In the age of 25 I started to paint. I was in a deep crisis and it was my dear friend Tom Schlesinger who said, start painting!
So I did these cave paintings with golden signs on turquoise base.
It came out of me like a battle with my inner demons, but I liked the final paintings. Also, out of nowhere, I started drawing and didn’t know where the new born talent came from. I put gukanuna as my artist name and hung one of the paintings on the wall of the entrance room in my shared flat in Hamburg.
One day a Japanese lady visited us and stopped in front of the painting with the signs. She asked me, what gukanuna meant?
I don't know, I said, gukanuna was my first word as a child. I could barely walk when I called this word after my great-grandmother. Although little of my early childhood has stuck with me, I have always remembered gukanuna fondly.
She said, ah, you speak Japanese? I said, no! She said, there are Japanese characters on your picture.
She pointed to the signs and said, that means "sun" and that means "flowing".
After that I had some exhibitions with my paintings in Hamburg.
I told the gallery owners that I was a painter and had studied art and drawing in Japan. That was a lie... and more galleries wanted to sell my paintings.
I felt terrible about the lie. I asked extremely high prices for my work, for them to not sell anything and let my lies flew off.
After three weeks I called them and said that I didn't want to sell my paintings anymore. I gave the paintings to my sister and stopped painting.
About five years later, I was living in Berlin - still suffering, going through the dark night of the soul, my shamanic initiation in retrospect -
I had the urge to find out what my first word meant.
So I went to all sorts of international restaurants in Berlin and asked the owners if gukanuna was their language.... but no one could help me.
Then a friend of a friend was in Berlin. Annette was studying languages in Cologne and I asked her if she knew by any chance what gukanuna could be about... She didn't.
Three days later, my phone was ringing. It was Annette, she was back in Cologne. She said, she had woken up at night and had to google my word.
I was disappointed and said, that I googled it before and there is absolutely nothing about gukanuna.
She said, "Yes, but I woke up and knew I had to leave a space between guka and nuna.... and I found the Delaware Lenape Indian dictionary.
Your first word is actually a combination of two words:
Guka means mother and nuna - breast. It means Mother's breast."
Wow, that was something! With this informatiom I tried to find out more about them... but they seemed to be a small tribe and there was hardly something to find about them in the internet.
2018, when I was in L.A., I bumped into Christopher.
I met him three years earlier in Topanga and we chatted about how he healed himself from cancer.
When we met again I wanted to connect on Facebook and that's when I saw he was from Delaware.
I said, "Wow, you're from Delaware? Do you know the Leni Lenape? The tribe?"
Out of the sudden his eyes filled with tears, he took off his shirt, turned his back to me and replied, "My great grandfather was the chief of that tribe, I have him tattooed on my back."
And there it was... my connection, my path, everything made perfect sense to me. I started to cry too - a deep releasing crying.
The Leni Lenape were the visionaries and healers of their time, and their spirit animal was the reindeer. When I arrived in Topanga cyn that year 2018, I saw two of them standing in the national park staring at me.