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The Waterlily Project Overcoming adversity through feminist hip-hop

The waterlily is a metaphor for the essence of what our lived experience is all about.

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Photo by Daria Nitsche.

Our lives are constantly filled with gritty experiences and gut-wrenching surprises, so it's in light of the unavoidable turbulence that moments of magic and growth feel special and should be cherished.

The waterlily is a metaphor for the essence of what our lived experience is all about. It's 'despite and perhaps even because of the murky waters a beautiful flower arises.' From these foundations, the Waterlily Project was created, a celebration and artistic interpretation of experiences that may at first seem difficult, but with time we realise that from them something beautiful can evolve.

First premiering on 18 April via a privately distributed link, the collection consists of 20 songs and accompanying short films showcasing feminist, grassroots hip-hop. In line with old-school hip-hop culture, each track provides a social commentary while simultaneously inspiring the community. The project as a whole is an exquisite example of what a group of people from opposite sides of the world, with different belief systems and backgrounds, can come together to create.

The founder of the Waterlily Project, Grace Kaya, deserves recognition for what she's created. It's clear how much time and effort has gone into the project, not to mention the re-organisation of its premiere as a virtual event. It was clear to me from speaking with her briefly that this project is extremely close to her heart. The commitment and concern that she has for issues of sexual and domestic abuse completely radiate from her lyrics, as well as the vocals that run through the whole collection. Pouring in so much of her own personal intention undoubtedly adds a whole new layer of meaning.

Although the project was not initially created to support the Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, Grace was always aware of it serving an important purpose. All proceeds from the collection will go straight to the veteran charity to aid the work they do in supporting those who have previously or are currently suffering from sexual and domestic abuse. Coincidentally aligning with the celebration of the charity's 40th anniversary, the Waterlily Project is the perfect way to give thanks.

The first video of the collection, 'Mudita', introduces the foundations of the project. Grace, along with former Sheffield mayor Magid Magid and Jenny Tong, address a group of primary school children. The same children then perform the uplifting and insanely catchy song. The song repeats, "When I shine, you shine with me", celebrating girls, both young and old, coming together to lift each other up and purely focus on joy.

The seventh video, 'conSENSUAL', is particularly striking. Choreographer and dancer Jaz Fairy J moulds her body and transports herself across the room in a way that demands you not to take your eyes off her. The way she moves in combination with the track tells an important story of sexual independence and consent. It's a captivating and crucial social commentary.

'Lady Dragonfly' embodies all the intentions of the Waterlily Project. The short film includes clips of various women commenting on difficult experiences in their lives and how they eventually overcame those obstacles to emerge even stronger. These exceptional women, such as Lisa who recovered from a pituitary adenoma, display the strength it takes to physically and mentally rebuild yourself from whatever hardships life may throw at you.

Each and every film in the collection inspires and educates in its own way. The collection is not claiming to have the only viewpoint on these issues, but it provides a valuable social commentary.

Most importantly, the wealth of artists who have dedicated their time and talent to create such beautiful work should be applauded for all that they are giving back.

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