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Yoruba Priestess kick starts “TUBtalks” series

Dr. Luisa Tiesh arrived in silence with a big smile as she put her belongings down next to the hot tub.  She greeted the class in Yoruba and translated: “may you have good health and peace in your neighborhood.” She said that salutations and greetings are important before beginning anything.

The students are proud of their official TUBtalks banister. It will hang behind every guest. All photos by Priscilla Wilson.

While the students were in their swimsuits, Dr. Tiesh just walked into the water fully clothed in a two-piece, all-white ensemble. Before anyone could dwell on the shock of seeing her transparent clothes, which exposed her breasts and curvy features, she began teaching a song that called upon the water and fertility goddess Oshun.

The TUBtalks podium. Guest can slip thier notes inside the waterproof wading board.

According to their website, the TUBtalks is a lecture series situated in the Jacuzzi at the Mills College Aquatic Center. TUBtalks is designed to integrate traditional modes of learning with relaxation while questioning social and educational norms: notions of expertise, classroom hierarchies and the lecture format. The course is taught by visiting artist Josh Green and anyone can join during the lecture series.

“This seminar’s focus is on water and we’re using the hot tub as an antidote to the pedagogical environment,” Green said.

According to Green, having class in the hot tub is a way to “hydrate” dry topics.

“The class decided to choose Dr. Tiesh as the first guest because of her knowledge about the spiritual ways of water.”

As she swayed back and forth in the water, Dr. Tiesh invited the students to mimic her movements and sing aloud. Dr. Tiesh said that song is prayer, innovation, a way to call the forces of nature and to feel connected.  The relationship between song and water is very important to her.

“Water clears out blocked creation. It heals infertility, sexual blockage, and evokes peace in any surrounding area,” Dr. Tiesh said.

Dr. Teish is the founder of lle Orunmila Oshun, a house of learning and love that has provided the Bay Area with public and private rituals, monthly temple services and seasonal festivals honoring ancestors and spirits for over 20 years. According to her website, “le Orunmila Oshun  is a spiritual center founded by Iyanifa Fajembola Fatunmise (Dr. Teish), located in Oakland, Calif. Members of the Ile practice the Ifa/Orisa tradition as preserved throughout the African Diaspora.” She is also an author, ritual leader, artist, storyteller and a priestess of Oshun. The Goddess Oshun is described as a “dangerous beauty that values self-reflection. She’s so powerful that she rouges her cheek with the blood of her enemies,” said Dr. Tiesh.

Dr. Tiesh channels Oshun for divine healing. According to her, Oshun guards the waters and blesses those who sincerely come for her help. Dr. Tiesh leads rituals to honor the Goddess Oshun and give blessings and gratitude for being alive.

Senior and Art Studio major Meryl Olah was excited about Dr. Tiesh’s visit.

Mills students listening diligently as Dr. Tiesh talks about Yoruba mythologies and traditions.

“I think this class and having Dr. Tiesh come speak first successfully challenged education norms and creatively brought unconventional topics into academia,” Olah said.

Dr. Tiesh was honored to address the class and to share herself and her work with the class.

“I think this went all very good,” Tiesh said. “The environment, this innovation, is shifting people’s perspective in learning. Learning is not divorced from experience and responsibility.”

Dr. Tiesh said having a platform for a new way of learning and teaching allows students to be introduced to new ideas of life, lifestyle, healing and self-awareness.

Dr. Tiesh ended by teaching a song that couldn’t be sung for too long, for she worried it would begin to rain, it was a song that prayed for rain during dry times. Her parting words were a wise message from the Goddess Oshun: “If you don’t want something ugly, don’t start something ugly.”

There are about eight more TUBTalks scheduled for this semester. For more information about TUBtalks and the line up  for upcming events and guests, visit