Friday, November 21, 2014

Place/Displacement at SOMarts Nov. 20-Dec. 13

Opening Night was really exciting! Lots of people were out despite the chilly cold wet weather. As I drove across the bridge I could barely see. At one point there was a flash of lightning.

I put the blue table cloth on the table along with the catalog for the show, business cards and the art caddy. It was great talking to everyone about their place of birth and his or her ancestry.

The exhibit is entitled: Movement Trails Within and Beyond Diaspora: A Global South Tale. In it we trace our movement from home to other places. Some people left the land of their birth fleeing death, while others were sold or kidnapped from home, never to return until generations later.

The thread represents people's mapping their journeys. I had them start with their place of birth and then locate their ancestors. We had 100 pins, at the end of the reception, 99 were used. There were stories left in the basket that spoke of genocide and refuge, confusion over where the person belonged. One woman said she was adopted by a woman from Manila and she was born in Los Angeles.

One man was from Antigua, with ancestors in England and relatives in Ghana. His wife was born in Hawaii. One little boy was born in Berkeley, but claimed Oakland. His mother told him to choose a country from Africa for his ancestors.
A woman joined us from Kenya, who lives in California now. People traced their ancestry from New Orleans and North Carolina, to Jamaica. We had quite a few people from the East Coast, Buffalo, New York, Boston. I don't think anyone was from Florida. One person was from Cuba. Two from the Philippines, one from Iraq, another from Turkey and another from another place near Iraq (these folks didn't feel like writing so I am trying to recall this from memory.)

We had people with ancestry in France . . . polyglot European mixes, Amsterdam, Italy, England, Spain.
Because the map was abstract, many people didn't see the map until they stepped back and looked more carefully at the work. I had a more traditional map in the binder on the table so that people could orientate themselves, but geographic accuracy was not the goal. Wherever the person felt she belonged, even if the borders or lines were not geographically correct it was okay. We ran out of space along the CA coast so some people had to be in the Pacific Ocean. One woman said she had had a dream about this.
So many people said they were happy the installation was in this show. We had people in line because only one person could map her journey at a time.

One woman was Chinese and European. Another was European and Mexican, but with green eyes and pale skin, red hair when not dyed black, she said she was seen as an impostor by other Mexicans, especially when she spoke Spanish. She knew about post-traumatic slave syndrome and the Maafa. Not many people recognized the photos from the Maafa Commemoration.
Several friends told me they wanted to read my research written on place for my Ecopsychology class at Pacific Graduate Institute. Another woman and I (an artist in the show, whose painting said "home," had a long conversation about African identity in the Diaspora and blackness. The two are not synonymous. She said she felt more comfortable calling herself black, rather than African.
Everyone I spoke to agreed that black people's humanity's survival was because of our spiritual grounding--those African gods who jumped on ships with us, kept us sane and human.
I am looking forward to seeing what other people write and where the lines are drawn while I am away (smile).

All photos taken at the Artists Reception
Photo credit: TaSin Sabir


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