Reimagining and taking up space with SHY Collective


Chai S

It is very easy to imagine exciting ventures when you and a friend have shared goals, dreams and ambitions. You get into conversations about the changes you want to see, finding a niche that you can explore together. Those first few moments of new imaginings are as tangible as the real thing, envisioning yourself somewhere new and doing what you love, and with someone to do it with. SHY started off as a power lunch in 2019, (between Fez and Holly, the founders) where we sat together and spoke about this urge to create something meaningful. We scribbled down ideas, and for that day we lived in the tangible reality of our un-named vision.

Fast forward to 2020, where there was nothing much we could do but bake banana bread and learn to crochet, and we were having that same conversation again. With the empty months in front of us with no guarantee of what was coming next, we started to talk about working together, unearthing our visions from that power lunch and from then on we committed ourselves to weekly Zooms of imagining, creating resources, and finally giving ourselves a name.


We are SHY COLLECTIVE and we believe in academia as a form of resistance. We believe as bell hooks said that “Education [is] the practice of freedom” and for all people to have access to this freedom, we need education systems to be inclusive and intersectional. While at university, we both accessed revolutionary texts that transformed the way we understood society, marginalisation and our identity. With SHY, we are claiming our knowledge and making our voices heard as a form of revolution and resistance, and we want to do this through making resources for and by our communities.


SHY is about taking that feeling of ‘not belonging’ or feeling inadequate in academic spaces and reclaiming it. It’s about bringing knowledge back to a place of pleasure and joy and placing yourself in those spaces you want to be. We created the space we wanted and needed for ourselves and our community, and this is something that we all deserve - to take those wants, dreams and passions and see them come through! So as a way to introduce ourselves, we want to share with you 5 ways you can take up space in order to support your journey to getting where you want to be.


~ Happy reimagining! ~


1. Visibility - being present is the first step: showing up for yourself and for those around you. Just being visible in a space is enough. There is power in numbers and many may want to enter a space just because they have seen you there. We formed SHY to remind ourselves that we belong in academic spaces in a way that fits us. Which means we will continue to challenge, resist and speak up.


2. Reflection - Acknowledge your feelings and passions. Lean into the knowledge of who you are and what you care for, and celebrate that. This is where you will do your greatest work. Understand the passion you feel for something. Whether it's art, literature, poetry, music, cooking, dancing or performing, that form of expression will allow you to take up space in the most authentic way. Intuition and emotion should be centred in everything you do. A Eurocentric way of understanding and legitimising knowledge often forces us to abandon the power within the feelings and emotions in our work, but our subjectivity is imperative.


Lean into the knowledge of who you are and what you care for and celebrate that. This is where you will do your greatest work.

3. Reimagining - Think beyond the binary and the structures which constrict us and invest in the notion of possibility and freedom. We need to start appreciating things as incomplete and imagining new futures for ourselves and our community. Knowledge does not operate within a binary so we must dismantle and challenge these limiting structures. While taking up space we must be radical and think beyond the limits we are used to. In doing so, we can shift the narrative and develop a new understanding of ourselves and our futures.


Knowledge does not operate within a binary so we must dismantle and challenge these limiting structures. While taking up space we must be radical and think beyond the limits we are used to.

4. Community - Taking up space and re-imagining is powerful when it is collective. Community can manifest in many ways, and your chosen family, friends and allies are there for you. When we work with our communities we can learn to grow with one another. Hold each other accountable and inspire one another with all those possibilities.


5. Joy - It’s about belonging, it’s about pleasure, it’s about homecoming. A safe space is yours because you cultivated it and it contains the people who help you and your collective ideas to grow. Do what you love, take up space joyfully, be yourself, honour your movements, laugh loudly, and sit in the pleasure of your authenticity.


Through visibility, intuition, reimagining, community and joy we can start to take up space authentically within all areas of our lives. Challenge those feelings of imposter syndrome, not feeling good enough, and self-doubt. Here are some of our essential readings when thinking about taking up space:

  1. Master’s tools will never dismantle the master's house - Audre Lorde

  2. Transformation of Silence into Language and Action - Audre Lorde

  3. Emergent Strategy - adrienne maree brown

  4. A killjoy survival kit - Sara Ahmed

  5. Feminism Interrupted: Disrupting Power - Lola Olufemi


Photography by Chai S, from "At Home I Feel Safe" series

@stillchai


Fez & Holly - SHY COLLECTIVE

Read more about them here