Find your child’s spirit animal in the deep, dark woods at Anima

This exhibit, targeted for children, explores what a soul is and who has one. Heavy topics presented in a light way. Photo: The Invisible Dog; Copyright Erika Hokanson

This exhibit, targeted for children, explores what a soul is and who has one. Heavy topics presented in a light way. Photo: The Invisible Dog; Copyright: Erika Hokanson

Brooklyn kids might have limited access to nature, but that doesn’t stop them from fantasizing about and emulating the creatures of the wild. On a daily basis, my son runs around eating his friends like a jaguar, nibbles his snack like a mouse, or puts socks on his hands pretending to be a kitten. Through a child’s eyes, the world is filled with magic; it’s a place where humans can turn into animals, dead princesses can rise up, and sick grandmothers can be snipped out of the belly of a big bad wolf unscathed. Which makes the exhibit, “Anima,” at the Invisible Dog Art Center the perfect setting to spark a child’s overactive imagination. Taking its cue from the Mayan idea of Anima, wherein animals and humans are considered equal, this immersive installation invites kids (and adults) to walk through a forest to discover the magic within.

A pages from my son's Activity Book, a free guide to help kids think more deeply about the Mayan concept of Animism. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

A pages from my son’s Activity Book, a free guide to help kids think more deeply about the Mayan concept of Animism. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

My six-year-old son loves fairy tales and was eager and scared of stepping down the darkened path through the man-made dark woods. He thought it was like Little Red Riding Hood, and he was hoping not to see any wolves. As we curved down the short path, we could hear nature sounds and make out some blinking through the brush. Rounding the corner opens you into a clearing that contained a reflection pool; above it is a magical yet haunting flying light that somehow looks alive. “Do you think that’s a ghost?” I asked my son. “No,” he whispered. “There’s no such thing as ghosts. It must be a large firefly.” The artist, Prune Nourry, and anthropologist and dramatist, Valentine Losseau, in fact intended this light to be the essence of the soul. What if all animals, plants and people have a soul? Could this be what it looks like? In the Mayan culture, a soul can transfer from one body to another. The word “anima” in Ancient Greece meant soul, which they thought was “a little gust of air that breathed life into all living beings.” Whether this representation is precise or not, it is mesmerizing.

After emerging back out of the woods, we picked up a substantial free Activity Book from the front desk that includes games and stories about Animism and the Mayan culture. A room is set up with pencils for kids to get busy on their books, and my son enjoyed choosing his totem spirit animal and naming mythical creatures. Unlike many disposable paper handouts, this one, with its beautiful sketches and stories about a human zoo, will be kept on the bookshelf and not recycled any time soon.

Afterward, you can contemplate the meaning of life over hot chocolate or affogato down the block at Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, where feeding your soul is as easy as ordering a vegan Salted Caramel sundae. We did, and our souls sang.

Anima (through April 14th). The Invisible Dog Art Center (co-presented with the Tilt Kids Festival). 51 Bergen St. Cobble Hill. Gallery Hours: Thursday- Saturday from 1pm to 7pm, Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream– 81 Bergen St. (nr. Smith St.) Cobble Hill (347) 763-2979