In this Woman2Woman interview, we talk to Danié Gómez Ortigoza from Journey of a Braid. She is a Mexican-American multi-media artist who believes in the power of braiding with intention.
She uses photography, fashion, video and words as her primary materials and social media as her platform. Through the brand Journey of a Braid, she shares how braiding has impacted her life and why it is an essential part of her creativity. For her, braiding is a portal into the soul and the main subject of her exploration of rituals and ancestry. You can recognize her by her ‘Floridian Frida’ braid, which she carries around as a feminist manifesto whenever she’s on a mission.
It seems that in recent years braiding has become one of the most important and predominant ways of artistic expression for you. Can you tell us a little more about how you found this way of creating and why you braid?
Braiding has been present since my childhood when my nanny would always wake up early and braid me whenever I had a special day. I didn’t grow up with my mother, so it was very special to me to feel that kind of connection. My grandmother also loved braiding and kept a braid as a memento of her youth. She showed it to me all the time. So braids became an element of power for me.
Who are you today, and what is different from 10 years ago? Has the act of braiding evolved with you through time?
The braid is constantly changing, and so am I. Ten years ago, I didn’t have children, and I lived in Toronto about to move to Sweden. I’ve called home three different countries in the last ten years. My braids keep everything I am together. If I didn’t braid my hair, I would possibly disintegrate into a million pieces. I am one of those persons that feel too much. Braiding keeps my thoughts (and my soul) together.
What was the best personal and/or professional advice you were ever given?
Change is the only constant in life. Trust and bond deeply with women.
From a creative standpoint, what or who has been your most significant influence?
Nina Surel, a Miami-based Argentinian artist and friend who has shown me how to explore creativity and let myself be, regardless of all the layers I used to carry, which stopped me from creating.
Where or what is your happy place? How do you find peace?
My studio is my happy place. I love being alone, creating things with my sewing machine and writing poetry. Silence is my happy place.
How important is a connection with nature for you?
Nature is everything to me. Every morning I walk for an hour without shoes at the park. I thank the air, the wind and the earth every morning before I start my day as I meditate in my garden.
How do you start your day?
My morning meditation it’s really important. Then I prepare my kids for school, and once I find my silence, I write my morning pages and then comb all the thoughts that weigh on me of my hair and braid the good ones.
How do you take care of your body, mind and soul?
Lately, I haven’t been as consistent with this because I’m going through many life changes, but I am religious with daily meditation and yoga twice a week. Writing keeps me sane as well. I do a morning smoothie with all the good things my body needs, which gives me a good push for my day as well.
How do you take care of your skin?
My smoothie has ginger, maca, lucuma, goji and many other delicious nutrients that make a big difference on my skin. I try to drink water, and I use aloe vera on my face, straight from the plant as a mask, and leave it on through the night. I also wear sunscreen every day.
Do you have any daily, weekly or monthly rituals?
Every month I scrub myself with salt on the first three days of the month before my shower, followed by a sugar scrub. Through that, I release all the darkness and call for light. I braid my hair with intention every day.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. Lots of it.
What advice would you give yourself at the age of 16?
I wouldn’t have listened to myself, but I would push myself to give way into my art. I would have also told myself men and love weren’t as important as the media, and the music I listened to made me think. My mission was to find my purpose and build myself up to my expectations instead of someone else’s.
Is there any book you love and would recommend people to read?
Wild Women Who Run With Wolves and Braiding Sweetgrass.
Can you share one piece of wisdom with our community, something that you have gained in your life, something that will encourage women reading this to grow, find their inner strength and confidence?
You have all the answers. Learn to listen to yourself. If you do, the path becomes clear. And braid your hair with intention.
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