The Rejea Retreat 2021 – Radical Reskilling for Regeneration

By Wangui wa Kamonji

Feature image: Indigenous seeds in calabashes, Tharaka, central Kenya. Part of a memory recovery process on indigenous foods. Photo by Wangui wa Kamonji.

The Rejea Retreat will be an online event held in late 2021 to introduce regeneration as a guiding principle and a lived practice for a broad audience in East Afrika. Colonial trauma is silenced in East Afrika, yet ongoing. Decoloniality is still a nascent movement and commitment to the dominant global narrative that rewards capitalist growth is equally high.

During a GEN In Conversation event in 2020, Wangui joined Octaviana Valenzuela Trujillo and Camille Barton to share their lived experiences of coloniality, whilst unpacking the current opportunity we are faced with: to re-consider the path we have been on as a global community and sow seeds to create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

Although the whole continent of Afrika, and East Afrika in particular, has a wealth of indigenous knowledge to draw on to respond to the current end of world conditions we are living in, we simultaneously labour under the weight of trauma and silencing that devalues our knowledge and practices.

For individuals who did not grow up within relatively intact cultures and who are seeking practical ways to heal from colonial trauma and reorient their lives towards working for justice for people and the Earth, it is a challenge to find local resources or spaces in which to access indigenous Afrikan knowledge that divests from colonialism and orients towards life. Having grown up in an urbanised as well as colonially-displaced context myself, this was my reality.

The Kiswahili word rejea means to return, go back or do it again. It is grounded in a philosophy that is evident in the concept of sankofa from Akan speaking peoples, in which one is advised that it is not wrong to go back for that which one forgot. This philosophy is also present in southern Afrika in the concept of ukuzilanda or fetching oneself.

During an interview on her experience as a participant of the Global Environments Summer Academy held in Oxford in 2018, Wangui said GESA prompted her to seek answers to questions such as “What kind of leader do I want to be?” and “How do I use performance as a way to transform the narratives that we have about ourselves?” And finally, “How do we move forward from here?”

The Rejea Retreat project will bring together local facilitators on concepts and practical skills for decolonisation and an embodied returning to self, indigenous knowledge, Earth and ancestral connection as a way of intervening in the pervading silences and enabling us to turn up the volume on things we otherwise only hear as whispers. Participants will be invited through guided self-study, embodied practices, reflection and conversation to fetch themselves and the knowledge which they for various reasons left behind or never had access to, and integrate these into their lives for regenerative shifts.

Regeneration is possibly becoming the new sustainability. However, my Masters research was focused on articulating regeneration grounded in indigenous Afrikan philosophies and responding to the particular contexts of Afrika. This research provides the heartbeat of the retreat. Regeneration as a principle, provides an antidote to ongoing coloniality. Regeneration as an embodied practice invites a shift in focus to take responsibility for rebuilding relationships with, and expressing one’s becoming-whole self, and for re-engaging with community in its fullness of humans, ecologies and ancestral relations. Regeneration is an especially potent principle and practice during these transition times of ecological systems collapse, capitalism’s disintegration, and socio-political disillusionment. 

In addition to the challenge of accessing resources one can trust and put into practice, isolation from sources of community and burnout amongst justice-aligned folks is high. The Rejea Retreat will therefore also be an opportunity to begin a process of connecting individuals to each other to build a community of regeneration practice in East Afrika. This retreat is also envisioned as the initial preparation of fertile ground for future regeneration programming.

The Rejea Retreat 2021 – Radical Reskilling for Regeneration project is being carried out by GEN member Wangui wa Kamonji and is supported through GEN Project Packages.