AFTER LIFE (we survive) | Art 25

Presented by YBCA | November 9, 2020–January 24, 2021

Art 25: Art in the Twenty-Fifth Century (Lehua M. Taitano and Lisa Jarrett) with Jocelyn Kapumealani Ng

Future Ancestors, 2019

Photography by Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada. Text and audio by Art 25 and Jocelyn Kapumealani Ng. 

Large format digital prints. Open edition.  

Play the audio below as you scroll through the photographs.

Future Ancestors is an archive of queer familial intimacy. When Black and Indigenous bodies are kept at each other’s distance, the importance of coming together becomes more precious, resonant, and necessary. It is out of this necessity that we create and document the opportunities of time and intention. To talk story, to sing, to share our cultural histories. To create routes that span geographies and centuries. We are CHamoru, Kanaka Maoli, Black, and many mixed ancestries. All reside in this intimacy. Listen. These ancestries speak.

To fully experience this artwork virtually, please play the Soundcloud file as you scroll through the photographs. The text beneath serves as interpretative captions for the photographic series.

You can experience Future Ancestors in person at YBCA in the windows facing the Gardens.

“(To Claim)”

you we claimed ourselves. We touched the surfaces of mirrors with no reflections. Hic sunt leones. Here there are lions. Here are waves. Imagine us a tide of lions crashing on sandy shores, returning for what is ours.

“(To Keep)”

the memories nimble, place your fingers inside the mouth of her hair. The history there is

one motion, told and retold by millions of bodies over hundreds of years. Sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, lover, friend, partner, braid me. Keep the tales of what we can not forget—here. 

“(To Forget)”

how time taught you the crime was running and the weight was yours to bear. 

But we are now, and those times are running elsewhere. Tie your burden to my chest, let me lift infinity to amnesia.

“(To Bury)”

the swell begin your line anywhere, and bind me to you. Like let me dress you in your story. Like I tell you haku lei. Like what binds us bonds us closer, like woven story. Show me. 

“(To Float)”

think of silted braided rivers. Now extricate the rivulets. Use your tongue. Can you discern salt from iron or shell from shale? This is what it is like to make a world with words. 

“(To Dream)”

visit the gathering place of possibility. The entrance is at the rivers’ confluence. There we become opened. In the estuary,  find a chest of sun, left unlatched for fumbling fingers. Find the sediment of mountain springs. Find your relatives, who all gather for the exchange. Find yourself, complete with your shadow, growing long in evening slant.

“(To Carry)”

Where do you hold your ancestor’s trauma?

Some days I look into the mirror.

In your breast? In the nape of your neck?

I can see.

In the bags under your eyes?

(The pain I’ve inherited.)

In the curve of your hips? In the arch of your spine?

As if I dressed myself in it.

In the creaking of your bones?

This morning I’m not sure. Am I wearing it? Or it is wearing me.

“(To Trace)”

the peculiar work of healing the past, a scar, remember not only the injury but also its healing. Before the cancer. How she held me. As if we were trees. To bring injury into the light that never had a chance to scar—now that’s grasping the earth in one arm and the heavens in the other. But the past is above and below, behind and beyond, is much more complex than a straight line. It is here. So we heal ourselves then and now, over and over, so that you might learn the patterns for yourself.  A master has one way of doing her task.  A novice has an infinite number of approaches to the same. This is what I have learned about vulnerability. Bend, supple, like tenderest niyok shoots, and the paths unfold, too numerous to count. Tradition depends on survival. I have found our survival depends on tenderness and innovation.

“(To Unfold)”

into a receptacle for holding joy, entrust your tender heart to another. Look. We are more than our scars. We hold the memory of trauma in our roots. And still, here is a moment of pure joy. See how our chests shake the air with a trust manifested from generations of resilience? Reach for each other. Embrace. Grow flowers with your lungs. 

“(To Honor)”

each other, write the stories. Here is mine:  I am Åga. In spirit and  form. Mochong! Last wombed crow of Guåhan. The papers will tell you I died, captive and heartbroken. This is a partial truth. The past is above and below, behind and beyond, is much more complex than a straight line. See now, in the present, my cloak of black feathers. See now, in the past, the smear of my mouth, my voice taken too soon. How can any one creature carry a nation of her people? When the nation is reduced to its last, failing, womb, who will come forward and speak of rebirth?  

See now, in the future, I wear the Sinahi and the Spondylus. Mochong! Complete being. Mohong! Two-spirited Åga of heaven and earth. I grow horns made of ancestral bones and feather my own tongue into existence. This is how legend becomes truth.

“(To Re-grow)”

a tongue, pull it  from beneath the silt at the bottom of the sea. If it is knotted, frayed, tangled you can take up my voice. Look for my feathers in dust, find my matted feathers in the surf. There, make a nest for me.  Gather shells and driftwood. Dig a small bowl in the sand. Let the patterns arrange themselves into a beautiful thing. Ask me to come, and you will find me on the horizon, glittering.

“(To Heal)” 

we peel the wounds to reveal fresh, tender shoots. We hold each other in ecstatic queer joy. We, prisms of our culture, bend the light so that our kinfolk can see there is always more than one way. We, healers. We, storytellers, we weavers of our history and lives. We are here. We will not leave you. We are deeper than scars and skin. We are the beating blood in your veins. We are the marrow to hold you. We come to you from the past, the now, the future. We are your resilience when you falter. We are the cocoon in the next metamorphosis. We are seasons of grief.  Come closer.

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