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Arts + CultureArtIlluminating an Indigenous future through Mayan cosmology and ancestral...

Illuminating an Indigenous future through Mayan cosmology and ancestral weaving

With 'The Ritual of Myth Making: Reclaim' at Root Division, curators Katherin Canton and Mariana Moscoso follow the Saq’be’.

Ancestral weavings, graphic prints, and a film about Mayan ancestors are a few things (and beings) viewers will encounter in The Ritual of Myth Making: Reclaim at Root Division (through March 20).

Curators Katherin Canton and Mariana Aq’ab’al Moscoso (aka Toj & Tijax)met in 2017 and say they consider one another “soul friends.” Ever since they’ve known one another, they’ve been talking about rituals and myths and how they are central to Mayan cosmology. 

“We wanted to co-develop and just have this journey together. In Mayan cosmology, the spiritual journey or path is literally like a road, and it’s called the Saq’be’” Moscoso said. “At the time, I wasn’t consciously aware of what was happening in terms of the Saq’be’ that we were about to traverse or work together on. But a lot of times in Mayan cosmology, you’re always working in pairs. At that moment, our path converged, and it became a journey co-learning and developing together.”

Artist Rusby Marisol Tum Xinico with a woven piece.

Moscoso says in Mayan cosmology, time has a cyclical nature, and that spiraling of time is in the calendar, the Chol’qij. They wanted that sense of time to be present in the show.

It was also important to honor the directions, they said, with the East being where the sun rises and things begin; the North, the place of breath, air, and wind; the West, where the sun sets and chapters end; and the South, the place of the water and motions. Then there’s the sky, signifying expansiveness and the earth which grounds us. 

“Everything basically flows from that understanding and those connections with the directions,” Canton said. “When we went to Root Division, we had a sense of the artists and we were positioning ourselves like, ‘OK, this is the East, so that’s where we want to show folks what Indigenous harmony, beauty, and joy has looked like.

“Then moving towards a portal of grounding we want to give folks a moment to be held by earth and the nurturing of grounding forces before moving into the present, where there’s so much death in so many different ways. So, overall experiencing that together through the artwork, and then moving into a space of release and transmutation.”

Tz’utu Kan, ‘Keme’

Canton adds that then the idea is to emerge into imagining a future of liberation for Indigenous people. 

“Really, the intention is that folks can kind of cycle through those energies as many times as they want and pick up something different,” Canton said. 

The curators especially see what they’re doing as building a bridge to connect with Indigenous people in Guatemala. As well as looking for artists to contribute work here, Moscoso got in touch with a friend in Guatemala, Tz’utu Kan, to put the word out to artists there. To reach as many people as possible, Moscoso also got the press release translated into Spanish and Mam, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. 

A graphic print by Sean Guerra

The show includes ancestral weavings by Rusby Marisol Tum Xinico; graphic prints by Sean Guerra; Chaac and Yum, a film about the Mayan ancestors representing rain and corn by Roberto Fatal, Daniel Arizmendi and Xav S-F; and a painting, Ixkan, by Alvaro Tzaj Yotz meant to illuminate the future. 

The two say they are glad that The Ritual of Myth Making gives Indigenous people an opportunity to see themselves.  

“In the story of the Popol Vuh, and generally in the Mayan cosmology, whenever we come together and share our stories and stories of our ancestors, we’re bringing all of their voices and their spirit to life,” Moscoso said. “For us, we say exhibition, but it’s really it’s that ceremony and remembering and reconnecting.”

THE RITUAL OF MYTH MAKING: RECLAIM runs through March 20 at Root Division, SF. More information here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson
Emily Wilson lives in San Francisco. She has written for different outlets, including Smithsonian.com, The Daily Beast, Hyperallergic, Women’s Media Center, The Observer, Alta Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, California Magazine, UC Santa Cruz Magazine, and SF Weekly. For many years, she taught adults getting their high school diplomas at City College of San Francisco. She hosts the short biweekly podcast Art Is Awesome.

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