Nepantla is a Nahuatl word that means "in the middle," the state of “in between.” In the modern world, nepantla has been used in describing the state of being with endangered peoples, cultures, and/or gender, which due to invasion/ conquest/ marginalization/ forced acculturation, take on the state of nepantla as a strategy of resistance and survival. Artists and writers such as Gloria Anzaldua, Pat Mora, and Yreina Cervantez have brought the term to take on historical, emotional, decolonizing and spiritual aspects of life, as well as the physical borderlands and crossroads. Through the many uses, nepantla is still the process of developing political, cultural, psychological and historical consciousness as a means of survival and strategy. Nepantla as a strategy of adapting, accepting and rejecting as a way of cultural survival is a way of resisting the mainstream, while at the same time pushing the borders towards a decolonization process that reinterprets and redefines the place of power.
The project Nepantla Pattern: Decolonizing Hxstory is a social practice project where I work on a one on one basis with individuals to trace back genealogies of pattern. Within native and Latin American traditions patterns have been used as a visual representation of pride, family, tribe, region and belonging. Through the colonization of the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade patterns began to change in the architecture and crafts that were created according to site. The patterns created from this project serve as marks of existence, experience, survival, collective narrative, new identity formation and above all liberation. Each customized pattern merges different patterns that are tied to a specific colonized region and merges with patterns from the colonizing region; often the colonizing region was also a bi-product of colonization in which case the margining of the pattern continues. This process of pattern making is done through Photoshop.
When the digital pattern is complete, I take the pattern image and reduce it into a single layered negative image, preparing it to become a silk-screen stencil. The reduction of the image into a silk-screen stencil creates a singular representation of the individual’s pattern, creating a normalization and singular representation of a complexity of identities that make up this individual (mestizaje). I then take the stencil image and make a silk-screen print of the pattern. The silk-screen print is printed with a color that references a color used in the regions of the patterns. After completing the silk-screen I go back to the individual whose pattern is created and present them with the image and histories embedded in the patterns. We have a conversation about colonization, representation, identity, liberation, reclamation, and decolonization. As a result of these conversations about identity formation a lot of post-colonial and decolonial studies theory comes into the conversation. Hence, I ask them to send me a quote of something they read that helped shaped their identity. The quote is then inserted into the multi-layered digital image and printed on organza fabric. The organza and silk-screen are then threaded together, each serving as a support to one another. The same pattern is never joined together and this is done as a way to continue the conversation of mestizaje and nepantla. Smaller replicas of the silk-screen and organza prints exist as a take-aways on a printed table, paying tribute to the political and historical democracy which print-making carries with it.