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Salima Stanley-Bhanji: Human energy can be seen as a creative energy

Salima looking out the horizan.

Note: This article originally appeared on Calgary Arts Development on May 31, 2020

If you believe that human beings are inherently creative, then you’ll see human energy as a creative energy. Each of us have our unique ways of expressing creativity, molded by our particular experiences, traits, and conditioning. However, this energy can be blocked at times, due to the desire to “fit in” to what appear as stereotypes that are imposed on us.

Salima Stanley-Bhanji, CEO of Humainologie, addresses this issue by helping make Calgary a more inclusive city.

“I grew up in a time and place where I didn’t feel included because of my cultural heritage and the way I looked. When people feel included, they feel seen, valued, and are given space to be themselves and to contribute,” she says.

Humainologie is a Calgary-based non-profit whose mission is to spread empathy, increase inclusion, and reduce discrimination. They run an annual festival called Empathy Week, which has been proclaimed by The City of Calgary since 2019. Humainologie also leads The Period Project, a gender-inclusive, community-led initiative to provide free period products for Calgarians who need them. This summer, they are piloting the Parhad Artist Residency—a program which aims to support artists on their journeys through retreat.

A group of women in an event looking at Salima speak.

Apart from her creative work at Humainologie, Stanley-Bhanji also shares her perspective on how to release blocks to creative energy.

“I believe that part of re-embracing the full breadth of our creative wisdom and power is releasing some of the things that are blocking that energy. You might not believe me if I said crying makes me more creative, but it really does. For me, having a good cry just releases so much tension. All that bound up tension is something that moves me away from my authentic self and hinders my creative energy. At the same time, I think creativity can show up even in the midst of tension, and in times of being severely limited.”

Some may say that tension can arise when faced with the plurality of our multiple, varied identities. However, this also presents Calgarians with an opportunity to embrace and celebrate each other in all of our uniqueness, intersections, and complexity.

According to Stanley-Bhanji, “Doing so is essential for our mental health and relationships. It’s good for our community, economy, and it’s essential for our survival.”

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