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feature - Issue #12

Waters that flow

Words and artworks by Seba Calfuqueo
Translated by Laura Strang Steel

Indigenous artist Seba Calfuqueo’s work explores identity and how binaries introduced through colonisation are still limiting the human and non-human world.

My work has been developed in various formats: ceramics, photography, installation, performance and video, among others. I am interested in addressing the concept of identity with a critical view that reviews class, gender, race and sexuality - all defined by the parameters left by colonialism. Western colonialism indoctrinated us with a philosophy based on binary positions, defining certain fixed concepts as opposites: civilised/barbarian, feminine/masculine, euphoria/dysphoria, white/black, among others.

Species are not binary - we move through waters that adapt to different containers of our experiences and corporeality. From this place, I have tried to think of my work as a space where questions are opened around these themes, questions that complement each other with the view of the audience and art as a pedagogical tool.

My art usually works with my body and biography as a starting point. Such as the territory that I inhabited, Wallmapu - which means having a relationship with the past, with our ancestors - then the personal becomes public, it becomes a point of connection with others. This archive is also an important place for the elaboration and investigation that gives life to these works. It interests me to think of history as a legacy of this western tradition, which left Indigenous peoples without a voice, without agency. This has to change. We must question this absence and historical silencing. Through the review of images and stories, I think about the relationships between aromas, sounds and visuals that lead us to think not just as human beings, but as ecosystems linked to other species - becoming forests, waters that flow, fungi that reproduce themselves or hermaphrodite plants.

My artistic work is also conceived as an urgent need to think about nature. The waters from the territory that I inhabit, Chile, have been privatised since 1981 by the water code, which was enacted during the dictatorship. I think of my art, together with those of other Indigenous artists, as a claim for the land and a return to its care.

Alka domo, Video performance, 2017. Alka domo is a performative work that references the feat of Caupolicán, a Mapuche leader who was elected by his community after completing the challenge of holding a log on his shoulders for two days. The artist holds a hollow trunk made of coihue, an ancestral wood from the South of Chile, alongside seven pairs of high heels - each one representing one of the colours of the LGBT flag. “Hollow” is the derogatory term that Chilean people use to refer to non-heterosexual people.

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