PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Last Saturday, 13 women entered Java Arts Cafe at midnight, curious to see what their mysterious hostess, Miko Kuro, had in store for them.
Little did they know, they would take part in an experiment that would awaken their sense of self-empowerment.
Blindfolded and silent, each woman had her lips painted with a different color of lipstick and was led upstairs, trusting guides to seat them. Tea, water and notecards were placed in front of them.
One by one, blindfolds were removed and voices in English and Khmer emerged as each notecard had a different task written for a woman to complete with her partners. Through reading, writing, poetry, and dancing, the group experienced Miko Kuro’s Midnight Tea.
One participant, Cecelia Marshall, described the experience.
“All of us women had no idea what to expect, but were open to this random experience,” she said. “We all walked away with a unique bond, and the reflection and importance of self-empowerment as women.”
The Miko Kuro
The hostess behind the mask is Natasha Marin. True to her Trinidadian heritage, she celebrates all cultures as part of her own. She immersed her identity into a persona — Miko Kuro, hostess of the Midnight Tea sessions. In Japanese, “Miko,” refers to a temple attendant and “Kuro,” means black.
“You get magically bestowed artist powers at midnight by Miko and work with her as an equal to create a ritual that celebrates the ability of human beings to be creative,” Ms. Narin explained. “The ghost of the mad woman in the attic like in Jane Eyre.”
Describing the sessions as an interactive, multi-sensory experience and exploration of poetry, this mother of two feels the self-care ritual is a great outlet for the women in Cambodia.
Self-Care and Freedom in Art
Born in Canada with Caribbean roots, Ms. Marin started her project in her hometown of Vancouver, Canada.
“It was just an idea I had,” she said. It was inspired by Japanese tea ceremony classes she took in Texas.
“I felt an aesthetic connection with creating these moments of reverence between very intimate groups of people,” Ms. Marin said. “Where every gesture, every movement in the tea room has meaning, and it’s like being inside of a poem somebody wrote just for you.”
Comparing it to a spiritual practice of connecting with a higher source by creating moments between a guest and a host, she shared that experience with others after leaving Texas. She started offering midnight tea ceremonies almost a decade ago.
In Vancouver, huddled in a small studio above an abandoned butcher shop in the dead of winter, she and 12 other women met at midnight.
As the night wore on, the snow began falling and the sounds of a koto (a Japanese string instrument) played while twelve brave strangers shared their experiences under the mantle of art. Free from judgment, they helped each other in a form of self-healing.
Since then, Ms. Narin has found that her project has affected many participants. This knowledge pushed her to travel to France, Canada, Greece, Finland, India, Thailand, China, and the USA. Her mission: to create more “poetic moments” in a space designed for intimacy, vulnerability, and creative freedom.