ME in a(ME)rica

Root Devision, San Francisco, CA | July 2023 | Curated by Jusun Seo, Irene Carvajal, Nivedita Madigubba and Shiloh Burton of WE DA PEPO (with Open Call)

WE DA PEPO’s discussion begins with the question “What place do I occupy in America?” A question which is often proliferated in mainstream media with manufactured labels, propaganda structures, and fragmented histories. Our collective emerges from the re-examination of our identities and roles within this rhetoric. This collaboration led us to explore the cultural myths and truths in our own journey as immigrants and to deconstruct the oversimplified categorizations and labels imposed upon us. Especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, where many spectacles of culture merge, it is important for us and participating artists to show our work in the location.

As a collective as well as individually, the artists in this exhibition consider multilayered identities, immigration, racism and home. Two main themes emerged:

Home and the domestic space became a particularly important topic for this exhibition. This is part grew out of an earlier conversation we called the Passage of the Tortoise. A project that used the symbol of the tortoise shell, equal parts shelter and burden. It slows the tortoise down, yet it protects her from enemies. She is capable of enduring the harsh desert conditions in great part due to her shell. Just like the tortoise, undocumented immigrants from Latin America, fleeing on foot, must survive a journey through a hostile terrain.

Despite the dangers, humans continue to challenge the desert and undertake the voyage, and just like the tortoise, some endure. We ask ourselves what gives the traveler the strength, the determination to embark on such a treacherous voyage? What would you take as an emotional, spiritual, psychological amulet or reminder of home to help you though this journey?

The other sub-topic which emerged was our own continued presence in this country. Despite the hardships we all are still here. To a degree we have accepted our new reality and are now part of the fabric of America. What has kept us here?