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The Map from Grandma’s House My previous exploration of maps, board games, history, and geography led to the idea of urban geography changing as a consequence of migrations. Migration is part of my personal history; my ancestors came to the American continent in a ship from Africa against their will; my mother’s family left their hometown and moved to the city because violence was taking over; my father came from the Pacific coast to the city to become the first college educated member of his family; moreover, I crossed a border to have this conversation. This is part of a history I share with thousands of people, I am part of that huge mass of people on the move. When is a migration voluntary and when is forced? Is there truly a voluntary migration? Is leaving everything behind really something that a person wants to do? Responding to these questions, I based my research on the idea of migration and the African diaspora. In this body of work, I am combining traffic sign imagery, maps, and board game conventions to explore visually the complexity and tensions produced by the phenomenon of migration and its connection with urban distribution based on ethnicity. Studies on the African diaspora look not only to the roots but also to the routes and the resultant hybridization or creolization of people of African descent. I am creating map-like compositions that explore these aspects. The arrow/house shape depicts synchronously human settlement and people on the move. By using this shape I am also exploring a historical tendency of population moving from South to North. The action of layering and juxtaposing marks depicts the mixture of different influences—A clash of cultures that did not happen peacefully. The definition African-American or Afro-Colombian acknowledges with respect the origins of a vast population. It also presents a serious conflict in the sense that having two different places of origin may produce the feeling of not belonging entirely to any of those places. Belonging everywhere or not belonging anywhere is a term that describes the situation among people of the African diaspora. Therefore, unsettlement is a keyword of this exploration. Migrants become minorities, minorities suffer from isolation, discrimination, mistreatment, rejection, and in most of the cases, poverty. They are constantly ignored and marginalized. Located in the pacific coast of Colombia, most of the African descent population lives below the poverty line. One consequence of migration is that roots and connections with the land and the past are severed. The tittle I chose for this project acknowledges the fact that even though my grandmother lived for a hundred years, I never met her. By using typography, and scientific symbols I am not only incorporating elements of my background in graphic design but also recognizing one of my grandmother’s expectations for her offspring: access to education. As the majority of the Afro-Colombian population after emancipation and during the first half of the twentieth century, she was illiterate.

3 The phenomenon of migration is a push and pull game. Entire families are pushed out by war, mistreatment or lack of opportunities and pulled into major cities by the promise of a better future. Push and pull forces so strong that make masses to move. Internal migration is one of the consequences of industrialization; international migration is one of the consequences of colonialism and imperialism. In both cases, for a migrant the “promised land” is nothing other than a hostile environment in which he or she has to find the way to survive. Populations in constant movement transform urban settlements into living organisms that constantly expand. Garcia Canclini states that accelerated urban expansion is the main cause of cultural hybridization. In the case of Latin America, seventy percent of the population is now concentrated in urban areas.* At the same time I started exploring the city when I was a child, I met homeless people. People coming from rural areas used to call the capital “city of the dead” because the amount of people sleeping in the streets. The unfortunate truth is that Colombia has one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world as a consequence of violence. People made their way to major cities looking for shelter and assistance. The “luckiest” end up enlarging shantytowns, some others begging in the streets because of the government’s lack of assistance. I learned to recognized traffic signs as the same time as I heard the expression “For the love of god, help” coming from people in the streets. One of the first things they teach in school about the city in which I grew up is that Spanish colonials founded it. They set twelve small houses around a Catholic church located in what is now downtown. With some exceptions a similar event took place throughout South America and the Caribbean. The x’s/crosses in these pieces recognize the fact that in major cities urban growth started using the church as the center point, establishing a fan shape distribution, then turning into a grid trying to mimic cities in the Northern hemisphere, and finally becoming a disproportionate chaos. The cross was one of the most powerful weapons of colonization. Catholic churches were built on top of Pre-Columbian civilizations’ temples. In my work, churches still stand as deep white scars/landmarks on the dark soil. One of the contradictions in Latin American history is that the Catholic Church supported slavery for centuries but also played an important role in abolition. Currently, ninety percent of Latin Americans are Catholics. I am still working on challenging my drawing skills by not sketching previously and using non-art materials like tape, sturdy brushes, markers, and rolls. My process has evolved to incorporate a greater variety of mark making gestures that now include the movement of the whole body to create large-scale formats. The pieces can be viewed all at once or by sifting through the details. The viewer can visually navigate a way through the marks in the pieces discovering, connecting and making associations. * García Canclini, Néstor. 1989. Hybrid cultures: strategies for entering and leaving modernity. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press.


Map 1, Mixed media on watercolor canvas, 9 x 5 feet.








Fernando Valencia

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Map 2, Mixed media on watercolor canvas, 9 x 5 feet.








Fernando Valencia

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Map 3, Mixed media on watercolor canvas, 9 x 5 feet.






An expanding distance of multiple voices for solo Violin, 2005 Composer Violin

Jeffrey Mumford Dr. Er-Gene Kahng

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Map 4, Mixed media on watercolor canvas, 9 x 5 feet.




An expanding distance of multiple voices for solo Violin, 2005



Jeffrey Mumford


Dr. Er-Gene Kahng

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........................................................................................................... Music

Fernando Valencia

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The Map from Grandma's House  
The Map from Grandma's House  

MFA project