On June 30th, 2018 I collaborated with two wonderful artists, Soulaf Abas (Syria) and Bruce McKaig (United States) on a show we titled The Road Home while we were Equal Justice residents at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) in Santa Fe, NM. The time at the residency helped me deepen my research on decolonization and resulted in a series of improvised dances that I performed as part of the show. Here are a excerpts on a couple:
As I continue to develop my practice, it is increasingly important for me to share my process as an invitation to dialogue with friends, family, students and audience members. In this first blog post, I share with you my experience at SFAI and my creative process for The Road Home. Enjoy!
Most of my work over the past 5 years has centered around my identity as a queer latinoamericana living in the U.S. Underlying that work, there has been a constant questioning of home, what it is in the constant flux of a migrant society and what it means for me as I create and recreate my identity. Living en la frontera— the U.S.-Mexico border— in the cities of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, has heightened this sense of ephemerality of place and has lead me to question how we become native to a region, how and when a new home gets established and what social, political and cultural contexts frame that experience.
This process started me on a journey back to my home, looking at my family lineage and ancestry to see how that informs my corporeality, my relationships and my work. I have framed this research as a decolonizing activity of both my improvisation practice and my family’s history. Building on my previous work, during the month-long residency this took three paths:
By expanding my understanding of listening and relational presence while remembering how to establish a reciprocal relationship to land and more-than-human nature. This process has been supported by the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer, specifically her book Braiding Sweetgrass. The wisdom that she carries has inspired me to create a daily ritual of gratitude, look for concrete ways to give back to Mother Earth, and spend more time in the company of (and dancing with) my non-human brothers and sisters.
Honoring African roots
The Latin American vernacular dances that I grew up dancing are grounded deeply in their African roots. By embracing characteristics of the African aesthetic (e.g. body isolations, polyrhythms, dancing closer to the floor) and expanding my current practice to include rhythmic-based improvisation, I aim to decolonize my experience through embodiment.
While in residence at SFAI I began to use storymaking as a way to reclaim my lost family lineage. I wrote three short (mostly) fictional stories drawing from memories, stories told and written by family members, historical facts, news articles and documentaries. These have become a space for me to wrestle with the complexities of mi mestizaje and confront the colonial narrative in my family’s past and present in an effort to create an alternative one in the future.