Our worlds once collided. Within the chaos, we found ourselves in the same room in an ivory tower. They do everything they can to prevent us from seeing each other, from knowing each other, from holding each other. To collide so gently in a space so violent is surely an intentional encounter shaped by the hands of our ancestors, a collision meant to create new worlds that could hold us both. I think about this collision often. In a place where we both felt submerged in our oppression, we found solid ground within each other. In a place where we felt so hated, we created a space of solidarity that was held sovereignly between us, lovingly shaped by each of our hands and enacted through an acknowledgement of our differences. To find you, to encounter you in this space, saved me from a flood and together we built new worlds through the footing we found in one another.
The violence of settler colonialism on Turtle Island feels like a submersion that I often think of as akin to a flood, much like the flooding of my homelands. This submersion creates a feeling of urgency and coaxes us to focus on what is in front of us, what we can grab onto, what we can save before we are swept away. It can feel as though there is not enough space to extend our scope of care and responsibility to those who are also impacted by this flood in diverse ways. In this critical moment, Black voices are giving us many tools that have been ignored for too long. I am reflecting on my own shortcomings and particularly, how I often exist within this space of submersion, looking only at my own community and how I can save them from the rising water. We domesticate the structures of white supremacy and anti-Black racism when our practice gets stuck in this space of submersion because we uncouple the power and privilege associated with our own investment within these structures and we ignore our own complicity. We must acknowledge that, within this feeling of submersion, Indigenous peoples have found a greater sense of solid footing in the settler colonial world by investing in anti-Blackness.
In our tiny, stifling office at the Art Gallery of Ontario, we built many worlds together. We witnessed each other despite the chaos around us and began to trace the routes of our individual dispossession, to understand our individual experiences of settler colonial violence, to see each other’s complexity and difference. In the building of worlds, we failed many times but this is part of the work. Perhaps what weighs most heavily for me are the ways in which we could not properly hold our Afro Indigenous youth, how we could not shield them from the anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism that is rampant in our communities, the feeling of being torn in two but hoping we could put them back together with our love. There is so much work to be done. The feeling of submersion. But always finding solid ground through each other, a moment of stillness, laughter within the violence, bringing you to my homelands and knowing that our ancestors were laughing so deeply together in celebration of us. In our tiny, stifling office I would tell you my dreams about having a baby one day while finally living on my homelands, a life-long goal.
When I heard about the death of George Floyd, I was on the shores of my homelands with a baby in my belly. He was killed in Minneapolis, a place so near to my territory, a place where my ancestors roam, a place connected to my body and being as an Anishinaabeg person. When I sobbed for George Floyd, I felt my homelands weeping from my body, I felt my ancestors drumming in rage in my heart, I felt the earth of my homelands rise to the surface of my skin like armour. I cried as my specific self but I also cried as the land that George Floyd was killed on. The land grieves for George Floyd through me, my ancestors grieve for George Floyd through me, the stars they are so full of rage through me, my Anishinaabeg body, a technology that brings me to this moment in a way that whiteness could never comprehend. My Anishinaabeg body, a technology that imparts a responsibility to care for Black life in ways shaped by our beautiful ancestors that roam these homelands together, creating sites of collision where new worlds can be built, they are always praying together, we are everything they can never have. We are everything they can never have. Together, we are everything they can never have.
And in this moment of grief in which my body is flickering between homelands and ancestors, violence and water, copper and loss, I remember that I am holding a life within me. To be pregnant is to both hold and dissolve time and space within my physical body, to carry a visitor between worlds. To feel the loss of George Floyd through my homelands, through my pregnancy, is to carry a responsibility of grief and action that I find hard to articulate. It is to feel the spirit world within my own body, to feel the immediacy of ancestors and spirits who are raging for George Floyd, it is to carry the knowledge that this being inside of me chose to be here for this moment in time. My baby is an ancestor and a future, dancing between worlds, she sees it all, she holds many people and she holds many worlds. I hope she can hold you George, as you make your way. I hope she can softly whisper to you all of the sweet futures that she is holding, all of the beautiful worlds that are being built, look at all the love, look at what will be built, worlds that will hold your daughter, worlds that will hold your kin, we will hold each other so close in the worlds that we make.
Our worlds once collided. Within that collision, we tended to many worlds together and it was beautiful. I understand now that it is not enough to simply collide, we must intentionally form pathways for world-building, always, always. In that space of submersion, the great settler colonial flood, I will swim to you. We will find solid ground through each other, and every collision will create new galaxies, new worlds, in which we will hold each other close.
Quill Christie Peters is Gallery 44’s 2019-20 Writer-in-Residence. She is an Anishinaabe arts programmer and self-taught visual artist currently residing in Northwestern Ontario. She currently works as the Director of Education and Training for the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective where she is coordinating the Emerging Curatorial Training Program. She is the creator of the Indigenous Youth Residency Program, an artist residency for Indigenous youth that engages land-based creative practices through Anishinaabe artistic methodologies. She holds a Masters degree in Indigenous Governance on Anishinaabe art-making as a process of falling in love and sits on the board of directors for Native Women in the Arts. Her written work can be found in GUTS Magazine and Tea N’ Bannock and her visual work can be found at @raunchykwe.
Gallery 44’s annual Writer-in-Residence program provides a platform for emergent conversations in the expanded field of photography and lens based media. Past residents include: Maryse Larivière, Yaniya Lee and Luther Konadu.