Un|Fixed Homeland, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, 2016 Catalog: Un|Fixed Homeland - Page 24

Un | Fixed Homeland Artists Explore the Guyanese Experience of Migration Grace Aneiza Ali, Guest Curator One of the most defining movements of our time is global migration. Few of us remain untouched by its sweeping narrative. For those who have left one place for another, fueled by choice or trauma, sustaining the vulnerable threads to homeland is at once beautiful, fraught, disruptive, and evolving. Guyana is a country of migrations. In 1995, my family emigrated from Guyana to the United States. We became part of what seemed like a mythical diaspora—an estimated one million Guyanese citizens living around the globe while the country itself has a population of around 760,000.1 In other words, my homeland is one where more people live outside its borders than within it. Making the journey with us were a handful of photographs chronicling our life. Owning photographs was an act of privilege; they stood among our most valuable possessions. There were no negatives, no jpegs, no double copies— just originals. Decades later, these photographs serve as a tangible connection to a homeland left behind. Many of them are taken at Guyana’s airport during the 1980s and 1990s when we often bade farewell to yet another emigrating family member. Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary of independence from the British this year. Yet, the last five decades have been defined by an extraordinary ebb and flow of its citizens. What then does it mean to have a homeland that is no longer home? This question underscores Un | Fixed Homeland. The thirteen artists of Guyanese heritage explore how a homeland can be both fixed and unfixed, a constantly shifting idea and memory, a physical place and a psychic space. The photographic medium has historically played a critical role in how as a society we see and editorialize narratives of migration. To explore this relationship between photography and migration, the artists employ innovative use of several photographic mediums—the archival image of British Guiana, contemporary photography on present-day Guyana, selfportraiture, studio portraiture, painted photographs, passport photos, family albums, selfies, photography in video installations, and the documentary format, among others. Through their engagement with these photographic mediums, the artists unpack global realities of migration, tease out symbols of decay and loss, and avoid trappings of nostalgia by envisioning avenues out of displacement and dislocation. In tandem, the exhibition provokes several 24 Hew Locke Rose Hall (detail), 2014 (see page 61) 25