Cultivando raíces con sueños compartidos

August 20 - November 12, 2022
Central Gallery

Cultivando raíces con sueños compartidos
Growing roots from shared dreams  

Rocio Graham

Offering an intimate glimpse into the nuanced identities of Mexican migrant workers that work in the farms of Interior BC, Rocio Graham shares her own experience of uprooting herself and re-negotiating her identity. Growing roots from shared dreams presents work that is deeply rooted in ritual ceremony, performance, and relationality. Developing a friendship with her compatriots becomes an attempt to collectively recreate their sense of community and place. This exploration of the Mexican diaspora is a reclaiming of sorts; seeking a way to rewrite stories of migration using a new visual language – one that emerges from shared roots and shared dreams.

As a response to the effects of colonization, Mexican culture is relational in nature; both to resist and to ensure the survival of identity and culture. In the process of surviving 500 years of colonization and religious assimilation, many Mexican Indigenous groups merged their old rites and spiritual practices with the new, in the process creating new cultures. Seeking to understand the complexities of the regional Mexican diaspora, Rocio engaged in 18 months of building personal relationships with the Mexican compatriots she found in the Boundary region. Working seasonally on local farms, these men have left their families and communities behind searching for better opportunities. The process of engagement is fundamentally relational in nature; carefully developing a sense of interconnectedness, nurturing the need for exchange of experiences, and respectfully portraying the complexities of the spiritual and emotional shifts. What is revealed is a deep connection to the land, a common need to build a sense of self within the constructs of a foreign place, and the parallels we can all draw from similar journeys.

Decolonizing artistic practice requires stripping preconceived notions of how we tell unique human stories and what material culture is appropriate to portray. The process of visual storytelling requires that people have agency to tell their own stories in what they feel suits their own belief systems. It requires trust to reveal what is important in their story; what emerges, how it is made visible, and what is left behind or only hinted at. Culture is not static, rather constantly evolving in response to the effects of the times we live in. Like a natural ecosystem it is relational to the context of a place where it lives.

The way ethnography has told people’s stories has been through the lens of an imperialistic, homogenic and pseudo-scientific system without room for the nuances and differences of each culture. This colonial approach to telling the stories of people and culture does not account for spirituality, tradition, identity, and different ways of being and knowing, often leaving what is most deeply regarded in a culture behind. The same way that we cannot study an ecosystem without the consideration of its geography, we are unable to tell stories of other cultures without accounting for the unique tapestry and nuances of their people and ways of being.

 Drawing inspiration from childhood memories of ceremonial regalia and traditional celebratory attire, Rocio creates elaborate ritual garments using seeds, flowers, and other natural materials wildcrafted locally. Wearing the work in re-imagined ceremonial performances forms a connection to the rituals that she grew up with, simultaneously deriving meaning and connection in the new country that she now calls home. Growing roots from shared dreams is an exercise in the discovery of a holistic vision of self – acknowledging the complexities of a mixed and at times contrasting spiritual upbringing and celebrating deeply rooted ritual connections to the natural world.