This project began by exploring alternative histories of land, in this case specifically the Rio Grande river, and creating a map that doesn’t define borders but rather restores memories of a place. 109 people died last year crossing, many descendants of those who thousands of years ago crossed heading South into Mexico. Last year a photograph went viral of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria’s bodies on the banks of the river after they tragically drowned. I wanted to create something that discussed that time and that grief. For the piece I wrote a poem and had it translated into Nahuatl, which is what you hear me singing in the video. It translates to:
“How much time Great River
Since you heard the good song of the Rememberer-People?
I will sing to you Great River
The good song, long like you, may it remind you
Of the good burial song Great River
You who watches like you are our mother
Watching our breath slow Great River
Dancing in your arms as you embrace us
our eyes you cover
The Rememberer-People Great River
The Cold-Not-Fish of your water
We crossed once before Great River
Now forever here we watch. ”
In the piece I am holding a private conversation and asking the Rio Grande if it remembers me, if it remembers us. I am performing a blood letting ritual, which in our prayer technologies, is a kind of blood transfusion to the more-than-human. The ribbon connect my wound to the water, further emphasizing the wound, grief, mourning, blood and kinship and history.
I am also wrapped in a rebozo shawl which has many traditional uses from baby wearing, protection from evil-spirits and burial shrouds.
I have been thinking a lot about who bears witness to suffering. If knowing is witnessing and if that is a kind of mercy. The piece is also about trusting the word of the wound. It feels like people very casually share photos and videos of black and brown people dying and I find myself asking for another kind of mercy in that regard. That knowing what happened and seeing the pain it caused in a community could be enough.
Eve Tuck said, when discussing ongoing genocide: “I am a future ghost. I am getting ready for my haunting” In this piece I am also giving a nod to Rebecca Belmore’s work “Fringe”. I like to think of it as being the moment between death and resurrection.
Poetry inspired by Aracelis Girmay and Patricia Smith
With thanks to:
Luca Joan Curleigàse – “Guy Economist”
Gabe Reyes – Video
Russel Daniels – Piercer
Magnus Pharao Hansen – Translation