One of the first activities ArtCorps Artist Andrea Landin remembers from the ArtCorps orientation in Guatemala at the beginning of the year is a word game that still holds meaning for her.
Using any or all of the letters in our names, we tried to form as many words as we could, and eventually, a sentence with those words. For me, the most significant word that came from Andrea was the word “red” (in Spanish, red = network, chain, connections). The sentence I then formed was “Andaré [y] daré en red” (andaré = I will walk, daré = I will give).
This “red,” I’ve recently realized, has come to life. As I explore deeper with my Youth Leaders in Conservation the traditions and memories that have been maintained by the Quiché for centuries, and now by 48 Cantones, the theme of “La red de la vida” (the network of life) surfaces constantly. It has always been said that the forest births clouds and the clouds birth water. There are certain types of trees in the forest that filter and cleanse the water, which is why if you go up far enough into the forest, the water is the purest you will ever find. But without all these trees, i.e. the forest, there are no clouds, and without clouds there is no water. So all the deforestation going on causes more problems than just taking away the breathtaking beauty of the mountains. And within this Mayan cosmology the red continues–the relationship between fire, water, soil and air, for example, as well as the family of the sun, moon, earth and stars.
I recently started taking K’iche’ classes from a wonderful señor who has offered to help me in my quest to communicate with more people in their first language; I have been learning not only how to form sentences, but how deeply connected the language is to the way of thinking. For example, ¿Cómo estás? en K’iche’ is Utz awach? Utz means bienestar, or wellbeing, and wach means rostro, or face–literally, is your body well. Buenas tardes is x’be q’ij; q’ij = sol o día, sun or day, and xb’e = ya está en camino, has set out on its path–the other greetings are similarly tied with the sun or the moon.
And while glimpsing into the red that has existed for centuries here in Toto, I have been forming my own red without really realizing it. While my plans were being conceived in the beginning of the year, I remember thinking, am I really going to be able to do all of this by myself? And the answer was no. I came here as an artist, and artists work not only to create and compose, but also to arrange and see and form patterns–look at things in freshly colored lenses from various distances. I never suspected it that I would be collaborating with such people ranging from a muralist to a Mayan spiritual guide to agronomists and journalists to a hip-hop artist. All of our work here is deeply connected, and their experience and creativity has been holding me up more than I sometimes realize.
Framing the picture of myself and my work in this way–as just one drop of water or one star within the red makes me think about both the fragility and the strength of all of this is, and how a work of art is being woven this year–or maybe it has already been woven and we are just adding some new threads to it. Whatever the case, my mid-year resolution is to continue andando y dando en red.
Tags: Art for Social Action, art for social change, ArtCorps, collaboration, community, community network, Community-Based Natural Resource Management, cosmology, creativity, FUNDENOR AQ'AB'AL, Guatemala, learning, Maya, nature, partnership, Quiché, sharing, Training, word game