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Art, Endings, Tenderness and Friendship Fragmentation with Barbara De la Pena

Tell us a little bit about yourself - where you whakapapa to, how a friend would describe you, what you spend most of your time doing:

My whakapapa in Aotearoa was as a community space holder, and feeding rangatahi and tangata whenua at BGI Wellington. I had the honour to be a plant-based chef (mostly) and feed communities in Te Whanganui a Tara utilizing only rescued foods from wonderful Kaibosh. My passion for community and food were at their brightest as I held that space, it was a perfect intersection that inspired me every day and gave me purpose and was truly humbling seeing food connect people and provide comfort and joy in a shared space.

I am currently a freelance writer and visual artist as I embarked on my adventure reconnecting with France as I have just finished my degree. I am exploring how to practice community and nurture those passions from a different physical space.

We’ve been talking about SAD, also known as the “winter blues” a lot in the NBHD team. How do you prioritize and look after your mental health in winter?

I am very prone to experience seasonal depression, and to move alongside the seasons (physical and emotional). I find a profound sense of place and grounding when I remember that we are all traversing and navigating the seasons with all they bring and that I might not be the only one who is experiencing mental fog / xxx etc. When I feel like I lack energy or motivation, or I am feeling in a lower headspace, I solely focus on nourishing my basic needs until I feel safe enough to focus on something else. I tend to overwork myself and push myself to produce things and be inspired all the time, but I have learned with time that there are seasons for resting, and other seasons for creating- both feed onto each other and are crucial for any creative and life process.

When I am feeling the winter blues I like to nourish my body with (ideally) homemade meals with quality, seasonal and fresh ingredients. Whole foods truly give me life and feel nourishing and comforting. I make sure I prepare something for myself that looks beautiful too, as I aim to make cooking and eating an intentional ritual- starting from the eyes, and then to how it feels in our inner world. Something as simple as a meal tends to uplift

my mood and makes me feel held and taken care of. Living overseas on my own far away from my family has shown me how I can look after myself, and even when some days feel impossible to get by, focusing only on the basic needs feels like a success at the end of the day. A nice, simple meal, a shower, a stretch, a moment to cry, to make my bed, sit and read. Or sit and do nothing, just breathe. That is sometimes all you can do and that is enough and is absolutely fine, I want to raise awareness around that.

Movement is also a crucial way of dealing with feeling stuck, sad, or lacking. I love stretching in my room or outside if the weather allows it. If it is too cold for going out to stretch somewhere, I like doing it inside with a candle on, and music that makes my body want to move- and feel every single movement slowly, as it comes. I also love going on walks, ideally in nature as that feels so healing to me. Going on a walk in the afternoon, before sunset, is also amazing. I love soaking prana which sun gazing allows us to access, it feels so reinvigorating.

If I am not too exhausted physically, I love going on a jog, to a dance class, or doing tae kwon do (it's been my lifelong sport) so something a bit more higher impact elevates my energy levels and gives me the dopamine and endorphins to feel better and solely focus on theoment, my breath, and the aftercare that comes with it. I feel on top of the world after a good workout, especially when I was resistant before that, and makes me grateful for my body, and my ability to move, feel, touch, see, and taste. It could be a very profound experience that eases us emotionally too.

You recently did a podcast episode on friendship break ups, why do you think platonic relationship fracturing can hurt more than other forms of heartbreak? Do you think it’s because we are attached to the idea that friendships are supposed to endure at all costs?

It is very important to me to destigmatize the fractured idea we have of love, heartbreak, and intimacy- I think that solely attributing the concept of love to romantic relationships is very damaging, and could dismiss the pain that other forms of relationship fractures may cause. I want to give exposure and space to the conversations that spark reflection about what these commonly agreed-upon concepts like love, intimacy, and heartbreak are for us, how we hold space for them, how they look like for us, and how we can navigate these spaces. Last year I experienced a very painful friendship breakup that opened my eyes to this unspoken terrain within the relationship complexities and learning- I have learned to incorporate the principles that I would in a romantic relationship, into a platonic one as it was just as meaningful and giving, as well as reflective of our relationship with ourselves, with others, our inner dialogue, and what we are putting out into the world.

I personally do not feel like friendship breakups / or other forms of breakup beyond traditional romance depictions we know- are talked about enough. I think it is important to acknowledge that any relationship we hold, and choose to nourish and love, if it ends, or changes, may also deeply hurt, and may become a moment of understanding and learning. I believe that as x as romantic relationships are, so are platonic and friendship relationships and breakups. Last year I navigated a friendship breakup that marked me profoundly and brought a lot of healing, pain, and understanding.

As a multifaceted creative, what are your days filled with?

Creating, and bringing to life what is on my mind/ heart.

Writing, painting, taking photos, cooking, recording a podcast, and making music. Anything that requires my creative spirit´s involvement, I am in. There are seasons and times of my life when that looks and feels different, however, I do feel a constant release and peace of spirit when I try to make (or not) sense of what's going on inside of me by putting it into the physical world. I adore journaling and writing about what I feel and think. The most trust I have felt was in my journaling sessions when I would hand prompts, and we would write and navigate them together. I think it is such a simple activity that can be done on one's own, or collectively, and no matter what it is, it bridges understanding and empathy.

What’s something you want to spend more time doing?

Instead of utilizing the phrase “spend time”, I like saying “investing my time”. I think that the way we phrase things has such an impact on the way we see and feel, so I love seeing my daily activities as little investments towards the things I love, care for, and am creating.

I love investing time in connecting with nature. Every single daily walk, or conversation by the water (I have been going to the Seine every day to hang out with friends and myself) reinforces my connection with nature. I would love to invest time in open spaces, with people, where there is live music or a DJ set. I want to engage more with collective experiences because that is always a reminder that we are all navigating different things, but are on the same sea. I love seeing people share time and space, to me that is very magical, particularly when it is something as ephemeral as enjoying some sun before sunset, or music at a park. I want to feed my muscles that craves collectivity and human connection- it’s been a very long winter for me!

I’d love to know some more about your experience of studying in Aotearoa - how did the culture receive you? Did you feel lonely or homesick often? What do you miss the


Being an international student and migrating to another country on my own has been one of the toughest things I have ever faced and gone through. As wonderful and enriching as it is, it also can look and feel deeply isolating, lonely, and confronting; it is a very uncomfortable experience at first. When I arrived in Aotearoa it took me a while to feel welcomed, held, and seen. It was the toughest period of my life for sure, it lasted nearly a year. While lockdown happened, I decided to embark on podcasting and utilize that space as some sort of sonic diary, sharing ideas and things I would read about, and things I would try as I was navigating a healing journey and mediating my own relationship with my mental health and my stigmas around it. I never expected I would connect with others so much through that. Having a project like that was definitely a lifesaver, and was something I was excited about. From moments of deep pain and discomfort I have been seeking and contemplating our capacity to feel and heal, I am fascinated by that process, so that was one of the factors that made me deeply empathetic and sensible towards connecting with others and each person's own baggage. I can say that the most transformative thing that came out of the experience of migrating was creating a home of my own, one that did not rely on a culture, a language, or a physical structure, but was about a feeling in my body, in my spirit. Connecting with my time and space and feeling safe in it, no matter where it was, made me grow very deep roots with the land that holds me, and in many ways, for that, I feel Aotearoa is my home. I have not grown more anywhere else than I have been before.

What’s an experience you’ve had recently that has shaped you profoundly?

Moving back to France this year was profoundly painful, and pleasurable. I had been dreaming for years to come back and study and reconnect to the disciplines that shaped me when I was younger. There comes a point when we realise how relative the sense of belonging is, and how nuanced it could be when it is tied to a passport or a nationality. It has become a confronting and comforting experience for me because the only constant is my ever-evolving relationship with myself. I think that re-creating that homely feeling in a new space after a very painful and abrupt farewell of my previous life in Aotearoa was very hard to go through for months. I had never felt so stable and at peace so quickly, however I do feel different sorts of emotions come and go all the time. I am taking each day as it comes and for the first time releasing the pressure and stress about what "should come next", or to feel a certain way about a certain experience . I am just letting myself be and I have never enjoyed it more, I am so content with who I have become and everything that has shaped me and I hold inside of me.

Tell us about your goals for the next 3-6 months, what’re you hoping to see / feel / experience or achieve?

-Perfect my italian

-Host my journaling sessions monthly

-Host monthly journaling sessions with my listeners from all over the world.

-I want to publish my first collection of essays, poetry, and photography, as well as produce my first experimental film which explores what we conceive as a sense of belonging in a particular time and space.

-I want to reconnect with the ocean and spend more time in it. I want to feel light, held, and full.

-I want to see my grandma in Mexico.

- I want to do a roadtrip in July/August, and see new places, and meet new people.

-I would love to visit Cuba and reconnect with my Caribbean heritage.

-I would love to feel more grounded and emotionally stable regardless of the physical place I am in (eg while traveling, when I am with others and do not necessarily have space for myself)

-To give love, time, space, attention, care to others and those around me! To give back in some way all the wonders and blessings I am surrounded by everyday.

Where can we find / support / connect with you?


Journaling workshops: Patreon

Podcast: Amora Podcast / @amorapodcast

Personal: @bimbirella

Visual arts:

Written work: medium/@bimbirella

Arohanui Neighbourhood !! xoxxo




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