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issue #01


MOTHERLANDS is a space for artists and writers of colour and a small act of resistance. Editor-in-chief, Rayanne Bushell Senior Editor, Halina Kaszycka-Williams Cover Image by Jessica Pettway Please contact the relevant artists and writers for enquiries regarding their work. Speacial thanks to all those who contributed and submitted. twitter: @MotherlandsZine

This issue is dedicated to Sheku Bayoh.


Fuck You, 2015 from the series Letters to Empire, Notes From Home Rayanne Bushell


Chair, 2015 from the series Memories from Home, Olivia Twist

Granny, 2015 from the series Blood, Olivia Twist

Left: Untitled, 2014 Right Corinna and Daniella (from E17 series), 2014 Adama Jalloh

«And then the land ate my feet»

-Zarina Muhammad

«When my Dadi went to Bangladesh, I gave her a disposable camera and told her to take photos of things she thought I missed, so I could have them and not miss them through a indirect process of capturing their likeness. She came back with a roll of pictures that were empty spaces. I’d consider them duds if they weren’t a record of the tender transition she makes on a near yearly basis; one of return and homecoming.»

Zarina Muhammad is a moving image and performance artist . Growing up in London with Gujarati and Bengali parents, her work deals with the inbetween spaces of her diasporic experience; living in between cultures and the duality and fluidity of having a multicultural identity. Using appropriated Bollywood footage as a trope for an informal network of cultural knowledge, she tries to speak to a generation of ‘Indiansn o t - i n - I n d i a’ and collectivise the shared experience, and the complexities, of living at the fault line between the East and the West.

«She left 40 years ago thinking she would come back, and she never called it home again. These photos are less what I miss of my father’s homeland, and more what my grandmother misses; the empty spaces. Not just the people and the places, but the land itself.»

Screenshots, 2014,JennĂŠ Afiya Matthews

Distant Histories, 2015, Khadija Adell Digital Collage and 8mm silk organza textile prints

Caleb Femi is a spoken word poet and English teacher based in London. Caleb is also a member of the SXWKS collective. His work deals with the ineffability of the black experience with a subtle influence of Hip Hop and Grime in his delivery.

This piece ‘Children Of The Narm’ tells a personal story of the black residents of Peckham touching on issues involving assimilation, memory, displacement, education, gang culture and its treatment in the media.

Children of the ‘Narm

A spoken word poem by Caleb Femi

The bear-faced ten-year-old dreamers who saw North Peckham a paradise To the hell of Jos, Freetown and Yamoussoukro Who came and realised that the stories of gold-paved streets Were just stories but didn’t even mind because we were here now, With our lives and with each other So what else could matter more? We are the children of the Narm Who learnt to love the BBC and tea and the Queen and Oasis And Fat Boy Slim on a Friday night during Top of The Pops, Rehearsing the lyrics on the following Monday’s trek to school Whilst letting our native songs escape on the estuarine wind We are the children of the Narm Who shunned the leprosy of our foreign accents Speaking in our mother tongues only in subdued decibels Until some of us had forgotten it all together iya mi, iya mi mo ti gbagbe o We are the children of the Narm Who were scolded by teachers because the anecdotes We told of the times when we would kill goats, chickens and Rams in the thick heat of the unyielding sun To celebrate the union of man and woman or The arrival of a travelling friend or The peace given to those departed

The peace given to those departed Traumatised the other kids The very kids who brought to our attention That pounded yam and egusi soup were not suitable packed lunch We are the children of the Narm Whose flesh was picked to the bone by the icy winds Of December when winter took the mercy of the sun away And we cried to our mothers that at least back home we are dying in warmth We are the children of the Narm The dirty stain on the nation’s lapel that couldn’t be washed Off by the laundrymen we called MPs and their detergent of lies The dust under the nation’s rug, The fickle words to thicken someone else’s Manifesto The figurines of never to be manifested dreams but manifested neverachieves We are the children of the Narm Who were in need of doctors, not only for us but for our buildings That coughed up more of their bricks every night. Our buildings that needed surgeons to unblock the clogged arteries of its garbage shoots. We were in need of doctors and surgeons. They gave us spin doctors. We are the children of the Narm The children of Peckham Vietnarm Pecknarm

The no-go zone because they don’t want us there so we don’t want them here The jungle, the Serengeti except with a few minor details. There were no predators there, only prey. There were no lions only wildebeests and zebras and gazelles and flamingos. But the lions in there cunning absence let us believe we were the predators. They let us hunt and hack each other down and when the deed was done They showed up to collect the still-warm corpses We are the children of the Narm Blind to our consanguinity because consanguinity Is a word that irritates the tongue of the dejected. A word –by the way –that would have kept the femoral artery of Damilola Taylor intact Instead of rupturing and releasing that myrrh that was his lifeline Forcing a ten year old boy to pick a cold concrete stairwell as a final resting place. A stairwell we all knew And we all cursed. We are the children of the Narm The free school meals, the pupil premium, the SEN, the council-estate rejects. We were just a handful of children with liquidated tomorrows Standing amongst many, many others On the assembly line of Tony Blair’s legacy. We are the children of the Narm No longer children, no longer ten years old, No longer blind, no longer helpless.

Top Deck, 2014, Adama

JennÊ Afiya Matthews is a writer and multi-media artist living and working in her native city of Baltimore, MD. Featured in this issue is ScreenShots, 2014. A collection of small text pieces exploring the artist’s mood, thoughts and feelings as twentysomething.

Matthews is the founding member of the arts collective BALTI GURLS; a group of female-identified artists with a focus on new media and crossdisciplinary practice, with a mission to develop a community of like-minded groups IRL and URL. This volume contains contributions from several memebers of the collective.

Postcards, Hawwa Youngmark

The Imposters, 2014, Jessica Pettway

Mother and Son, 2015, Painting, Jared Jackson

She sweats everywhere I sweat. Rianna Jade Parker

“I am the sugar at the bottom of the English cup of Tea. I am the sweet tooth, the sugar plantations that rotted generations of English children’s teeth. There are thousands of others beside me that are, you know, the cup of tea itself. Because they don’t grow it in Lancashire, you know. Not a single tea plantation exists within the United Kingdom. This is the symbolisation of English identity.” -Stuart Hall, ‘Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities’ 1991.

At any given time, if asked, I will . tell you that I want to be back on

my island. I’m not a Rothschild, so I can’t even entertain the idea of owning much more than the Oyster Card in my back pocket;and although I’m constantly moving around due to the restlessness felt by children of immigrants everywhere. I don’t return to the Caribbean as often as I would like. But when I am on my island I breathe differently. I don’t grapple with my issues of belonging that attest to the bouts of anxiety I feel as much. I’m not confronting a population who want my labour but don’t want me around and my black body is not under constant and immediate threat as it is at home in England. I can bear the brunt of chopping down coconuts for my own indulgence, read all the

folk literature I want and lounge on the veranda of the house my grandfather built. This simple kind of intimacy is what I’m constantly looking for, so when I can’t be there, I revel in the spaces that give me that similar comfort. . It is June and I’ve crossed the Black Atlantic to move to a city with a rat map and performers who swing from the subway car poles with little regard to personal space. My fructose of choice that summer is mango and sugarcane that I gnaw on without consideration of the intense flossing I do every morning. These honeyed liberties and warm weather along with my curatorial collective, The Lonely Londoners, make for a perfect environment for optimum creativity and take me closer to that feeling I only feel on my island.

On one particular Sunday a friend, Adriana, and I, find ourselves in a line spanning 12 blocks with many other people of color; donning our white t-shirts and “We Are Here” stickers that signified we were committed to experiencing together the Creative Time commissioned public art installation ‘A Subtlety or  The Marvelous Sugar Baby, an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant’ by Kara Walker. Right next to the coast of Brooklyn, as brown dots in a sea of whiteness, we entered the factory and were hit with the instant and sensational smell of molasses, as the factory walls were still covered in the sticky saccharinity. As we turned the corner we were met by the looming 35-foot tall sugar dusted black female bodyturned sphinx; sat in the middle of the room taking her rightful place as the subject, not the object. We walked around the candy models of small black boys who have melted into themselves, with baskets on their backs to host pieces that have completely broken away from the body, pieces that Kara herself visited weekly to pick up.

Large and brown much like us, Adriana and I take in the entire sugar baby. I noticed the darkening around her neck, in the lower arch of her back and the crease in-between her breasts from where she was starting to caramelise. Adriana noting the same thing turned to me and said: “She sweats everywhere I sweat.” Sugar -and its byproducts- was the white gold that spearheaded a third of Europe’s economy. Sugar cane harvest season saw enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South America working 24-hours a day in sugar mills and boiling houses to process the crops, not without the horrifically common loss of hands and arms to the heavy-duty machines. For us to truly pay homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans we have to acknowledge the names and narratives of those we too easily forget. Names like, Carlota, a Cuban slave woman who raised her machete at the call of a drum circle and lead a rebellion on the Triumvirato sugar mill in 1843, that of course triggered other slave risings in the area.

But how many of the 10,000 daily visitors to Walker’s exhibition did Carlota, and the many like her, a disservice by seeing her back-breaking work embodied in that Williamsburg factory as just an Instagram photo-op? This insatiable and thoughtless need to consume - the treacle this time being black art -, allows the past records Walker intended to represent to in fact speak to the continuing realities of present-day sugar villages in the Dominican Republic. Sugar villages that are not very different from the ones Carlota and other freedom fighters overturned. We want sugar; we just don’t want to know how it’s made. In a similar way the world wants Blackness without Black people.

effort to show the different roads food produce can take, attendees were encouraged to take as much chocolate as they wanted and to share the delivery via social media and hash tag #MercantileNovel.

TThe afro-Columbian artist, Oscar Murillo’s concern with his ancestral heritage makes some of his best work preoccupied with trade, immigration, routes and globalisation. In his first solo show in New York in June, titled A Mercantile Novel, Murillo collaborated with the food company, Colombina, founded in his hometown of La Paila, where sugarcane had been harvested since Spanish settlers introduced the plant in the 16th century. In an

Black artists, who make it a priority to revisit our preceding and existent realities, albeit to varying degrees of criticality, are the kinds of sweetness I’m willing to sweat for. Our progression to new art and cultural spaces thrive in the memory of chronicles, nations and old routes. I know where I’ve been so I know I belong anywhere that I choose to be.

Inside the gallery thirteen employees of Colombina worked the assembly line that produced around 7,000 chocolate covered marshmallows a day. A projection of the airplane that brought the workers from Columbia to New York filled one wall, another showed a video of archival footage of sleeping workers, including his parents and other family members, many of whom still work at the factory and another wall held his father’s framed certificate of employment.

Afri Mag Spread, 2009, Evan Ifekyoa

Evan Ifekoya

Evan Ifekoya is an interdisciplinary artist, exploring the politicisation of culture, society and aesthetics. Appropriated material from historical archives and contemporary society make up the work. By ‘queerying’ popular imagery and utilising the props of everyday life, the aim is to destroy the aura of preciousness surrounding art. Central to this practice is an exploration into the ways that collaboration might take place. With a critical approach to technology, aspects of how it mediates our lives permeate throughout the work. Performance is approached with the same sensibility by including elements of how we express ourselves

Right: The Gender Song, Video still, 2014

digitally today,​with s​ ocial media and mobile technology acting as co-performers in the live event. Recent Exhibitions include All Of Us Have A Sense Of Rhythm, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2015), Embodied Spaces, FramerFramed, De Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam (2015), Studio Voltaire OPEN, London (2015) and 30 years of the Future, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2014). Recent performances have taken place at Iniva, Ovalhouse Theatre and Rich Mix, London, as well as The Marlborough, Brighton and ngbk, Berlin (all 2014). Ifekoya works collaboratively as part of Collective Creativity: Critical reflections into QTIPOC creative practice. images and words courtesy the artist

Video Stills from Hybrid Vigor, 2010 and Teach-See-Learn, 2012; ARtFUnSHACK, performance promo image, 2014 Disco Ball Hang Up, Photography by Angela Dennis, 2014

The Performance, 2015, installation view

Sara Foryame is a graduate in Photography with special interest in marginalised artists in the gallery space. She explores identity representation and social politics with a particular focus on gender roles, culture and faith. Foryame is also the co-founder of SeeMyCulture a platform building bridges between Qatari locals and the international community through exhibitions, cultural exchanges and community workshops.

The Performance, 2015 is a series of portraits exploring identity and gender expectations. ÂŤA performance is played, acting out the cultural, religious and societal assumptions placed on my self by society as an artist of colour and faith. As a female artist who stays anonymous within imagery, my husband takes my role.Âť Together they perform the everyday.

And the Void Did Shine, 2015, multi-media collage, 11x17� Dana Robinson

Photographer: Joshua Evan

Previous page: Certificate of Recognition, 2014 Right: Popular Rhinoplasty, 2014

«My work explores the impact that forms of marginalisation have on my own and others’ “identities” and the relationship between social conventions, consumer culture and western hegemony. I empathise with the subjugated mainly through a humour that wishes to critique oppressive structures, and by appropriating recognisable cultural forms. Predominantly through the medium of live art and with the above themes in mind, my work finds itself often dealing with, fundamentally, the uncomfortable, the struggle – and the possible ways in which they could be “managed” or identified, if “solutions” are not yet found.»

HOW WHITE ARE YOU? How White Are You? (2014) is a performance and participatory work by the artist Annie Movsisyan. Within the performance Movsisyan used the game show format, a cultural form that is typically inviting to the general Western public to create a critical space that employed humour to interrogate issues surrounding ‘whiteness’, a mostly invisible subject within the public realm. The work cleverly highlighted for the audience, the obvious but ignored privileges and disadvantages that the historic and current white supremacist system upholds. The artist took on the role of game show host and posed an array of questiions to

her contestants that covered everything from yoga fads to voluntourism to skillfully pinpointing privilege in media representation, particularly reportings on crime. Through a question that asked contestants to correctly choose the percentage of white americans, murdered by other white americans, Movsisyan highlights how most crime is intraracial and the falsehood of “black on black crime” as it’s reported in the news. Within other works such as Popular Rhinopasty, 2014 (right) Movsisyan

explores her own Iranian identity and the persistant western influenceson Iranian culture as well as the absurdity of beauty ideals shaped by Western consumer capitalism.

5 Tips for Dealing With the Exile of a Loved One [Part 1] 1. Recognise the five stages of grief and mourning they say come with death. You still talk on the phone though. It’s weird. Roll with it. 2. Acquire sea-legs. The ground will pitch, shift and dissolve, in classrooms, shopping centres, interview rooms, and ferry ports. You might cry, but you won’t drown. 3. Memory loss. Don’t worry if you struggle to remember dates, large passages of time, or traumatic events clearly. It will come off as nonchalance. 4.Keep a diary. Or don’t. It could be used as incriminating evidence the next time the house is raided. Eventually, you will forget how to write. 5. Deal with anger. The constant hum of anger may be strange at first, but in time you will be able to recognise and isolate it. Let it collect like sediment in a kettle. Then turn it into something sharp. Heiba Lamara

Mouna Kalla-Sacranie

«Yo tengo muchos recuerdos

de ti./I have many memories of you.» Óscar Díaz & César Vega Magallón

composition, environments and self-identification. Díaz’s practice makes its home in this moment of transition with all its uncertainties, hard-won victories, and silent losses. As improving conditions for some and the toll of assimilation schemes begin to manifest in the home, on the body, and in speech, Díaz intervenes against the total loss of a uniquelySalvadoran diaspora culture. The works don’t facilitate voyeuristic glimpses into the lives and histories of their family or community more generally. They reject a premise that casts refugee/diaspora artists in the role of perpetual sufferers for the amusement or enlightenment of others. In the way in which Díaz’s works offer multiple readings, in the way in which they are ritualistic (the influence Óscar Díaz, “Río”, (2013) (image courtesy of Ana Mendieta is one of Díaz’s the artist) favorite topics to discuss), they tap into a deep legacy of visualbilingualism that links cultures The work of Óscar Díaz situates across the Americas in resisting itself amid an important turning imperialism and its strategies of point in the history of the Salvadoran alienation, suppression, silence diaspora in the United States. and displacement. Increasing visibility, decades of Works like Happy El Salvador, Mal political organizing, and the fruit de Amores (Mercedes) and Río born of a transnational network make visceral what our diasporic built over generations are steadily communities know intuitively; changing the community, its that trauma and joy express

themselves simultaneously, that silence is another form of communication, and that the recuperation and preservation of histories interrupted by imperialism is a lifelong process that we are always engaged in, within all our environments, including those we can not access in physical space. The following is a conversation with Óscar Díaz about art, their own work, and their community. CVM: When I look at your installations and performances, I feel an immediate connection as someone who also shares a parallel experience of emigration, of family separation, of building and recovering identity in the diaspora. You seem to cast a thoughtful glance at the way Salvadoran domestic interiors are shaped and decorated. The home has been theorized as a site of resistance, as a site of asserting a selfidentification. In the context of the Salvadoran diaspora, home becomes one such space where people can proclaim those identities and where it doesn’t result in retribution or carry risks brought on by gang injunctions, mass deportations and the other ways in which the police state

«Quiero disculparme contigo por ser tan lejano.» — Mal de Amores (Mercedes)

and social violence reaches into immigrant communities. The objects in the home are gathered from disparate sources; Britney Spears perfume bottles used as decorative objects, electronic moving paintings of waterfalls that are Korean in manufacture but ubiquitous in Salvadoran homes, images of el Cristo Negro, family photographs printed on canvas in ornate gold frames. The objects themselves are rearranged in the home, they reinterpret a history which connects El Salvador and the diaspora to a wider conversation about global capitalism. They are being consciously re-inscribed and re-imagined in ways usually only

acknowledged when done by artists in the role of “cultural workers” or “cultural interventionists”. But, actually, it’s being done every day, in the homes of our parents. What is your concern or interest in interiors and that “grencho” style of decoration in the home? In what ways do these processes of homegrown re-appropriation and re-inscription figure into your work?

OD: I have a lot of other people who misread my work as “elevating” these objects and framing it about mixing “high art” and “low art” and I definitely am opposed to that binary. My foremost concern is about preservation. Coming from a refugee family and having U.S trained forces scorch earth my dad’s village and losing everything has made us develop this anxiety with empty homes. I think also it’s abstract and it’s a preservation of emotions, of screams, of isolated

Óscar Díaz, “Peluches”, (2015) (photo by Nabeela Vega for NiGHTSHiFT II at CASTLEDRONE)

f resistance, of joy, of bittersweet interactions with these objects. As my family has risen to be middle class in the States, a lot of these objects are being thrown out or boxed up into a garage or attic. When the objects move there, we lose these important places we have carved out for ourselves individually and collectively. We come to the wall hangings, photographs, at the saints above each doorway in times of need. For release. Whether no one else is home or if everyone’s home in their own rooms with doors shut. I want to present these objects in a timeline with media from the internet and archives such as home movies and photographs. They don’t end up changing much, I want them to retain their hidden histories and functions. Biblical wall hangings, like the one in Happy El Salvador, are some of the objects that I’ve used that are among the most emotional for me. I think my family is one that mourns in privacy, away from one another. In isolation. In a hallway. These kind of wall hangings all have verses from the Bible and they always have to do with familial love, patience, endurance. They’re reminders which I find

family members reading to themselves. I read those words and it’s the words of my sister, of myself, of my mother. I don’t think you can look at the Bible verses on the wall hanging at face value, they are linked to my family’s history of war, migration and separation. CVM: In previous conversations you have mentioned to me that, not only is the decoration inside Salvadoran homes about selecting objects for their beauty, but that objects also tell histories that are otherwise rendered unspeakable because of anti blackness, of anti-indigenous attitudes, of homophobia, and of patriarchy. Would you care to expand on that? OD: In El Salvador, we’ve had colonization and a steady stream of dictators in place which have consistently committed genocide against indigenous people. There is this popular myth that all indigenous people in the country vanished after a massacre in 1932 for example (this leads into the inaccurate statistic about only 1% of Salvadorans are native. This was done by those in power toying with the census and creating fear among people to name themselves on record as native because of the history of genocide).

“Happy El Salvador�, (2015) (image courtesy the artist)

Óscar Díaz, detail of “Slipwood Center”, (2015) (image courtesy the artist)

History books up until recently just wrote about native people existing in the past, and about how black people never entered the country because, “We have no ports,” and other myths, as well as the nation state over time removing casta categories that involved blackness from the census. Most of these myths are perpetuated by the nation-state systematically and have just begun to be undone in the post-war period. Because of this level of

oppression, native/black people in the country have turned to objects. From times of colonization in El Salvador where native people would perform Christian rituals, but subvert them and praise their gods in secret. I think that’s the origin for this practice. If the nation state attempts to delete blackness, burns archives and a language about speaking about blackness is blurred, then people turn to objects. An AfroSalvadoran doesn’t have the same kinda history as say Black Americans where they became

“black” after arriving in the U.S.A. This kinda post-colonial moment has been toyed with and so people have had to come up with alternatives in language to arrive to similar places. “Colocho” means someone is curly haired, but often becomes one of those identifiers to replace “of African descent” or “black”. A black Jesus that hangs in a living room of a home signals to guests of the owners lineage instead of having to say it. I’ve found that through the objects in my home I’ve learned so much about the civil war. It’s very painful for my parents to tell me anything about that time period and so at a certain point I decided to look for things in the house like home movies or photo albums or other belongings to help me fill in the gaps. Objects as knowledge production. Objects as vessels for familial trauma and history. Objects as a disruption of state-sponsored erasure and revisions of history. CVM: Some of the pieces you exhibit use source material drawn from the internet. There’s a pernicious tendency to see social media, the internet, video games and digital culture more broadly as socially corrosive or alienating.

Your works vocally disagree and the internet and those technologies are re-appropriated. You use Google Street View to revisit, document and display the environments you grew up in (Slipwood Center), you approach Facebook as an alternative community that reunites vecinos separated the Civil War, and combine it with a photograph of a quinceañera banquet in Queens and with J-Pop lyrics and music in reference to a game you turned to find solace in your youth (Sanctuary [After Utada]). Even our prior conversations about these themes and concerns began on Tumblr and have continued on that platform over many years now. What is the meaning or value for you, of the internet and digital culture as it relates to your art work and to the diaspora more generally? OD: I think it goes back to rituals. I always find myself going on Youtube when I miss home late at night. I find myself looking at videos uploaded by often white travelers actually [laughs] who go vacation there. I experience spaces through that or just watch really old music videos from the 80’s, etc

Eventually I realized that this had to become part of my practice since it’s such a big part of how I cope. I made a few experiments with screenshots. Eventually they started crawling into my work or I would rip the audio or show the video itself alongside other things. The first piece that involved Youtube was Rio. It was this video piece where I ripped audio from a Youtube video of a meeting of elders from my dad’s village where they were teaching people about the history of the river and it’s importance to us as a resource, but as native people and so on. This gesture of healing with agua flórida became the piece, of this kinda attempt at community participation from a makeshift river—my Boston bathroom—and an attempt to connect and heal via the internet. That was the first piece where the internet came in. I hate this label of post-internet art, about the internet being dead and banal. Dead and banal for whom exactly? Definitely not for refugees and immigrants. Youtube comments become a forum and space of participation, nostalgia, and debate. To have Rio exist on Youtube a few videos under the one I pulled audio from seems

significant. My dad is really traumatized and sometimes Youtube and other online spaces have been able to teach me history, because sometimes conversations are hard. Also, digital media made by Salvadorans fascinates me, whether it’s memes or comedy skits, etc. I think coming from such a charged place like El Salvador, all you see on Univision is really sensationalized and regular people having the ability to upload media gives a chance for an alternative. Also, the internet I use to map.

«Quiero ir a los volcanes.» — Mal de Amores (Mercedes)

CVM: Mal De Amores (Mercedes) was, for me, the most impactful work you’ve shared with me. It combines many of the priorities found in your work. For me, this particular performance crystallizes and sees your concerns around preservation, distance, storytelling, articulating deep traumas and deeper joys, etc. come alive. I can picture you surrounded by your

Óscar Díaz, “Slipwood Center”, (2015) (image courtesy the artist’s studio)

installations having this long overdue conversation over the phone with your sister. I begin to understand the interior of the home beyond its décor and beyond the physical record of memory. It becomes the staging where these everyday rituals, everyday acts of healing and self-forgiveness across generations and borders take place. Can you talk about Mal De Amores (Mercedes) in some detail? OD: I think most people who grow up with fragmented families relate to this uneasy experience of being passed

the phone. We feel uneasy because the people on the other end are strangers, even though they are our brothers, sisters, moms, aunts, and grandmothers. In my apology, I said something along the lines of words being hard to find (I can’t watch the piece and haven’t since I performed it because it’s too much). It’s something haunting. It’s something no one talks about either. Originally sketched as a video piece in an empty room but found performance in public was more effective. It added directness. Lots of people with shared experiences, not just Salvadoran, came to see the premiere of it. There was a level of connection when it happened live that the video will never capture, a sense of community built on shared experiences, the “me toos” of the audience. I can’t fix conditions for people, but maybe the piece can just offer an affirmation. The original ritual is standing at a crossroads at midnight, tying a red string on your leg, saying an incantation, and you repeat this every night until your heart

Left: Óscar Díaz, “Mal de Amores (Mercedes)”, (2015) (image courtesy the artist) Right: Óscar Díaz, “Down Suffolk Ave”, (2015)

is healed. I decided to construct a crossroads using soil. I didn’t realize until I was laying out the soil live in the museum that my body’s memory was activated. It took me back to growing up and my farmer parents tending gardens in order to stay connected to the earth and their indigenous campo identities. Calling cards replace the incantation of mal de amores, which is the name of the creencia. I see my family for decades relying on these cards and going to bodegas. I see them scattered and becoming part of the landscape of streets in New York. Different origins, but basically serving the same kind of function. It was important for me to have performed this at the

Queens Museum, in a place of my childhood, and to be on the phone to Soyapango where we left and where my sister still is. The piece will be “complete” when it travels to San Salvador in video form, which I hope is soon, and as a large projection in a semi/public setting. I am careful of where I would show the video because of this desire and the dangers of curatorial framing. I don’t think this piece is just sad. I think anyone who has watched the twenty minutes in full will see there is laughter, awkward moments where my Spanish is broken, where my sister can’t hear me due to service, warmness, hopefulness. I always want to

give a total experience. I think it makes the work deeper and have more dimensions. That’s why the whole conversation was improvised on the spot. Suffering Refugee Art™ is something I want to avoid being pigeonholed as. Since the 80’s, the Global North has wanted this kind of art from Central America, very obvious one liners with visuals of tanks and dead bodies. In general, my art is about negotiation of happiness that happens. It has to have complexity and range, I owe my family history this respect. It can’t just say “We’re perpetually sad,” because it erases so much of

what we fight for on the daily. Negotiations happen. We still celebrate and take birthday photos. We make virtual villages. Our parents went hungry to feed us one nice meal at a restaurant or told us to go see the movie and ended up waiting outside because we all couldn’t afford to enter the theatre. We found a church. We use a traveler doña to get the goods that make us feel good. I listen to J.Lo. We create our own music videos to Happy. We’re in the U.S “dando guerra” and who would I be to erase all that? I want to show everything.

Óscar Díaz is a queer genderfluid refugee born in Soyapango, El Salvador. Their recent work explores the Salvadoran diaspora and constructions of post-war El Salvador through an application of “grencho” home aesthetics, their own familial history and a method of tracing a cartography of transnationalism through the internet. They work in installation,

photography, digital media, text, video and performance. Recent exhibitions include PERFORMEANDO at Queens Museum, Virtual International Exchange performance festival and NiGHTSHiFT II. They are based between New York and Charlotte. You can reach them at

César Vega Magallón is a community organizer in California’s High Desert and a student of art history at the University of California, Los Ángeles. A self-identified queer illegal alien from Guadalajara, México, Vega Magallón’s interests are centered on the work and stories of marginalized and displaced peoples, the México on the periphery of art history and Mexican identity in the

exterior. For chisme and/or questions, he can be reached at cmvega@g.ucla. edu This conversation took place throughout September, 2015 utilizing Facebook, Google Drive and Tumblr.

Óscar Díaz, “Sanctuary (After Utada)”, (2015) (image courtesy the artist)

Stealing My Essence, 2015, Shannon Washington

Self-preservation, 2015 Shannon Washington

u kno?, 2014, Patricia Alvarado

u kno?, 2014, Patricia Alvarado

Screenshots, 2014,JennĂŠ Afiya Matthews

Fathers and Sons, 2015, Painting, Jared Jackson

Police Brutality, 2015, Painting, Jared Jackson

«There’s this particular type of wild rose, it grows around the UK, you don’t see it that often. It’s quite loose, wide petals and I always thought it was really brave because it’s so beautiful, but it always gets rained on and crazy wind everywhere, and they just shake around but they don’t come apart and I always thought it was an admirable quality, and I’ve always loved them.»


Nadeem Din-Gabisi is a multi disciplinary artist, creating with the intention of reframing and reshaping how the black human. being.figure is seen. Shining a light on the often unseen and ignored narratives that are a part of, the whole, black experience. Din-Gabisi’s film w1mn inspired by Nina Simone’s composition “Four Women” is a thanku to the spirit of

Nina Simone and was made, to get us to look with our, oju ode (outer eyes) and our oju inu (inner eyes) to see the ewa ode (external beauty) and ewa inu (inner beauty) in these four (and all!) blk w1mn. The film can be viewed here https://vimeo. com/130841934 The rest of his work can be viewed here https:// v ime emdingabisi.

Meena #1, 2013

Sanaa Hamid

is a British Asian photographer who works within the theme of social politics and investigates areas such as multiculturalism, cultural and religious identity and the battleground of body politic within an Islamic and South Asian context. Engaged with the notion of self-representation, Hamid creates varying portrayals of the self in order to deconstruct stereotypes provide a reevaluation of South Asian identity.

The series fetured is named Through Her Eyes(2013) and displays Hamid’s attempts to conform to culturally inherited expectations and ideologies. Using the aesthetic style of Bollywood films and Pakistani actresses that her Mother admired at the same age as her, Hamid creates a series of performative self portraits. Hamid’s mother

is responsible for pressing the shutter, immortalising Hamid as a particular character; literally Through Her Eyes and thus it is a collaboration. Hamid takes the viewer through a succession of personalities, encouraging speculation about her true identity. The artist’s influences include Cindy Sherman and Boushra Almutawakel; Hamid reinterpretations of the self portrait make reference to topical issues and discuss modern depictions of Pakistani women, who have very little positive media representation. Her intentions are to create awareness about the distinctly different moral guidelines she lives by compared to British culture rather than cast a negative view on her cultural background. In her role as Bollywood stars such as Meena Kumari or Rekha, she is not accepted not just by her culture, but by society. She is perfect.

Rekha, 2013

Left, Meena #2, 2013 Right, Devika, 2013

Nomenclature Naveed A. Khan

When they ask for your name, you give them the short form,  the westernized way of saying it,  so they don't slip and bruise  their tongues. You are too kind,  but know that they will not care  the same way for you, will not  spare you the acceptance  they readily have for one another.  Some say that your name is  too difficult to pronounce,  too long for the limited boxes  on government forms,  so long that it could wrap  its way around your body.  — Good. This world is cold,  and you will need the warmth. 

Photograph’s by Jamaican artist Heidi Bryce, taken in Shanghai during her residency at Swatch’s Art Peace Hotel.

Screenshots, 2014,JennĂŠ Afiya Matthews


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