Artist As Healer 2023-24 Selected Artist: Alisha Lettman

We’re excited to announce Alisha Lettman as this year’s Artist as Healer!

Over the next 5 months, Alisha will bring together youth, seniors, and healthcare professionals to consider the role that South Asian traditional knowledge has in climate change adaptation. This interdisciplinary project brings together medicinal plant knowledge, diverse music and art traditions, and land-based learning.

This project is rooted in the Moberly Medicine Garden, within the unceded territory of the Musqueam and the Squamish peoples, and part of the historic Punjabi market neighbourhood. Here, Alisha will invite the community to cultivate the garden as a container for living wisdom, and honour the land’s diverse histories and future. Community members will explore the disease risks associated with pollution, waste, and consumerism. By curating a multi-sensorial environment with plants as the artistic medium and rooted in South Asian cultural context, we resist loss and commodification of cultural heritage and embody ways of being that pre-date modernity.

“The artist as healer project is deeply needed in our modern world. At its best, modern medicine is precise, regulated, and quick. At its worst, one’s illness is separate from their social context and the environment, and unacceptable side effects abound. Artists translate the essential spark of inspiration and express truths that to be impactful, must be socially responsible and appropriately contextualized. In between these worldviews, this initiative allows the best of two ways of being to inform a new way forward. Rigid, hyper-individualized roles of the past are insufficient for the global sociopolitical and environmental crises the planet currently faces. Through this project, ways of healing and truth-telling emerge rooted in interdependence, traditional ecological knowledge, and cultural knowledge. Facing climate change, one of the most urgent threats of our times, we practice ways of engaging with the health of ourselves, our neighbors, and the land, knowing our health is deeply tied to the health of the natural world.” – Alisha Lettman

Photo of Alisha Lettman against a teal backdrop holding a bouquet of flowers and smiling at the camera.

ABOUT ALISHA LETTMAN (she/they)

Alisha is a community-engaged artist, herbalist, and vocalist. With a mother from Sindh and a father from Jamaica, she comes both from neem and calabash. Her work seeks to dismantle systems of oppression on an embodied level while stewarding systems of liberation and pathways for healing.

As an artist, she has led culturally responsive arts and land-based learning projects for youth, seniors and adults of all walks of life. Her projects strive to nurture anti-oppressive communities towards belonging by creativity, enacting a relationship of reciprocity with the land. Alisha currently serves with the City of Vancouver as the artist in residence at the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre’s Medicinal Garden, a community teaching resource and source of nourishment and medicine for the neighbourhood. Here, she hosts workshops to engage the public to enact reciprocity with the land, local community, and non-human ecologies.

Alisha is trained in western herbalism and ethnobotany rooted in Ayurvedic and Afro-Caribbean lineages, with years of experience in seed saving and land stewardship. She comes from a line of seed keepers, midwives and herbalists. 

Alisha has performed both her music and poetry at the Vancouver Mural Festival, TD Toronto International Jazz Festival, and the Vines Art Festival. An alumni of the University of British Columbia, Alisha currently resides on the traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories.

This project is supported by the Vancouver Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts. Community Partner: Canada India Network Society (CINS)