by Maria Antonia Trujillo
In the show SITUER / SITUATE artists were asked to reflect on a sense of place. Place both as a definable physical area and an action we take. Loss of place is common today with globalization, but also forced migration and the continued destruction of the natural environment propelled by corporate greed; continually displacing campesinos and Indigenous peoples globally.
I am here, in the relative safety of the city reflecting on place. I have moved often. I question place because where I have lived the longest I do not belong legally. The place where I am legally welcomed back, where I was born, I lived there four years. Here in Tio'tia:ke, I am on a temporary visa, hoping to stay. Where is my place?
But the significance of place, as many of the show’s artists portray, is not necessarily defined by external forces. Sometimes our sense of place and belonging, as we choose to frame it, is a push back to societal constraints that seek to define the boundaries of belongingness. Sometime exploring questions of place can also be a healing ritual, propelled by the loss of what defined for us that sense of place.
As a migrant, I live between memories of what could have been in the places my family chose to leave behind. Movement, both through space and mind, has gifted me with a wild imagination that if not channelled is a well of anxiety attacking my human contradictions. When channelled as art, this imagination has become a tool used to soothe my uprooted heart. Like a tropical fruit that was not left to mature, and tastes like a half guava, my soul feels that it is missing parts of its essence. Art propels my search for my distilled essence. I long to have stayed on that tree longer, to have had the privilege to taste the roots of my tree. To have fallen in due time.
Here on another land I seek to know about it, both as a respect to it, but also to know myself. You see my migrant heart already floats too high, a product of movement. The only way I will land is by continually searching for the true histories of the land I am on. Tio'tia:ke. I took Mohawk language lessons, and felt so happy to know how to say the name of the land I am on. Finally, I could say it. Thanks to my Mohawk teacher, I better understood where I was. Tio'tia:ke. Perhaps place is relearning the history of an occupied space. Standing with this place transparently and with knowledge has begun a sense of belonging here too. I have been situated by the history of the land.
The land has begun to tell me who I am. And I have entered into a conversation with it. A conversation about identity not being tied to nationality. A conversation about the sacredness of both the land, myself, and everyone around me. Place as sanctuary. Body as sanctuary. Land as sanctuary.
“donde quiera que uno muere, Ay hombe, to'a las tierras son bendita'.” (Alejo Duran)*
“All land is sacred, no matter where one dies man, cause all land is sacred.”*
*Lyrics from a Colombian song Alicia Adorada by Alejandro Duran, 1993. Alejandro Duran was a Colombian Vallenato music traditional composer, singer and accordionist.
Maria Antonia Trujillo is a Colombian Community Planner, Historian, and Artist who grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In the past two years, she calls Tio’tiake home. To see some of her work inspired by Colombia and experiences of migration visit her Instagram @magicorealism.