We live in a paradigm of fast fashion, single use plastic, and what I call “the affliction of disposability,” the latter of which being an addiction to single-use everything – items, spaces, people. We are hyper connected yet many of us float around like forgotten balloons. I created KASA KAVA, my very own independent jewellery brand, in order to dedicate myself to using wearable art as a means of promoting vibrancy and softness in everyday life.
I learned how to crochet from my late grandmother Modesta Peña. Part of our weekly routine included trips to the laundromat around the corner from my family’s apartment in the South Bronx. There, abuela and I would spend hours washing and folding while she shared stories from her life in the Dominican Republic. During the lulls of wash and dry cycles, she’d whip out big balls of yarn and lay them out on the folding tables. Wide-eyed, I’d watch her perform what felt like alchemy on wool as her supple hands transformed string into sweaters, blankets, and scarves – living testaments to her love. She’d dissolve into her own world when she knit, and the silence we shared reminds me of her first snow, watching the gentle quiet fall from the warm haven of the bedroom she and I shared. She was the one who taught me about love languages, that each individual gives and receives love in their own way. She showed me that the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Last but not least, she taught me that though trauma is often intergenerational, healing can be too.
The relationship between colour and connectivity is important to me. Most of my experiences of “color” have usually been filtered through a highly racialized lens, where my “color” – my undeniably brown skin, my unambiguously African features – has been weaponized in order to deny me and my communities (among material resources such as quality education and healthy food) a sense of connection and belonging to a society we built but for which we are little more than blight.
Reclaiming my relationship to colour is possible through healing relationships, mentorships, and spaces. When I began to surround myself with others who were not only grappling with questions of colour but also using their creativity to propel them past circular conversations about colour as race towards colour as possibility, I experienced a positive paradigm shift. I realized that after a lifetime of being told to make myself smaller as a woman, make myself more palpable (read: less black) to society, to accept crumbs, that none of those voices living in my head was mine.
Who am I outside of my story?
Could it be that this scarcity mindset/victim mentality is limiting my capacity to PLAY? DARE? DANCE? LOVE? LIVE?
Through art – poetry, dance, music, skateboarding, and crocheting – I was able to question and eventually evict the voices living in my head that told me I didn’t deserve to live an active, vibrant, meaningful life. Through art, I was able to tap into a world of colour, community, and connection in which I could feel healthy, dynamic, and fully alive.
Through crafting lovingly handmade crocheted jewelry and accessories, KASA KAVA invites people to ask themselves two questions: “who made my clothes?” and “how can I live my life in full color?” This is not a “brand” so much as it is a social experiment in how to live a more colourful, dynamic life in the belly of the beast. KASA KAVA is in its infant stages, but has already attracted attention and clients from countries such as South Africa, England, and Mexico. I hope that my love for crochet art continues to grow and my creativity expands as I explore ways to use my work as a means of positively contributing to conversations and movements about ethical fashion, interconnectivity, and intergenerational healing.