This week we are getting to see how transforming trauma into art can be truly life-affirming. Joined by filmmaker, artist, writer, and activist Eliaichi Kimaro, we learn how metabolizing one’s overwhelm can lead to enduring beauty. Years ago, Eli moved from full-time work as an advocate and activist to becoming a filmmaker. Her award-winning documentary A Lot Like You has won many awards and toured film festivals around the world. As Director of 9elephants Productions, she uses art and video to bring stories of struggle, resistance and survival to a broader audience. This conversation takes us from Eli’s familial roots in Tanzania and Korea to the next generation as Eli sought to both make sense of her history and create something enduring to offer future generations. We are reminded over and over, as Eli shares her wisdom, as to why art – the creation and maintenance of it – can be an essential act of liberation.
Eliaichi Kimaro worked for 12 years as a community organizer and crisis counselor with survivors of rape and abuse before her life took a creative detour. In 2003, she found filmmaking, and went on to produce over 80 videos for local and national nonprofits addressing social justice issues.
Her documentary film A Lot Like You (2011) explores her family’s stories through the lens of culture, class, race, gender and trauma. The film won 6 Best Documentary Awards on the film festival circuit before being broadcast nationally on PBS. After years on the international lecture circuit, Eliaichi distilled her keynotes into her 2016 TEDxSeattle talk, “Why the World Needs Your Story.”
For the past 9 years, painting has been her primary focus. A self-taught artist, Eliaichi has been awarded numerous fellowships, residencies and grants for her work in both film and art. She is a member artist at Columbia City Gallery in Seattle, and has served on nonprofit boards, art grant panels, film festival juries and museum exhibition planning committees. As with film, she makes art to better understand her place in the flow between cultural inheritance and legacy.