Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Back in September 2020 I started studying Yorùbá, the language of my father, for the first time. One of the first sentences that we learned was” ilé n jó.” Yorùbá is a deeply contextual language in which the meaning of words is dependent on what is happening to, with or around the speaker. ilé n jó could mean a couple of things. The first two words are fairly stable in their meaning. Ilé means “house.” N means “is” and is often followed by another verb. Jó is a verb which could either mean dancing or burning to the ground depending on the context. In the context that we learned the sentence “ilé n jó” it meant “ the house is burning to the ground.”
It was a strange sentence to learn as a part of my foundational vocabulary. Turned out to be a useful one. In November, while I was in the DC MD VA area installing my work for a show, the house that I had been living in in Boston was burning, dancing in flames. The fire started almost three months ago now. It is still happening. I spent the month of December recovering and cleaning my possessions, my work, my tools, my plants, piece by piece. That process was a daily endurance performance that led me to reflect on my relationship to materials things and on the role of materiality and material culture in my life and work. My own reflections gave way to writings and a host of conversations with friends about their relationships with their things, to the material world. In the coming months I look forward to sharing some of my reflections as well as those from my friends with you.
Three months later the cleaning finally is over. The moving is over. The paperwork is mostly over. The fire is not yet over. I’m still recovering myself from it. Just beginning to emerge. Through it all I am imagining myself as one of those serotinous pine cones that needs the heat of forest fires to allow it to open and drop its seeds. I’m grounding in the generative possibilities of flame. Reminding myself that ashes are excellent fertilizer and that death proceeds rebirth. I’m trying to get out of the way of who I am becoming.
ID: charred remains of my last home