I had the pleasure of seeing the new film, "I Am Eleven" yesterday with a theater full of mostly 11 year olds and the filmmaker. "I Am Eleven" is a delightful documentary which introduces viewers to 11-year-olds from all over the world. The diversity of their lives and experiences is juxtaposed with a certain quintessential elevenness. The kids - from orphans in India, to a suburban girl from New Jersey, and many more - all share a certain way of walking this planet. There is a maturity, a newfound clarity of vision and purpose about the world, coupled with optimism, innocence and freshness.
During a post-film interview, the author said, "Eleven is a really important cusp age," I couldn't have agreed more, and was reminded of all of the reasons why I started Artemis Circle. Kids that age are on the cusp between being kids and being adults. In pre-industrialized societies around the world, it was commonplace for kids right around age 11 to experience a formal initiation. Some cultures still engage in the practice.
In Ancient Greece, girls were taken to the Temple to Artemis where they participated in running, archery and other physical feats in front of their families and communities. The initiates were being prepared for their arranged marriages, most often to a much older man (the term "virgin suicides" came from this practice).
In Navajo culture, girls take part in the Kinaalda ceremony, in which the whole community gathers and stands by, supporting and honoring the girl with their presence and words as she undertakes several runs, bakes a traditional cake, and stays up all night. At the end of the ritual, the initiate is thought to embody Changing Woman, a Navajo deity, and the community asks her initiate to bless them.
"I Am Eleven" gives us a sublime snapshot of what is universally the essence of that age, enabling us, according to the website, to "explore an age where these ‘not quite kids, not quite teenagers’ briefly linger, between the frank openness and sometimes naivety of childhood, and the sharp and surprisingly brave wisdom and knowing of adulthood. As much as it is a story about them, it is a story with them, of what it is like to be eleven today." Go see "I Am Eleven." If it's not showing near you, you can also demand it through the Gathr website here.