GATHERING THE EMBERS
Gathering the Embers is a performative altar and interactive ofrenda by Eliana Cetto that praises the under-recognized histories of powerful womxn that have helped to define our contemporary fight against the patriarchy. The original performance was a collaboration with the artist's mother for Dia De Los Muertos. Gathering the Embers has since grown to include a variety of locations and participants, and can also be performed as a community-based, intersectional-feminist, workshop activity for people who have experienced gender oppression and its intersections to engage in their own personal story telling, historical revision, and communal recognition.
Before each performance, the audience is asked to write the names of their cis and trans womxn and non-binary heroes who are no longer with us on several strips of communal red cloth. During the performance, Eliana Cetto's mother braids the name-covered listones into her daughter's hair. Behind, a projection video of altar imagery depicts the cycle of life and death. The dialogue over the performance recites many of the names of the contributed womxn and non-binary heroes, particularly focusing on indigenous heroes, womxn of color, trans and queer heroes. Cetto's mother also speaks, sharing Spanglish stories about her grandmother’s long, thick Venezuelan-Indian and Afro-Caribbean hair, that she always wore in two large trenzas. She points to the denial of her grandmother's Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous heritage because of internalized racism and colorism within her mixed Latinx family. Cetto attempts to recognize the forgotten histories of strong womxn and non-binary people swept aside for generations, especially because of their gender-performance, ethnicity, and status. Cetto calls to her community to carry these heroes into the future. Her mother then gathers the floor length braids and wraps them around her daughter's head as a crown of powerful feminist legacies. With each contribution and performance, Cetto hopes to recognize heroes through community participation and pay homage to those that inspire the alter.