAVERA
A Dreampunk Storyteller
I was born in winter in Johannesburg in 1989. It was a few years before the end of Apartheid. I grew up in Linden in a house on a busy road near a grimy old petrol station and a charismatic church. I learned to dream on the streets of Linden, the facades of suburban houses were the backdrop to my first impressions. I had a habit of looking at the little odds and ends that were left in the street after the garbage had been collected and these became the seeds of my first stories. Who were the people behind the walls and what did their lives look like?
I have always prized freedom above all else, which was why it was impossible to keep me indoors as a child even though I had been told that it was not safe to run wild. I ran wild none the less, always in search of the largest manifestation of life, always reaching beyond the edge. At age eight I once escaped from my house in the middle of the night with a visiting friend and went riding through the streets at a break-neck speed on my bike, my friend trailing behind, while the world was asleep. That was the fullest glee that can describe my spirit.
My mother was an artist (in the common tongue - in the ancient language women like her had many, many names) and was always behind an easel, transfixed with a vision of something she saw on the other side. My father was a banker who was secretly a shaman. In the evenings people would come to see him and they would all disappear into the back room beyond the walkway treacherously littered with loquat bombs that would explode underfoot and squelch between toes. Imphepho smoke would seep under the crack of the door and cascade over the veggie patch, and I knew that my father was throwing the bones for someone, talking to this one's dead granny or interpreting signs from some realm that I learned from an early age was just at the edge of my normal vision. Sometimes we would go out to Mafikeng so my father could go into a room with Credo Mutwa for hours, talking about things that can only be approximated in any language.A darkness clung to those years in my memory, a feeling of being powerless, invisible, and small, supine at the feet of a story much larger than I. As an adult, I made my own pilgrimage to Credo. Saying more would be giving away too much.
Since childhood I have been an observer, an outsider looking for stories. The right story is always the one that spreads love.
I want to understand the way that human beings operate in relationship to the various ecosystems of which we are a part. I am interested in the dynamics of personal freedom, and have a keen sensitivity to forces that impinge upon it, as well as the shadows that twist within us, tricking us, trapping us. Sometimes these shadows rise up and bellow with a shared voice.
We are living in a time when the shadows we thought exiled are returning as is evidenced by the resurgence of proto-fascism and nationalism in the West. Shadows we did not notice we were casting threaten to bring about ecological and societal collapse. Lengthening shadows cast by other spin-offs of the Neoliberal world system portend of dark times ahead should we fail to correct our course as a species.
That's why we dreampunks need to travel to the Unseen World. We need to fetch visions of a healthier way of life, happier ways of co-existing with one another... We need powerful stories that warn, and offer daring whispers of love and community in a time of Otherness, fear, and isolation.
Who will dream the way if not us?
What is Dreampunk?
"Dreampunk" is a fledgling genre of post-modern, dystopian fiction that concentrates on the alchemical power of dreams and the exploration of countercultures. Dreampunk is influenced by other punk genres such as steampunk and cyberpunk but also from more classical literary genres, mythology, process-oriented psychology, as well as Jungian archetypes.
Dreampunk, as the name suggests, is inspired by dreams, and thus uses "dream logic" or fairy tales to convey themes and meaning. Dreampunk narratives are layered and can be interpreted on many levels, with superficial narrative elements sometimes cleaving apart to give glimpses of alchemy, psychoanalysis or the occult.
Famous works cited as dreampunk include many of the works of filmmaker David Lynch and Lewis Carroll's Alice series.
Yelena Calavera's interpretation of dreampunk centres on the story as a vehicle of the dreamingbody as it has been envisioned by Arnold Mindell, an American author, therapist and teacher in the fields of transpersonal psychology, body psychotherapy, social change and spirituality. Mindell draws on the shamanic literary works of Mircea Eliade and Carlos Castaneda, as well as the extensive writings of Carl Jung. Other influences of Mindell's include Lao Tze, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Calavera has been deeply influenced by the work of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With The Wolves, in her calling to work with wolves, and by Maureen Murdoch's The Heroine's Journey. Milan Kundera and Fyodor Dostoevsky have lent her a preference for sultry and sardonic existential philosophy, and Pablo Neruda for hopeless romance.
In creating dreamscapes, Calavera has been influenced by Neil Gaiman and particularly by Robert Jordan's Tel'aran'rhiod, the Unseen World, also known as the World of Dreams and the Wolf Dream.