The Woven Life, 2018
for Suldano Abdiruhman
Just weeks before her Odyssey, Suldano Abdiruhman graduated from MICA, in Baltimore, where she had lived almost her entire life. She was an African American woman, raised in a Muslim family, had a degree in fiber arts and a plan to move to Philadelphia. Now, so much was thrown into question: what is it to be an artist? What is it to create and live in real community? What alternate life paths had she not chosen, or could she now choose?
Suldano’s Odyssey took place entirely in Baja California, Mexico, and the long flights from Baltimore and back served as mythic passages from the ordinary world to the dream world. When she arrived in Baja, she was met by an artist and driven to Todos Santos, a small town an hour and a half away. On the ride, the two talked about weaving as a way of writing, fabric as an extension of the body, clothing as a identifier and costume. Along the drive, they stopped at a weaving workshop, where the matriarch of a long line of weavers taught her to use the family’s loom. When she arrived at her cabin that evening, tucked away in a mango grove, she discovered that in her bag were a collection of gifts from her friends and family, who each played different roles in her sense of identity. The gifts included skeins of yarn, fabric, and other materials that were meaningful to Suldano. As her Odyssey progressed, she would be weaving each in with threads from Mexico, making an entirely new design that integrated the Odyssey with the important people in her life.
The next day she would follow many threads of many different possible lives and visions of community. She walked to the dusty edge of the village, where a strange man invited her to run away with a traveling circus. Past a palm forest, on the cliffs by the ocean, she met creatures wrapped costumes crafted from natural materials from the landscape who affixed new appendages to her body and invited her to become one of them. After a long walk with an architect, she discovered a pair of shovels along the beach. For hours they dug and built a home for a new kind of community. As they worked, slowly people joined them, bringing materials to help build the house and contributing to the construction in a moving crescendo of support. All the while, sounds of Suldano's life layered on one another through recordings: the clack of the loom, the thunderous crashing of the waves, inhalations and exhalations, the sound of wolves that were present at her birth, laughter at the circus. As the day passed, Suldano wove a literal and metaphorical fabric – the real world interwoven with the performed world, the present world interwoven with the possible world, the self that is interwoven with the self that could be.
That evening, she spent the night at an elegant estate, where the community celebrated her with a dinner party. It was the dream of the community she might build, complete with the food and music she loved, guiding her gently from the world that could be to the world that will be.
Todos Santos, Mexico; Justina's Blanket Factory, El Pescadero, Mexico; Playa Las Palmas, Mexico; The Modern Elder Academy, BCS, Mexico.
The performance was produced as a part of the Odyssey Works Baja Master Class of 2018. Master Class Directors: Abraham Burickson and Ayden LeRoux. Production Assistant: Tracy Smith. Artist Fellows: Kristine Brogno, Michelle Calabro, Alice Cook, Tanner Cusick, Jennifer Garner, Katie Green, Jenn Liu, Jon Napolitano, Tracy Smith, Titania Veda.
Special thanks to The Modern Elder Academy for hosting us in the most wonderful way.