Winter 2022 In Dance

I FOUND LOVE IN THE PALM OF MY HAND. My fingers reach into a primordial, interconnected web of memory that manifests tangibly in the landscapes I have traversed. When I interact with the natural world, I notice the myriad of transformative relations that have consis- tently depended on one another season after season: the scrub jay who buries acorns to seed oak trees, the symbio- sis between the chaparral yucca and their moth pollinator ( Tegeticula maculata ), and the common yarrow, whose tiny clouds of white flowers decorate the foothills and whose leaves can be chewed to make a poultice. The primordial is both abstract—far away and dispersed throughout mul- titudes of lifetimes—yet embodied and alive right in front of me. When I inhale, the sacred registers discernibly in my body. I feel it to be love. When I use my hands to work with fibers, paint, or soil, I feel closest to these infinite nodes of brilliance. Through practice, I’ve arrived at the ques- tions that drive my work: how do our hands and the stories they carry bridge presumed gaps between seemingly disparate things, and also help us under- stand one another? How can we understand history as generations of people cultivating love and optimism through deep relation, instead of a sequence of violent events? For the last four years until her sudden passing, Tongva Elder Julia Bogany and I worked together to create intersecting spaces where Indigenous and immi- grant peoples could explore possibilities of kinship. Elder Julia Bogany’s advo-

cacy and teaching is grounded in the question: “I always say Tongva women never left their ancestral homeland, they just became invisi- ble. ‘How do we make ourselves not invisible?’ is the question I ask every day.” The Tongva community, whose ancestral homeland encompasses the Los Angeles basin and parts of Orange County, have been working individually and collectively to build community and work through the atrocities they have endured from three eras of colonization — Spanish, Mexican, and American. Because the Spanish mission system was so heavily involved in the disin- tegration of organizing power within the local tribes, followed by the geno- cide committed by the American government, much of the culture, stories, identity, belonging, work, advocacy for visibility, advocacy for state and federal recognition, advo- cacy for collective health and healing, rests only in the hands of individual tribal members. That means when one tribal elder leaves us, the loss is felt as one that is beyond their life- time. Generations of story, language, and song leave with them, too. Ms. Bogany was one of the most vocal, inviting, and accessible elders of her tribe and believed so deeply in collab- orative life-making: when you work with and invite others in, we would be profoundly transformed and nour- ished by the abundance that exists in Southern California and beyond. Ms. Bogany has given me the gift of possibility and optimism through her fight for social justice and for the revitalization of Southern California Indigenous legacy. She has taught me what love and resistance can look like with the power of art. Ms. Bog- any worked to ensure that the future of her culture, people, and language are bountiful and accessible to gener- ations to come. As an artist, I worked with her to process and provide solu- tions to her quest through visual art, facilitation, and creating platforms

politicization of difference in both culture and activ- ism sectors, cou- pled with the pres- sure of visibility and speed to for- mulate a legible result under capi- talist frameworks (i.e. social media, funding opportu- nities, and mar- keting campaigns), the nuanced prac- tice of cultivat- ing long-term and long-form collabo- ration is challeng- ing. Collaborative optimism requires willing partici- pants who value our connections across the world, and who under- stand that learn- ing and fumbling are necessary steps towards the libera- tion of living beings and to whom we’re related. How can collaborative opti-

for visibility. Much of our work together centered the question: How can we, as residents of and visitors to Los Angeles take care of the land upon which we walk while caring for one another in ways that uplift the Indigenous legacy of Southern Cal- ifornia and honor the multilayered, complex and contradictory histories of immigration? Notable examples of our shared work include: Lessons from Wise Woman (Tongva Elder Julia Bogany), Grandmother Oak Tree, and Hands (2018), an installa- tion inspired by Ms. Bogany’s tire- less advocacy for the San Gabriel Mission to openly acknowledge the gravity of its crimes against Califor- nia’s Indigenous; a site-specific 47 ft. tall mural of Ms. Bogany at CSU Dominguez Hills (2020); and most recently in May 2021, Pakook koy Peshaax (The Sun Enters the Earth and Leaves the Earth) , a human sun- dial made in collaboration with poet Megan Dorame (Tongva). It is from working closely with Ms. Bogany, in heart and in hand, and from experiencing the natural world as a living body that I derive my method of practice called col- laborative optimism. Grounded by the many historical and ongo- ing traumas faced by Indigenous, Black, and people of color, collabo- rative optimism aims to world joy, friendship, kinship, and gathering into our shared realities. The prac- tice emerges from the care for and guidance from the historically dis- possessed of the land upon which it is practiced. Its function is to create opportunities for intercultural rela- tionship building in its most embod- ied sense, and uplifts the various proximities to and embodiments of class, education, racial, and gen- der privileges its practitioners have access to, to center the healing of BIPOC communities and urgent land-based issues. Because being in deep relation requires time, reflec- tion, and learning, the immediate

For more information about Tongva Elder Julia Bogany, please visit her website: IRIS YIREI HU is an artist who paints, weaves, dyes, tells stories, and composts her lived reality into installations, public artworks, and intercultural-generational-and-geographical collaborations. She often works in community with artists, scientists, historians, keepers of traditions, and organizers to limn connections between people, places, and practices to explore possibilities of kinship. Building relationships to people and places through slow and critical reflection are central tenets of her work. She is interested in how art can uplift others on their journey so that we can deepen our relationship to what we experience and with whom we con- nect. What if we understood history as gener- ations of people cultivating love and optimism through deep relation, instead of a sequence of violent events?

mism shape land restitution and eco- nomic justice through artful stew- ardship and healing? Given each of our strengths, gifts, and pathways of access, how can we leverage our privileges to organize both local and international struggles so that each of us and those connected to us can access wellness, healing, beauty, and joy in the ways that we determine? The multitude of lines flow, cross, and split across my palms. Each year I’ve noticed new lines form and creases deepen. I wonder what kind of map they form when placed next to anoth- er’s hand. I imagine that beauty, how- ever self-determined or molded with collective agency, will journey alongside us in limning another atlas with grace.

A life-size sundial titled Pakook koy Peshaax (The Sun Enters the Earth and Leaves the Earth) was made by Julia Bogany (Tongva), poet Megan Dorame (Tongva), and artist iris yirei hu for the We Rise / Art Rise public art exhibition in May 2021. This animation, animated by Jorge Espinosa, features the sundial’s platform and poetry by Megan Dorame and iris yirei hu.


in dance WINTER 2022 56

WINTER 2022 in dance 57




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In Dance | May 2014 |

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