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Atabex Karaya, 2014
Acrylic on navy fabric, approx 70" x 45". Atabex is the Taíno fertility goddess. Karaya is Arawak for the moon. This life-like Atabex, who loses the anthropomorphic frog legs of the traditional image to appear more like a woman birthing is associated with the moon and also Yoruba fertility & motherhood goddesses Yemaya & Ochun. From her birth canal emerges light for the spanish term for birthing: dar a luz.
Leche Blanca de la Luna, 2014
Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 18". This self-portrait represents my pregnancy with my second son. Painted in the colors of the upper three chakras (communication, intuition, spirituality/ connection to divinity) it references the lessons embodied in that pregnancy. The title (White milk of the moon) is borrowed from a lyric of Draco Rosa's song "Madre Tierra."
Black Gold of the Sun, 2014
Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 18". Self-portrait representing my 1st pregnancy. The image is inspired by the sun and references the lower three chakras (groundedness, seat of emotions, personal power) for the lessons revealed and embodied during that first pregnancy and home birth. The title is taken from the 1970s song by Rotary Connection.
Digital Montage on paper, 18" x 12". This image is of the moment that my midwife Sakina O'Uhuru placed my second son Josef in my arms after I birthed him in our bedroom. His dad & brother look on. I describe the physical & spiritual intensity of my sons' births as my having had to go out into the universe to get their spirits and bring them back. That is what I depict in this image with Josef and I out in the nebula.
Charcoal, conte crayon and mirror discs on wood panel. 7" x 5". Atabex is the Taíno fertility goddess. She is surrounded by spiral representing water and fertility. Circles with a dot in the center, as seen in her headdress represent the naval/ the source and evidence of life and alternately represent polaris our skies. Over her vagina is a mirror disc to attract light, as a reference to the spanish term for birthing: dar a luz.
2012, Acrylic, mirror discs on canvas. 14" x 11". Guanin in the name given to the gold-copper metal used by the Taíno people. Associated with the sun, because of its gold color guanin was also the name given to the golden medallions worn by the caciques (chiefs). Taíno society was matrilineal with the women's line determining who would ascend to leader. Over her vagina is a mirror disc to attract light & reflect light as a reference to the spanish term for birthing: dar a luz.
Self Portrait Post-Miscarriage
Digital Montage. This series of images was taken following a miscarriage that I suffered in 2012. I include it as part of this project because that experience was very much a pregnancy and a home birth as well. My midwife provided me with emotional support and helped me to navigate the harsh, cold reception I received at the hospital. This dress makes an appearance several times in my work. I wore it to my brother's funeral & thought it fitting for the purpose of these photos.
I am not sick, I am Pregnant
Digital Montage on watercolor paper, 18" x 12".
When I was 6 months pregnant with my first son, my brother underwent a stem cell transplant as part of his cancer treatment. The hospital had become a site for illness & battle so I chose to birth at home. The decision seemed controversial among family & friends. My mother wanted to know why I was birthing at home and not in a hospital. In defense of my decision, I said these words: "I am not sick, I'm pregnant."
Acrylic & copper pigment on black fabric. 20" x 30". I created this piece out of frustration of having reached almost 2 weeks past my "due date". In NY it meant I wouldn't be able to birth at home. I wrote a letter to my son asking him to be born and created this painting using a women's pregnant body to represent the male fertility figure of a Taíno 3-pointer cemí. The spirals & concentric circles represent fertility and water. I went into labor the next day.
Your Ancestors are Here, 2009
Acrylic on sarong.
This painting is created on a sarong that I wore during my honeymoon. I had kept it all those years and wore it during my labor. It is in the colors of the Yoruba orisha of pregnancy & fertility Oshun but has dolphin's belonging to the seas of Yoruba Motherhood orisha Yemaya. During the labor I would lean on my husband for support and rock my hips for relief. At one point he whispered in my ear "It's ok, your ancestors are here." I recreated that scene.
Genocidal practices carried out during conquest are repackaged in various modes of population control, including but not limited to the experimenting of contraceptives on our bodies and the imposed sterilization of Puerto Rican women. Among colonized and oppressed people, empowered birthing becomes not just a physical, but a spiritual and political act. The ability and choice to birth freely, safely, peacefully and powerfully is a necessary step towards liberation for our communities.