There is a mountain in the Caribbean that is an amphibian body —it emerges from the ocean and unites what used to be two independent islands before going back into the water to become a subaquatic mountain range and touch the Central American isthmus. Its highest peaks were the main geographical location from which the cimarrona communities plotted ideas of autonomy and emancipation, running away from the plantations and the sugar mills in the island now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The so-called Sierra de Bahoruco/Massif de la Hotte/Massif de la Selle is a repository of memories where radical futures were once imagined. Futures left behind by our grandmothers (ancestras) —as Christina Sharpe says— when they suffered violence and learnt to travel to the future through matter, merging their bodies with rocks, with water, with earth, with minerals, with plants… with soundscapes: memories that today we can access through bodies of work such as that of María Magdalena Campos Pons. Amphibian-ness is at the same time a strategy and a tool in the work of this Cuban artist that allows us to approach the consciousness of the ephemeral, the exchange of knowledge and the management of connections as key aspects for the emancipation, sought by the enslaved African populations of the insular Caribbean. The territory, the mountains, the plains, the valleys—they all tell stories. The artist has created artifacts and visual events, like Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir for the Spirits (Unit 1), for us to encounter those stories. The work of María Magdalena is like so many Caribbean mountains that emerge from the ocean to the surface and then disappear into it to create bonds and contribute to the freedom of all living beings. Because, in spite of colonialism and its extractivistic culture, natural forces are still free and roaming: our ancestors are still free and roaming.
Cover image: FeFa, 2013. Performance, 2013, Cuban Pavillion, Venice Biennale, San Marco, Venice, Italy
Images courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco