During the summer I built a website where I am updating live my research and work. It speaks to this blog as a continuation of the studies and exercises put here in the context of the masters of Design at Emily Carr, but it also goes beyond this program to explore further past, present and future of my design research journey.
“Ko tenda ñu rei ogueru che nderape iñe’e yvoty. Opuka ha amo’ a’y hágui ajuhu. Aipota peteī yvy porã. Aipota peteī yvy sã’y ha guasu. Peteī yvy roñemongeta hagua ha rokunu’u hagua heta ara ambue” (1)
In Guarani cosmovision, we have two souls: the soul of the body: “ã” and the soul of the spirit: “ñe”, which means language, sound with sense. This souls is located in the throat of beings and it expresses itself through speaking, singing, praying, reflecting.
The “teko Porã”, el buen vivir or good living is the Guarani way of living, where the souls coexist and through an embodied experience with the land, living is a quest for the ” land without evil”: Yvy mara’ei.
As a preamble for the thesis research framing, I reflect back on language as a manifestation of my soul, as the place where I can go back to layers upon layers of memories, where identity brings upfront my different intersections.
These intersections that determine who I am are also my borderlands: those cultural borders that I redefine as intersectional margins, where the racialized view of capitalist and modernist societies define and delimit geographies and cultural identities, creating oppression, discrimination and marginalization. Recognizing my own identity and bringing in my own cosmology to the land where I am situated makes me embody my presence in this place. It also makes me define the design space within an embodied practice. I can’t separate myself from the land anymore, ergo I acknowledge it, I respect it, I embrace it.
I also take responsibility for the limits and biases of my own positionality, the “situatedness of knowledge, as a means of understanding that all knowledge comes from our positional perspectives”(Haraway 1988 -2005).
Recognizing my own identity and my positionality in the world, I can recognize the other in its own. I recognize myself, the land and my position in this pluriverse world.
The pluriverse is “the world of many worlds”, where different ways of being can build community and transform realities of exclusion, racism, discrimination, bigotry, ableism, social and ecological distress into possibilities of change. It is where we can let the land and our own epistemologies converse.
In this “Pluricosmos”, place is also more than human. It represents the cosmologies of every of its inhabitants. It goes beyond ourselves and our relationship. It transcends the materiality of our human needs. Listening to the land, we learn that our communities, our relationships go beyond our human existence. The other species, nature, its multiple creatures and non-creatures are equally part of the ecology of the world.
The soul transcends the human, inhabits the cosmos, it converses with it, it respects it, empathizes with it and the other beings.
As a sort of auto-ethnographic introspection, I reflect on my diaspora, that journey that brought me here to this land. I am introducing methods such as “untiming”: which let me analyze things from the present, the past or the future, depending on needs not structured chronological pre-conditions. This method helps me go back to the land of the Guarani grand-mothers of Paraguay who inherited me the Guarani language, at their blood’s cost.
I brought my ñe, my soul, my language with me. It keeps me warm, it keeps me present, belonged. And as the journey continues, the research turns as a continuing exploration of borderlands, intersections, souls, languages that need to have that encounter in the pluriverse world.
I also introduce Worlding as a method of making with: sympoieisis (4). It allows me to situate myself with the others, in community, in company, to build within the multi pluri-cosmos.
I want to decolonize myself and the land by undesigning the colonized space in order to maybe build and let bloom those possibilities of change.
LEXICON-ing | Translations
1 – This remote land brings to me its soul in poetry, as a word that blooms in a sudden laugh, a word in a land that I want. A land that is free and vast, a land where we can talk and love for many days to come… (A poem in Guarani, 2021)
2 – Many worlds are walked in the world. Many worlds are made. Many worlds make us. There are words and worlds that are lies and injustices. There are words and worlds that are truthful and true. In the world of the powerful there is room only for the big and their helpers. In the world we want, everybody fits. The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit (Zapatista Manifesto of the Lacandon Jungle 1996)
3- Diaspora, between borderlands and Intersections – Our world converses with the other worlds to imagine the pluriverse.
4 – Sympoiesis is a word proper to complex, dynamic, responsive, situated, historical systems. It is a word for worlding-with, in company. Sympoiesis enfolds autopoiesis and generatively unfurls and extends it.” (Haraway 2016).
The project is written partially in Guarani and English. The Guarani language brings in my own cultural identity. It takes me to a place of introspection. It speaks to me of a different way of seeing and naming. It also gives me a safe space where I can go and reflect on my diaspora, on the borderlands that still hurt me.
There is a Lexicon at the end of the Post.
This is Iquebí’s tembiasakue (story), Ha’e (he is) an ayoreo-paraguayan indigenous kuimba’e (man) that on a long journey back home, went through different paths of colonization and decolonization, of learning, unlearning and relearning. Iquebi is a wayfinder, a designer of possibilities.
Iquebi’s voice can be heard Today as a claim on identity, with kunu’u (love) and pride for his culture. It is a voice that also brings urgency and due for action. His Tetã (nation/culture) is being destroyed. Ayoreo’s territory has a ka’aguy (forest) that cries from its deepest roots and asks for getting back its ways, its soil and its people.
When Kuarahy rises there is a rera for hope. It is a new ara rory jerovia.Ara is made out of histories. Time of tekovekue. For those who had the chance to live and for those who lost it all. Amombe’úta ndéve ko ava tembiasakue.
“I remember that my dad said to me: “Iquebi, don’t go very far from us, you are still very young, and in the forest something bad might happen to you” (far from the camp)…I looked at my dad and my mom, and I went with my friend whom I never should see again.
We were already a bit far from my dad and my mom, and suddenly we found some traces we never had seen before, which we did not know. My colleague said we should follow them, and so we did.
That day, I remember very well, there was bright sunshine and it was not very cold. My friend and I were playing and laughing a lot. We, the Ayoreo, always laugh a lot about anything. Soon we heard something terrible, a great noise, and we did not know what it was. We were frightened and started to run, but I was very small and could not run very fast. And then four guys showed up, mounted on some beasts I had never seen before; we ran as fast as we could, my friend to one side and I to the other, and I don’t know where he went, but the four guys followed me on their horses. And when they reached me, one of them tried to shoot me with a pistol, but another one clutched his hand, and so he did not kill me, but they caught me by lasso, with a piola (before, I did not know what a piola was, but today I know). When they caught me with the piola I tried to escape again, I thought: I am Ayoreo, I am stronger than them; but I tried in vain.
[…] When we reached the Bahía Negra, they finally took off the piola, but it was not to let me free, nothing alike, it was to put me into a cage. That moment I tried again to escape, I thought I would make it, but I couldn’t… the cage was locked. They threw me into the cage in Bahía Negra, and thus they took me till the port of Asunción. I did not know anybody; I had never seen the things I saw. That cage where they locked me was very small, like one meter, and I could not stand up, but sometimes they took me out a little bit to relieve myself. They did not want that I peed or shit inside the cage, therefore they took me out, but I could not shit because I did not eat anything. I could pee, because I was only drinking water, and they took me out to pee inside the boat, down there, peeing into the water; and I also fell ill, I had a lot of head ache, the flue and I was coughing; stuff I never had and never felt in the forest” (Iquebí, 2012)
This happened in Paraguay in 1956.
Amarilla, Deisy. Captura del Ayoreo José Iquebi (Capture of the Ayoreo José Iquebi), 2012
In a series of poteī (4) colloquies. I listened to Deisy tell me Iquebí’s story. Then, as a listener -messenger, I retell the story to poapy (3) other women from different backgrounds. .Amombe’uta (I’ll tell you) the reflections, perspectives that ha’ekuera (they) presented and also the ñomongueta (dialogue) that raised.
Colloquy 1: Daisy and Iquebí
Dr. Daisy Amarilla is a Paraguayan anthropologist that for the past 25 years has been working with the Ayoreos. She is close friends with Iquebi and in 2012 she published a book about his life and the actual situation of the Ayoreos. She told me that there are only about 6,000 people now. That they still have a few families and groups that live in the forest without contact but that they don’t know for how much longer they will be able to do it so.
Most of them have to get out, because of deforestation and oil mining. Many live in settlements where they have been evangelized (by catholic and christian priests), alienated and subdued to the “modern” ways or colonization.
This is a story that unfortunately is not alien to most of indigenous cultures. We live similar stories of abuse, displacement, theft by governments and corporations in Canada and around the world. These stories need to be told. The only way to stop the abusers is to denounce and talk about the abuse. The only way that as designers we can decolonize is by creating space for decolonized places.
The decolonized design space is where we come to design with the world to let the world design us back (Anne Marie Willis, Ontological Designing, 2006). A space that confronts all our intersections and often transgresses our most intrinsic borderlands.
Ko ñombogueta Deisy ndive (this dialogue with Deisy) took us to reflect on the dire situation of the Ayoreos in their territory and in a need to change the way that education is being held. Today they have a generalized indigenous curriculum that in reality aims more to colonize and bring in the paraguayan government ways, neglecting indigenous history and culture. A sort of canadian residential schools replica, where the word “to modernize” is often repeated. Where capitalism prevails as the ruling in governments and institutions, compulsively displacing, racializing, discriminating in the name of progress or the public wellbeing.
Iquebi’s cage reminds me of how BIPOC people are seen in academic environments. How they are invited to “participate”, to talk about their realities, just to validate white privileged scholars, who hold tight to their positions of power. The rhetoric doesn’t change. It is like (for religious parishioners) going to mass to confess on Sundays, and then back to “sin” the next day. Inclusion is not giving equal space, It is not making room for having more diverse teachers and curriculum. “Moves to innocence” to keep white people upholding white people. (Tuck and Yang, Decolonization is not a metaphor, 2012).
“If we examine critically the traditional role of the university in the pursuit of truth and the sharing of knowledge and information, it is painfully clear that biases that uphold and maintain white supremacy, imperialism, sexism, and racism have distorted education so that it is no longer about the practice of freedom” (Bell Hooks, Teaching to transgress, 1994).
D. Amarilla just presented to the paraguayan senate a project to change the indigenous educational curriculum for the ayoreos, in order to include the teachings of their own history and culture by ayoreos teachers.
Colloquy 2 : Amombe’úta Marcia
Marcia Higuchi is a MDES in Interdisciplinary Design candidate at Emily Carr University. Marcia will soon become an immigrant in Canada. Marcia and I share a lot of similarities in the way our countries evolved. We lived dictatorships, recurrent corrupt governments and a modus vivendi that makes both our countries very much alike as “modern”colonial states. (we also share extended geographic borderlines).
For Marcia, Iquebi’s story took her to her own grandfather’s history who immigrated from Japan when he was 14 years old and that, as Marcia tells, had with him all of his life in Brazil, his love and yearn for his culture. We also reflected on language. How for both Iquebi and Marcia’s grandfather,knowing their language was a strong force that kept them connected to their cultures.
Language for me is a place of reflection, a refuge, a way back to my memories, my identity. It is also a breakpoint, to shift, to acknowledge my own self and all my intersections. I am a latinX, mestiza, immigrant in Canada, a “naturalized” citizen, a mother of Canadian children, a wife, a queer brown woman. Guarani, Spanish and English languages convert and divert, bounce and hold the words that shape me.
Colloquy 3 : Amombeu’ta Melanie
Melanie Camman is also one of my peers. She is a MDES in Interdisciplinary Design candidate at Emily Carr University. Melanie, as she says, is a white settler in Canada. Melanie’s research explores her privilege as a white person and Iquebi’s story took us through the analysis of white privilege and decolonization. How the position of white people affects indigenous and racial minorities in Canada. We analyzed the similarities in how indigenous peoples in Paraguay and Canada are marginalized and their land is usurped. I told Melanie about the Ayoreos cosmology that says that humans come to the world to “be happy” and how they hold to that belief.
We also talk about how we recognize our ancestors and how to look back into the past, when difficult relations can deter us to do it. Can we select and skip generations?
Colloquy 4: Amombe’uta Bonne
Dr. Bonne Zabolotney is an associate professor at Emily Carr. She has a PHD in Design Studies. Bonne talks about the importance of context in design. When I told her Iquebi’s story, we reflected on how the design space sometimes needs to be “undesigned” to be able to work on it. How the voice of Iquebi got stronger because he preserved his language and his culture as his most precious values. I explained to Bonne how I define “Land-bordering”. It is the transmission of memories and lived experiences in the context of land and the different intersections that influenced that experience. Looking in this particular case into the indigenous way of being and doing of Iquebi and how his values and deep love for his land and his culture made him overcome the adversities. Through the role of “listener-messenger” I witness and bring up his voice to others. I share his story in order to build a dialogue that opens up other possibilities in the way that we as designers look at the place where we are situated.
Bonne told me that my project reminded her of a theory/concept developed a while ago by Allyson Lindberg, called Prosthetic Memory, where collective memory is shared and passed to others. With Bonne we also talked about Allyship and how white people can position themselves as such to build spaces of dialogue and hopefully of understanding and reconciliation.
We also discussed that indigenous knowledge is not a shared knowledge that a white settler or any person can just take to replicate or use (appropiate). Indigenous knowledge comes from Indigenous peoples and they are the ones to carry ownership of that knowledge.
I put together a series called: Transgressing the Binary: White and Colour’d “tool” cards. They are a series of Provocations touching the key words that I take out from these colloquies. These “provocations” can be used in dialogues and workshops to bring these topics into consideration ,reflection and action.
Individual Images of each card are posted on page 2 of this blog.
KEYWORDS: White guilt, white privilege, white supremacy, white male dominancy, white fragility. Intersections, Borderlands, Intersectionality, Sisters solidarity, Decolonization, Otherness.
Ára: day, time
Marandeko (kue) tembiasakue: history, story
Tekovekue: ancient/past times.
Nde, ne: You/ your
Retâ/Tetâ: home ground
Yvy: land, soil
Queer: meña joja
Pytu, yvytu: air/ wind
Tata, ata : fire
Ama, Amangy: rain
Ara Rory jerovia: a day to be happy/hopeful
Amombe’úta ndéve ko ava tembiasakue: I’ll tell you his story.
“They listen for the heartbeat of their mother as that ziibaakdaaboo (maple sap) falls into their pails. They cherish the gift given to their ancestors so long ago, and in their heart knowledge…they know that ziiizibaaakwad (sugar) wasn’t the real gift, the gift was in the making, and that without love, making wasn’t just possible”
Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. The Gift Is in the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories (The Debwe Series). HighWater Press, 2013.
We start from ourselves:
The different intersectionalities that make me: All my borderlands shape me.
“My homeground didn’t want me, my new homeland doesn’t know what to do with me” P.Vera MDES Blog 2020.
“As a mestiza I have no country, my homeland cast me out; yet all countries are mine because I am every woman’s sister or potential lover. (As a lesbian I have no race, my own people disclaim me; but I am all races because there is the queer of me in all races…) I am cultureless, because, as a feminist, I challenge the collective cultural, religious male-derived beliefs of Indo-Hispanic and Anglos; yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet”
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 1st ed., Aunt Lute Books, 1987.
When we encounter these borderlines where the land seems foreign and our voices disappear. Hope comes as a result of reckoning. We listen to the land and see that there are layers and layers of soil, of carbon matter and history of people’s lives. All these layers meet in points of inflection, where cultures are created and are going to be created again and again until the earth allows it.
Caduveo—Mbaya—Guaicuru corporal ethno-graphics By Caduvea Women Artists 1998 (From Catalogue: The other Skin, Luz Ayala Urbieta) Paraguay
We listen to the land and see that history can be noted on skins, as the Paraguayan Caduveos “ethno-graphics” where tradition preserved years and years of being, passing on as knowledge keepers, identity and culture to the new generations.
Our Land | This tree is 1000 yrs old | Listen to the Land ( In QR Codes)
We listen to the land and see millennial trees posing majestically, talking to the wind and the birds, telling us that they were there, way before us, and that we have a responsibility to respect, reckon, care and listen…keep listening.
Graphics | Plaques | Objects NYC Streets Alexander-Calder-Upper-East-Side-Madison-Avenue-Terrazo-Sidewalk-Restoration (Left) Barthman Clock-Maiden Lane and Broadway (Upper right) Library Walk Plaque—The New York Public Library (Lower right)
We listen to the land and see in the streets of New York: the history of people’s passing by culture. The library, a clock, a cigarette butt, mosaics that make us recognize our place in that world. (“A world of many worlds”-Zapatistas Manifiesto)
Amasunu (rain); Aipóke (invisible, far away entity); Araryapu (thunder); Gualala (unintelligible sound); Pararâ (clatter, din) The land as it speaks…
In guarani language each sound has a different word . Nature talks in an onomatopoeic language.
How can indigenous and local knowledge help to facilitate land-based design practices for a sustainable future?
We build with community:
By listening to the land, recognizing it, giving care to their keepers we (designers) transform ourselves in wayfinders (the ones that know a way, or many ways). We situate ourselves in the pluriverse, where all those ways of being can build community and transform realities of exclusion, racism, discrimination, bigotry, social and ecological distress into possibilities of change. Where an ontological shift from capitalism and the patriarchal (chauvinist) modernist model, can allow different epistemologies to resurge and co-exist.
“We’ are travelling toward a point at which we will have to learn how to redesign ourselves.”
“Quiero ser el dueño de mis sueños y caminar seguro por un suelo, donde mis huellas duren. Quiero escuchar las voces de la Floresta y encontrar en sus heridas una esperanza acompañada de otra, y de otra. Quiero encontrar momentos quietos donde el viento sople y el sol caliente, donde el dolor de la raza y tu indiferencia sean ajenas y solas. Quiero saber tu nombre, che Sy, y guardarlo en el medio de una historia que se escriba desde siempre, recordando tus memorias. Quiero luz, agua, vida, paz, amor, alegria, una tierra donde ser para mis hijos. Una tierra dondela mirada opresora, racista, discriminadora se confunda y se pierda en el cambio, en un acto,en donde el pueblo resurja y desentierre la verdad de tus historias.”
“I want to be the owner of my dreams and walk on a soil where my footprints matter. I want to hear the voices of the Forest and find in its wounds a bit of hope. I want to find quiet moments where the wind blows as the sun warms, where the pain of racism and its indifference can be alien and alone.I want to know your name, mother Earth, and keep it in the middle of a history, that can write itself forever, remembering your stories, reckoning your memories.I want light, water, life, peace, love, joy, an earth for my children. An earth for being, where oppression, racism, discrimination, hate can get all confused and lost by change, by actions, by people’s claim of unearthed inheritances.”
The path of the past four months took me through lots of reflections, orienting my research to the exploration of intersectionality and borderlands, bringing in my own identity as a latinx queer woman to analyze the different layers of intersections that define ourselves and determine how we experience the world and our intercommunal relationships.
I want to amplify through design the empirical knowledge of the ”pueblos originarios” (the original cultures) of immigrant and indigenous lived experiences in Canada in order to pursue and achieve the needed restoration/reconstruction of the social and ecological balance on our “Tierra Madre.”
Within the actions of the studio class, storytelling, secondary research, using games, letterforms, “colloquies”, are methods that helped in this quest for a research-based project.
I am willing to see my future self, working along with these previous methods, on placemaking, relational design and community practices to re-read the history of the land and its ecologies. To work towards developing and setting design practices that can respond to local needs, reconciling technology with empirical knowledge.
This future self also aims to work on creating awareness, to bring into the conversation the uncomfortable truth of systemic racism and discrimination that doesn’t allow the resurgence of “original” epistemologies as an alternative to shift our modern/capitalist way of living.
I believe design practice is entangled with the political, social and cultural reality of our societies, where colonialism prevails as the status quo. Diverting from this status quo entices being political in disposing convoluted capitalist and modernist practices. An ontological shift is possible by having a firm, collective intent as designers. We owe it to our future generations; we owe it to a distressed Pachamama. We have to look back into the future to move forward. I want to see my future self, doing that.
“The aim of a social contract theory is to show that members of some society have reason to endorse and comply with the fundamental social rules, laws, institutions, and/or principles of that society” Rousseau, Hobbes, Kant?…NOPE
What did we do to us?…Rewind!
“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” (Kimberle Creenshaw, 1989)
In my research I want to investigate how Intersectionality and Borderlands influence the way that we interact in our societies, and how we can act through design to promote change and restore local indigenous knowledge.
Intersectionality is the overlap of race, gender, sex, class and other human characteristics that shape who we are and how we interact with others in social contexts.
I define Borderlands as cultural borders, as intersectional margins, where the racialized view of capitalist and modernist societies define and delimit geographies and cultural identities creating oppression, discrimination and marginalization.
“Border thinking requires a shift in the geography of reasoning, a delinking from the assumption of modern and postmodern epistemology, hermeneutics, and sensibility”(W.Mignolo, 2014)
As a Latinx Canadian brown queer woman, I traverse colonial rivers speaking from lived realities of racial and sexual discrimination. I seek toamplify the empirical knowledge of the pueblos originarios (the original cultures) of immigrant and indigenous lived experiences in Canada in order to pursue and achieve the needed restoration/reconstruction of the social and ecological balance of our Tierra Madre. I am studying my own epistemology, as a Canadian Immigrant: the Guarani culture and its language from my home-ground Paraguay, as an expression of reconstructed memory that opens a door to regain space within indigenous knowledge.
At this moment, I am studying graphic symbols, iconography from the guaranies. I want to explore how those symbols convey the Guarani language and how they also represent their own intersections, class, gender, identity within the communities.
I am also exploring their communal spaces, how land works as a social space where their cosmovision is manifested.
How can we translate this way of being through relational design?
The sense of being a last Action (for this year) creates the idea of an end. But time is a construction of our own colonial structures. Could this be the last or the fist action? Do I need to give it a place in the sequence of the class or of my research ? Maybe it is just to use time as the journey of life, as indigenous epistemologies put it, where things don’t need to be rushed, where we need to pause and reflect, take a deep breath, start over, look back to build a new future.
Which journeys do we choose? What land do we recognize? What limits can we afford?
Storytelling, how do we come and go. Who are the people we see, how do they see us? In the moment of reckoning, there are stops, waiting rooms, the absence of our own self searching for answers. When we say together, we mean proximity, awareness of the other, empathy…What is together when we barely look at each other, when our masks go beyond the virus and are worn on our hearts, when racism, gender and sexual discrimination are reasons for erasure and omission?
Race, gender, sex, class travel wit us, our intersections, our definition. How do we untangle this preconception of identity, to restore our humanity and our sense of the world?
I will investigate making design dialogues through “data collection” and reaching out.
“Mapping the path takes me to reflect on where am I speaking from? How do design intertwines in all these intersectionalities, where am I situated?”
Reaching out to people that share their lived experience in Vancouver as immigrants, made me reflect on how intersectionality represents the borderlands where different identities confront each other, where race, gender, language, class and other aspects of our identity converge and determine how we experience the world and our intercommunal relationships.
I asked to qualify from 1 to 10 what would be the relevance of the words/concepts of discrimination, racism, inequality, injustice, xenophobia and sustainability in their lived experiences. The framework is systemic racism in Canada, and how to navigate as immigrants through this common denominator in their lives.
This “data” collected, represents not numbers or statistics, it represents a reflexion, a narrative and the opening to a colloquy, where sharing, listening, talking about it, means to be part of a community, to have other people around you, to care, to commit to action and therefore to change.
Graphics of the “Colloquy” data
Overposing the voices creates city dwellings profiles/borders
I will investigate amplifying, borderlines and ecologies of knowledge through community, social engagement and relational design”
Planetary Boundaries | Ecologies of Knowledge
We live in a world divided into plots, where being an owner, a colonizer meant to snatch, take away and with that to harm the possibility of a future.
The borderlines exist to show off sovereignty, material belongings, political autonomy, hegemonic power and in consequence repression, marginalization, expulsion, diaspora.
When Gloria Anzaldua describes borderlines as open wounds, it takes me to reflect about the different layers of wounds that exist: The wound of the immigrant that cannot “trespass…”, the wound of the indigenous nations that haven’t created those borders and don’t belong to them. The wound of the millenary cultures which recognize the river as a brother or a sacred entity, while in the modern maps the river divides, ruptures, creates the wall, the limit and it is patrolled by national armies.
How many more wounds do we want to open? How many more wounds can we actually open?
Borderlines move with wars, with deaths and they are negotiated with treaties. They are divided among political entities and global powers, but, our planetary boundaries? How do we negotiate those borders?