In April I got a book that has had a resounding impact on how I am thinking about my work, design, the future and the world more broadly. Before I talk about the book I wanna provide some context into how and why I got it in the first place. At the beginning of the 2020 I was building an application for a teaching job at a Ontario College of Art and Design. For a variety or reasons I did not end up submitting the application, but this one questions stuck with me: What is your praxis for decolonizing design in Black communities?
I was incredibly excited to see this question. I want to be around people who are thinking about Black Liberation, decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty. The places of overlap and divergence. The complicated messy places that we might have to figure out by failing ALOT. Though I was excited to see the question I was not at all ready to answer it.
I went down the rabbit hole. I started reading texts that could help me develop a critical analysis around decolonization and indigenous sovereignty. ( book list below). Thanks to the Tuck and Yang paper “decolonization is not a metaphor,” which was introduced to me by Valeska Populoh, I began to think about how my work could actually literally contribute to building a decolonized future.
The first question that came to me was, “but if we don’t live here, where we gon go?” And spirt said to the water. It said this by sending me songs, spirituals from my childhood as in “take me to the water,” as in “wade in the water,” as in “I stepped in the water and the water was cold.” All songs centered on water, transition, transformation. I received that message and began to think about how I could use my work to help us begin to imagine what future water based societies might look like.
I mean the earth is 70% water and due to our negligence and abuse of the gifts that earth has given us the water is growing. The land is shrinking. If we don’t go to the water, the water is gonna come to us. Fortunately there are existing ancestral traditional ecological knowledges—ancestral tek— that can help us to prepare.
I learned the term TEK from the boom that this post is about. That book is LoTEK : Design by Radical Indigenism. This is one of the most beautifully, thoughtfully designed and laid out books that I have encountered—and I read about 1.5 - 3 books a week so that’s saying a lot. In addition to being a week designed tool the information is so rich. The terminology that is introduced, the TEKnology that is introduced is BEYOND. The boook describes at least three water based societies. One in South America, One in the Middle East and one in east Asia. All three societies using fiber based techniques to create floating land out of organic material. The science behind it is wild! Literally wild. Figuratively wild. And the TEK simple, accessible, collective. I’ve already convinced most of my people to buy a copy of this book.
This book I s about TEKnology that we consider past even though that tech is still the present of many people and very possibly it is our future.
I am thankful to that interview question for expanding my practice. To the book for expand my understanding of what is and has been and will be possible. I’m thankful to the authors below for helping me to develop a critical consciousness around indigenous sovereignty, culture, and organizing on Turtle Island. ( turtle island was a water based society! It says so in the history!)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Decolonization is Not A Metaphor
By Eve K Yang and K Wayne YANG
LoTEK : Design by Radical Indigenism by Julia Watson (she white, European white)
Fictions of Land and Flesh : Blackness, Indigeneity and Speculation
By Markrifkin (he’s a white dude who is not Black or Indigenous and he writes like a white dude in academia and I don’t agree with all of his analysis. His bibliography is liiiiit tho)