Terms like “self-care” and “self-love” are commonplace all over social media these days. But what do these concepts really mean for women of colour on a basic level? What does self-care look like when you take it offline, away from timelines, stories and hashtags and make it a real-life practice? Of course the answer to that is as multiple and varied as we are. And with her new single and self-directed video, ‘Sweet Time’, New-York-based musician Raveena Aurora offers us a version of what it means to her: to slow down, truly love yourself and heal through self-care.
“In my music I want to create safe spaces to heal and grow together. If we don’t have self-love we can’t start to get over the generations of trauma that have been imbibed in our bodies” – Raveena Aurora
It feels appropriate, therefore, to have held off until she reached London to speak in person, and to have taken an entire afternoon out to chat about creativity and care. As we get into it, it becomes almost instantly clear that Raveena is very sure on why this is an important message for her to share with other women of colour: “I’ve been through my own pain as a woman of colour,” she tells me. “In my music I want to create safe spaces to heal and grow together. If we don’t have self-love we can’t start to get over the generations of trauma that have been imbibed in our bodies.”
This approach informs a lot of her work. Yet despite the potentially heavy subject matter, she seems to have succeeded in turning a serious subject into something uplifting and positive. ‘Sweet Time’ is about taking your time, taking stock and enjoying the simple things with likeminded women. The song welcomes you in with an irresistible harp intro that drops to a neo-soul groove, where you might recognise the influence of singers like Erykah Badu, Sade and early SZA. After a couple of listens, I found myself easily whistling and humming along.
The dreamy visuals extend the theme of the song, celebrating women of colour, sisterhood and, as Raveena calls it, our “inner magic”. Her decision to take on the role of director also came out of a journey of creative growth and healing. “For so long it’s been the male gaze, which we’re definitely still subject to. So it’s empowering to me as a woman to be the director and shape how we’re portrayed on camera.”
“They’re all these beautiful goddesses, as I like to call them. Students, artists, writers and models who came together for the purpose of making something positive for women of colour” – Raveena Aurora
Watching it, there’s a sense of intimacy that makes me think of being in my mum’s bedroom as a teenager, her helping me wrap my sari, my sister and I going through piles of jewellery boxes together, picking out matching sets of bangles, doing each other’s make-up and hair. Those private moments of shared female love and energy that I cherish. I ask her about the radiant women in the video. “They’re all these beautiful goddesses, as I like to call them. Students, artists, writers and models who came together for the purpose of making something positive for women of colour.”
Although music-making came well before directing, Raveena has learned a lot from the process and is increasingly interested in the dialogue between the two. “It helps with the music, being able to play videos in your head while you’re recording. There’s something very Zen about it. It engages the senses in a different way.”
There’s also something Zen about her presence; that comes from her practice of mindfulness and meditation, which are also part of her personal self-care journey, and artistic development. So what advice does she have for women trying to overcome negative forces and stay true to themselves? “Being mindful is a huge thing. It’s about building trust with yourself so you don’t doubt yourself in those moments where people make you doubt yourself. Being aware when someone is not giving you the right energy.”