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on being water

Kinship is possible, when we embody the truth that “I” am “my” relative and “my” relative is “me”; water is our relative
by Giizhigad (Christy B.) / Artist-In-Residence 2022


Artist Reflection

Indigenous people all over this beautiful water earth have been rising up on behalf of our more-than-human kin. Communities fighting for the rights of water, against pipelines, pollution, and the intertwined struggles of our women and gender-expansive relatives going missing and being murdered as the land is being assaulted. Institutions and people have started using land acknowledgements to bring awareness. But the reasons why we are in these fights are what is most important. Indigenous peoples have beautiful stories of magic and spirit as well as prophecies of what can come of losing these intimate relationships. Due to exploitation, capitalism, and settler colonialism, we all have lost these intimacies at various levels. I have been on a journey to rekindle indigeneity and relationships within myself and all of our relatives, especially our more-than-human kin over the past few years; an infinite quest of healing and knowledge embodiment.

on being water is a reflection of one human — myself — learning and growing in relationship with water, discovering what becoming water is about. This idea stems from seeking to create experiences that invite and open the mental, physical, and spiritual senses to the truths of our beautiful webs of kinship that are inextricable from our existence. Maybe it’s the first time we are coming to think about water as a relative, a part of our families and communities just like our mothers, cousins, aunties, etc. These visual weavings and movements of time and space are a way for me to share my story and exploration of how embodiment of these truths are awakened.  It is both personal and archival, a living story that brings whatever is needed to everyone who experiences it. This is the way of storytelling in Anishinaabe culture, stories themselves being spirits. Anishinaabe language and philosophy shows that “learning” and “teaching” are inseparable. Our heart-truths come from relating.

My creative process involved meditation, research, and visioning. As I spent time with water, I began to realize they were teaching me about Koan, which can be defined as:

  • a story dialogue, question, or statement which is used in Zen Buddhism to create “great doubt” and to practice or test a student’s progress in Zen;
  • a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment;
  • a question that cannot be answered by logic or reason.

My key realization through this residency was that water is a koan: not to be fully understood or controlled, but related with. And that a process of letting go of my ego allows for a more intimate relationship.

This piece is a view into my personal journey, experience, and culture. There are light references to alchemy — that there is agency and power that can be evoked with spiritual practice, spell, and intention. There are also references to Indigenous teachings of women being water bearers, through birth and spiritual responsibility. Above all, this piece is an expression and an invitation to explore relationships, specifically our relationship with water.

Find more of Giizhigad’s work: Website | Instagram

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