All photos by:  Brenda Phillips
Website created by:  Brenda Phillips and Robin Anderson

The Common Ground Collective began with Brenda's practice of using film and photography to empower women globally.  In 2015, she put out a call to find her next project.  Her call was simple:  “I’m looking for the unsung heroes, a grassroots project that would benefit from socially-responsible exposure." 

 

This landed in my inbox by a stroke of luck.  And I knew just the project. 

 

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I had long been fascinated with all regions of the world where traditional medicine was still a mainstay.  Mexico in particular had captivated me for many years, and I had been working in and out of Oaxaca for over 15 years at the time.

 

The project I suggested to Brenda was based in a remote region in the state of Oaxaca.  In this area, women were mobilizing to work in their communities as healers, learning basic triage and acupuncture.  They were also revitalizing their use of traditional plant medicine-knowledge that had been buried with the trend towards modernization.  The women of this project were thrilled to have their work documented, and shared.

 

After a month on location, surrounded by 40 varieties of salvia, arnica and other native roots and leaves boiling over open fires, we both realized that traditional plant medicine was more than just healthcare.  It was a world unto itself, which opened avenues to biodiversity, food security, and conservation.   Our month on the ground also shed light on even bigger themes of where economy meets culture, and how that impacts migration, family structure, and above all, hope.  Most of all, we witnessed how women were highly impacted by these trends yet continued to serve as protective factors in their communities. 

This inauguration project revealed a powerful meeting point in which we could serve as a conduit.  By coming together with this mixed bag of our personal experience in film, photography, rural healthcare, and traditional medicine, we could continue to collaborate with women-lead, community based projects- creating a common ground. 

 

Our hope is that this strategy could lead to consistent and sustainable sources of support, and that the women we encounter will be uplifted and acknowledged for their unique contributions and talents, which are surely needed