For Nadia Ackerman, artist, singer-songwriter, and founder of Natchie, the impulse to create was more of a need than a choice.
It started when she was 21. First a flashback—something terrible that happened when she was six. Then she began waking up screaming from night terrors. At 23, she moved from her native Sydney, Australia to New York. The flashbacks continued for two years, until she woke up one morning wanting to kill herself.
She went to the doctor, the only place she knew she could get help. Through the course of several years of therapy, she began lifting the veil of trauma from sexual abuse she had endured as a child. “I started to discover my truth and really get to meet myself for the first time,” says Ackerman.
She shared her story in a short film with HealthiNation, in order to help other survivors see that things could get better. She explains how through her art, she creates a place of happiness for her childhood selves that were abused: “a land that’s safe, where nothing can happen to them.”
“It’s quite amazing to me how paralyzing shame and guilt are,” says Ackerman. “Creativity for me has always been a tool for survival. I probably wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have that outlet.”
You’ve worked with HealthiNation on a short film, “Time to Live Again,” to encourage people to speak up about their experiences with sexual abuse. How did that partnership come about?
Jacquelyn Lobel (producer and filmmaker) walked into my store as a customer. A few days later she emailed me saying she loved my store and the way I connect with my customers. She asked if I would be interested in being her next subject for a short documentary. I told her I would love to—I thought that this might be a great platform for me to finally share my story. I invited her down to the shop to tell her my real story and the rest, as they say, is history. This was a BIG step for me as I had only shared my story with a very small handful of people.
You mention in the film that mentoring girls is something close to your heart. Why is it important to you?
I know the importance of being seen, heard, and understood as a young child. It’s probably one of the most powerful things that can happen to you. I make sure that if I see a talent or a dream in a child, I let them know that I see it, and I try to guide them in any way I can.
Ali, one of the girls I mentor, lives in the neighborhood. I saw right away that she had a big talent and decided to help her get going with it.
What’s an impactful experience you’ve had connecting with strangers in the Natchie store?
I’ve had many! The most recent and powerful was a girl from Europe who was visiting NYC with her boyfriend. She walked in and I immediately saw myself in her. It was very odd. I kept it to myself of course. She looked around the store and I explained my concept of drawing my music. She was looking through the intense songs/drawings section and she began to cry. She cried throughout her entire visit in my store. This actually happens quite a lot.
About a week later, after she had returned home, she shared with me that she had also been abused in childhood. She didn’t know about my story when she visited—only that she felt a connection to my work. Then she watched my film and felt compelled to reach out. It was an incredibly beautiful moment and reminded me of the importance of why I do what I do.