Ñe’e yvoty | Language and Soul

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)

Guarani words, P. Vera 2021

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.

(2) Zapatista Manifesto of the Lacandon Jungle, Guarani Translation, P. Vera 2021

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.

Jacare, Tatu ha Tagua, wild animals from Paraguay region ( Ishir peoples wood sculptures )

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.

Che ñe (Wooden memories)
Thesis pre-nam-ing (3)

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).

“Nde Rendape aju”| Letter to my future self

To Pat,

“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 donde la 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.

Action 11 | Intersectionality | Borderlands

Reflecting | Reckoning

The social contract?

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 to amplify 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.

Paraguayan new acquired bibliography, November 2020

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?

Ethnographies Studies of the Mbayá Guaicurú
Ishir Warriors body paint

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.

Action 10 | In Transit | Tapépe

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?

Pandemic journey
Are we together?
Empty Hallways at Miami Intl. Airport November, 2020
Miami Int. Airport 6:00 pm
Let’s not look at each other
Waiting sometimes hurts

Action 8 + 9 | In Paraguay | Paraguaípe

Grief brought me to my homeground. It changed the perspective. The lens that I am using now, has unexpected filters, those of a soul that mourns and searches under layers, upon layers of soil. 

Photographic Memories as Visual Reflections

Craft and Memories
Typical “Colonial” House from beginning of the 1900s
Slicing Time
Guaykurú for Kamba Ra’ anga festivities

Action 7 | Ro ñe’e oñondivepá | Dialogues

Making Connections | Going Home?

I will investigate making design dialogues through “data collection” and reaching out.

Mapping my research

“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?”

Conversing/sharing through listening

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

Deconstructing dialogues

Action 6 : Amplifying | Ñande Yvy | Nuestra Tierra

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?

The nine Planetary Boundaries | Stockholm Resilience Centre

Action 5 : Ñembo Videope | On Record

VIDEO 1 | Learning the Game

ÑE’E MOMBE’U | The Story Game | El Juego del Cuento
Kumanda | Poroto Beans
VIDEO 1 | Co-creation with James:)
Oliver’s version

The game is inspired by traditional Guarani Games: “Yaguarete Kora” a game normally traced and played on the ground, where the players chase the Jaguar. The Kapichua is a game played with pebbles or seeds, where the dexterity of picking the most is the goal.

Yaguarete (Jaguar) and Yagua kuera (dogs)
Yaguarete Kora (Traditional Guarani Game)
Yaguarete Kora (Traditional Guarani Game)
Kapichua (Traditional Guarani Game)

Action 4 | Che Parahe kué

“Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness,
the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility” 
Donna Haraway


«Adiós sombra inolvidable mi dicha placer mi gloria rogueraháta en mi memoria en mi mente invariable mi destino irremediable oñecumpli cherehe upévare ipahaite âgâ ndéve apurahéi ikatúnte ndajuvéi adiós che parahekue» Emiliano R.Fernandez

So long, farewell, indelible memories of joy that I will take with me. An irremediable destiny is taking me far away and I can only sing in sorrow… So long, farewell my beloved place…

The words of the poet puts my memory in unceded places. Where context means belonging, a cry for identity, for understanding…
Will I ever know where did the exile start? Is there a choice, a way to reconcile the past that we don’t know?

Latin letters appear among the runic symbols

I continue in this action the exercise of confronting the letters and icons. Revealing the Latin alphabet as the colonizer, the imposed canon to write and read guarani.

I bring now “live” Latin characters, that come into the play to create a complex conversation. Is this dialogue possible? Can we make it possible?

In this game/exercise, the decolonization gesture is a call for starting this “colloquio”, (colloquy), where all voices need to be equal, respected and valued.

Paraguayan Map built with latin and runic characters

Guarani Cosmovision is based in the observation of nature and the universe. People are composed of two souls, the spiritual soul called “ñé” (which also means language, word, sound with sense). This soul expresses itself through speaking, singing, praying, meditating.

The corporal soul is called “ã”and it is located in people’s blood, mother’s milk and shadows. This soul has three components, one that is always attached to the body and the two others that can travel through dreams for short and long periods. When the body dies, the soul is called ãngue, (gue is a past prefix). This soul can sometimes transition (reincarnate) into animals and plants.

Guyra campana (Bell bird) is one of those animals that sometimes carry an “ãngue”. 

Here there’s a video that shows their peculiar dance. Are they human souls expressing their joy?. The music played in the video is called Guyra Campana and it is a popular Paraguayan song, played normally in harp or guitar.

Enrique Dussel in his aesthetics of liberation thoughts talks about Latino american epistemologies and their nature-spiritual correlations as a way to maintaining an ecological balance on the earth.

Guarani ñe’e, (Guarani language) is one of the elements to rewire, redirect and amplify a sustainable decolonizing intent. 

Action 3 | Rewiring, Recoding, Remapping…

Extending and seeking

“The stories we tell about the past shape the methods we use to imagine more equitable futures….we cannot build the liberatory worlds we hope for and imagine without grappling with the inequities we face unevenly Today” D. Rosner

Colonial education and its structure erased much of the aboriginal literacy that was part of the rich cultural background of aboriginal peoples in America. Religious doctrines that came to America to “civilize” and “Christianize” the barbaric “Indians” put a lot of effort into deleting or deviating aboriginal ways of knowing and communicating.  
It not only denied the value of these different literary traditions but also tried to instill Eurocentric knowledge and written literacy as the only valid way of education/literacy. In Paraguay the Jesuits with their “Missions”- (1587-1767) created an infrastructure during two centuries where every aspect of European culture was transferred to the aboriginal peoples as the ultimate way of living. They stablished the written guarani language, adopting the latin alphabet with specific grammatical and orthographical rules similar to Spanish language. 

Map of Paraguay, circa 1780

In my research, I am studying the possibilities of decolonizing design through rewiring the memory of voices that once heard, were disfigured and confused with colonial knowledge. The guarani language which was printed and “hotwired” as if that would make it better, “civilized”…

This is a journey that is starting and will take me through two incommensurable paths, the one that has the memory of the land in the voice of its people, and the one of the settler, who set vastly on printed paper their version of our entangled history.