Diving headlong into a murky story is not for the fainthearted. You may find it much shallower than you expected. Or you may not be able to find the ground with your feet, and unprepared to thread uncertain waters, you may succumb to the ease of letting go and give up on getting to the bottom of it all.

The truth is that there is no truth. There are facts, there are theories but no truth. How can there be a truth when stories are not about truths. Stories are about morals, about seeing who we can become through the failings and triumphs of others.

The problem is that this is not a story… this actually happened.

On February 7th, 2017, Sofia Gallisá Muriente and I sat down at Alice Yard in front of a curious audience to have a conversation and share our stories. We met for the first time only a week before but our encounters throughout that week were so fluid it felt as though we had known each other for a long time.

Being able to speak with Sofia and hear about her project was a breath of fresh air and I thank Christopher Cozier for arranging this encounter and for having the insight and instinct to see this match and help to make it happen. Dealing with a difficult personal history on your own is very challenging; not knowing where to start, how to contain your emotions, how to proceed to share ideas in a way that makes sense to others and is relevant. With all these issues to grapple with, it was wonderful to be able to connect with another hija/hermana who understood.

Sofia’s project, “Buscando la Sombra” revolves around a somewhat forgotten/somewhat mythical figure in Puerto Rican history named Carlos La Sombra. For the last three (3) years she has been exploring the history of this controversial figure through documents, personal and official records and reports and through the creation of new works of art.

“Searching for La Sombra is a long-term effort to rescue the historical and affective memory of Carlos Torres Meléndez, known as “La Sombra” (The Shadow), founder of the Association for Prisoners Rights, or the Ñetas, organised in prisons throughout Puerto Rico and the world. The investigation is rooted in the memories of people who knew him, combining their stories and personal archives with documents from formal archives and video works produced during the research process to generate a portrait that incorporates subjectivities, languages and forms. Through public events, exhibitions, publications and conversations, the project serves as resource and reference, while also amplifying the implications of the subject matter and form, from a current perspective.”

My explorations are still without definition (on purpose), still highly personal and emotional. A box of letters and documents, art and dreams and longings kept safe for 27 years the last 9 of which involved my own coming to terms with who I was through this archive.

“Twenty-seven years ago, a group of young Muslim men attempted to overthrow the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Their story, that story, has been told and retold and told again, but always through the voices of the men involved (on both sides). These men, however, had wives whose stories have never really been told. They are a voiceless group who do have a story to tell. I want to explore ways in which that story can be opened and shared. How can this side of the story be told in a constructive and reconciliatory manner? What methods and approaches are best suited to probing these difficult topics?”

You can listen to our conversation here:

 

img_8975
Sofia Gallisá Muriente in conversation with Nimah Muwakil at Alice Yard – Photograph by Alex David Kelly

 

Shadows/Sombras

Memories are like shadows

Some of them are sharp

Some muted

All tie knots in your throat

For your inability to grasp them fully

I cannot remember when those shadows first began to haunt me

At what point I could no longer deny their existence

I do remember the feel of the calloused hands that would hold mine

Gently spinning me into existence

The smell of sandalwood and passion fruit

And the sound of a beautiful rhyme… five times a day…

I remember the tree that had the fruit that tied my tongue in knots

And coloured my lips the colour that laughter would be if it were a colour

I don’t think I was a person back then

Back when Abu’s hands ordered the rhythm of my heart

I imagine I was a ray of light

I remember bliss…pure…

One night I cleared my throat

And screamed into the corners of my dreams

Turned on the lights

Looking for the shadows

Buscando hasta que aparecieron, hermosas, dolorosas y claras.

 

Nimah Muwakil

February 12th, 2017

 

img_8793
Display of documents and records from Sofia’s project.
img_8780
Display of documents and records from my project.
img_8787
Close up of an installation by Sofia where she used a #blacklivesmatter stamp.
img_8795
Nimah’s wall installation using a breeze block pattern with looping projected images.

 

Nimah Muwakil… daring the shadows.