The Real Places are not on the Map
Seventeen years after I left my hometown, I return to the house where I grew up, in a small neighbourhood on the riverside region of the Parnaíba River, in Piauí, northeast Brazil. The home of my grandmother, Luísa, whose care, whose care filled my childhood. Black woman, of Afro-indigenous roots, matriarch of our family.
The only photo she keeps of herself is that on her identity card. Throughout her life, like many women and men of her generation and origin, my grandmother never had access to the possibility of representing her memories and affections through images and sounds. A gap reproduced through the historical process of racism, exclusion and erasure of our identities and collectivities, which affects habits, relationships, moral codes, aesthetics, ways of living.
Seventeen years to summarize in seven minutes as a representation of a cycle that spans three generations. The Real Places are not on the Map is about how to rescue these ancestral affections and memories buried under the lack of self-representation and narratives about us and by us.
The film is the result of an endless search to assemble this puzzle of absences so as to reach a presence that inhabits her daily space. That lives in the ancestry that her body now carries. And in her effort to maintain her identity at a time when our memories and experiences are plundered and adulterated by the colonizing gaze.
It is the attempt to traverse, through a cartography of affections, the backyards of memory that still persist in her. An attempt to recompose this photo album forgotten in the dust of her antique chest. And, in this portrait, I see her renewed, rejuvenated. An image in which she recognizes herself, and I also see myself, in a present that has reached here.
Y tir wedi’i dad-dewi / The Land Unmuted: Field Notes
This visual and aural presentation resulted from an exploration into the struggles of reclaiming and holding onto endangered languages. It visually represents the language in the land and connects it to the land. By mediating languages through land, a space infused with history, identity and connection, this installation explores how the revival of languages resurrects the knowledge held in land. The installation uses a minority language to displace the dominant language with which both languages interact. The endangered language, Gunnai/Kŭrnai, (an Indigenous Australian language) is in the process of being awoken and the minority language, Cymraeg (Welsh, a European Celtic language), is still under threat. The dominant language of both languages is English, which although it cannot be fully removed has been displaced from its usual central positioning in a decolonial strategy.
These field notes provide a brief overview of the creation of Y tir wedi’i dad-dewi, an installation of over 900 baskets with sound. This work provides a space for the voices of the land to retell the story in an unfamiliar style, permitting the previously silenced to have a voice. Australian Aboriginal artists such as Julie Gough and Steaphan Paton believe that narratives can be retold through recreation and reclaiming, even when disrupted by colonialism. With this work, I aimed to not recite the colonial story again but to create a new narrative allowing endangered and minority languages to speak again. Although the two languages are globally and culturally far removed from each other, they were selected because they are part of my lived experience.
Keywords: endangered languages, minority languages, land, language revival, Gunnai/Kŭrnai, Cymraeg
ఎరుపు (Erupu): Reconstructing Red Dye of Kalamkari Textiles
The brilliant red hues of the dyed, painted, printed and resist-dyed cottons of the coastal belt of the Deccan—historically known as kalamkari—have invited continuous debates and scholarly interventions into the usage of dyestuff in this region. The majority of the scholars stressed the use of one specific
dyestuff, the roots of chaya or oldenlandia umbellata, though historical records suggest that several kinds of red dyes were available in the Deccan region, sourced locally and beyond. Whereas elsewhere I have argued that the artisanal processes and local water sources significantly contribute to the vibrancy of red dyes of this region, here I would like to present a praxis-oriented approach with regards to utilising three different kinds of red dyes in my workspace to reflect upon this historical matter. I have chosen to work with three dyes, which were in use in southern India: manjistha or rubia cordifoila, aal or morinda citrifolia and sappanwood or caesalpinia sappan. The experiments will broaden understandings around the materiality of Deccani dyes and dyeing practices. Moreover, I will emphasise the aspect of layering and over-dyeing in the celebrated Deccani cottons, which remains mostly understudied. For the submission, I produced a photo essay as a chronicle of this practice-based research. This approach is rooted in the recent art historical scholarship that prioritises the process of making objects over the final outcome.
Keywords: Practice-based Research, Red Dyes, Textiles, Deccan, Art History