Proposal – Zina

There are two projects that I am interested in, and I am still trying to decide on the nature of my investigation, in relation to them.

(1)

I am really interested in the “Sitio-sena” or “sign-site” project by Quique Lee and Andrea Monroy.

I didn’t really know much about the Underground Railroad Quilt code which the African Americans used when escaping slavery. It is interesting to note that some people dispute the authenticity of this practice (it may never have occurred), but it does make for a romantic story.

“According to Ozella Williams, an African American woman who lives in South Carolina, tells the story that her mother told her about the Underground Railroad Quilt Code. Apparently, there were ten quilts used to direct slaves to take particular actions. Each quilt featured one of the ten patterns. The ten quilts were placed one at time on a fence. Since it was common for quilts to be aired out frequently, the master or mistress would not be suspicious when seeing quilts displayed in this fashion. This way, the slaves could nonverbally alert those who were escaping. Only one quilt would appear at any one time. Each quilt signaled a specific action for a slave to take at the particular time that the quilt was on view. The code had dual meaning: first to signal slaves to prepare to escape and second to give clues and indicate directions on the journey.”

Source: http://home2.fvcc.edu/~cgreig/final/blocks.html

I find this project idea really fascinating, due to its goal of developing a symbolic guide for migrants. It made me think about how diverse migrant experiences can be, and how dramatically contrasting a sort of “Guide to Survival” could be for various groups of migrants. The survival guide of a refugee fleeing war, a slave escaping servitude, an economic migrant fleeing Bangladesh in hopes of a better future for his or her children. The expat who leaves in search of adventure. The Guatemalan who flees genocide, or today, a country plagued by post-genocidal violence and crippling.

One idea I am toying with is creating a symbolic map, of a ‘survival guide’ that would be relevant to my parent’s experience of migration from Bangladesh to Singapore in the 1970s.

What are the things my parents (and other migrant Bdeshi parents) held on to when they moved abroad? In a way, the nature of this survival guide is inverse, it is less about escaping your home, and more about making sure your home/ history/ culture don’t escape you…… methods to hold on to one’s culture in an environment of dominant, Western encroaching influences.

  • Religion
  • Cooking skills (from my grandmother)
  • Aam Shaptha
  • Frozen Paratha, pitha, gosh.
  • Jainamaz
  • Orna
  • That henna masher thing – a stone flat ware, big round rolling pin (also stone)
  • Plastic on the chairs
  • Covering your furniture up with a sheet, because guests are not around to sit on it anyway!
  • Hijab
  • Throwing dinner parties for the community in Singapore?
  • Cook book by siddiqa kabir
  • Halal food

(2)

Otherwise a different take on this issue of migrants fleeing conflict:

Food memories of Guatemalan migrants, who fled the conflict.

  • How they hold onto home, here, in the US, through food.
  • Food as a way to negotiate and survive migration/ escape.
  • Photograph them in their homes, interview them. Essay and photo collage?
  • Food memories of the past, at home vs. food habits today in the US.

(3)

The second project I am interested in as well is Hipnosis by Regina Jose Galindo and Alfredo Ceibal.

I really like this idea. Throughout this class, I have found myself drawn towards street art, public art, art engaging with the public. Questions I wish to investigate:

  1. How can we transform public spaces, spaces in the urban environment, from being dead spaces to ones that are alive?
  2. How can we give them life, through artistic intervention?
  3. And to go further, how do we go further, and look at the curation of a space, to showcase art, but where the space itself is ALIVE and a work of art in itself?

Some reading I have found to look into this further (before I make a decision):

http://act.mit.edu/projects-and-events/events/public-programs/public-space-lost-found/

http://glasshouseconversations.org/what-is-the-function-of-art-in-public-spaces-and-how-does-it-connect-to-or-actively-serve-people/

http://www.eltono.com/en (a Russian artist, Eltono)

http://www.pps.org/reference/collaborative-creative-placemaking-good-public-art-depends-on-good-public-spaces/

http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/September-2013/Exciting-Times-for-Art-in-Public-Spaces/

 

NOTE:

Need to make distinction between:

1. ‘art in public spaces’ transforming public spaces

/ with /

2. transforming PEOPLE/ and the public, within a space, through interventionist art

 *** This project can be related to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence: Auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (physical movement), visual etc. intelligence. Based on this, we use words, music, art or movement to foster positivity in people’s lives. You just need to focus on a word(s) or idea(s) that is positive. One of my classmates did a similar exercise for a presentation last semester, where she handed out random positive words to our class and let the universe decide who should receive them.

***Safe circle. Circle of Trust, but in a public setting?

***Prep: Stage prelim research with a focus group in NYC?

UPDATE: I have decided to pursue a third idea!

FOOD MEMORIES OF GUATEMALAN MIGRANTS

I am essentially interested in looking at food memories of Guatemalan migrants, migrants who left for a better life here in NY, or those who fled the conflict. Possible areas for exploration:

  • How they hold onto this idea of home using food. 
  • How food is used as a way to negotiate and survive migration/ escape. 
  • Food memories of the past, at home vs. food habits today. 
  • Maybe even look into food appropriation. Do Guatemalans who run restaurants here brand them as something more appealing to the public e.g. “Mexican”, how do they negotiate the food space here in order to ‘fit in’ or make money?  
  • How do migrant women negotiate their roles at home, cooking for the family? 
  • How have their diets changed since moving to the US? 
  • What meaning does food hold for local day laborers? 

Lots of areas to explore, so of course lots of research needs to be done first. Initial idea is to compile stories and photos, or even include short videos, bringing together research and interviews. I am exploring a few avenues to get in touch with the Guatemalan community living here in NYC and I will also be getting in touch with Willy Barreno of Desgua, to see if anything interesting emerges from a conversation with him. I am also looking for restaurants here run by Guatemalans, and possibly any clubs or associations based in NYC.

So far, Julian has helped me get in touch with Luis Argueta, a Guatemalan film-maker who lives in NYC who has done grassroots media work here with the Guatemalan community. He directed one of Guatemala’s most internationally acclaimed films, El Silencio de Neto.

I am also hoping to collaborate with Jessica Kaire on her project, in whatever form possible…. I have done a lot of work surrounding food and dialogue, and was one of the founders of an organization called Culture Kitchen back in Singapore, and a few of my Khana Commune dinner events included migrant workers and their relationship to food in Singapore.

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