(This was my submission to Bleeding Heart Art Space’s Ni wapataenan (We see) Public Art Installation. The last day to experience it is March 5, 2016)
The process of writing is an abstraction; it’s the task of neatly organizing experiences, thoughts, questions, and observations into shelves of white space.
Abstractions are a necessary way for us to reduce vast amounts of information into more digestible modes of understanding. In essence, the art of abstraction is about disclosing certain elements of an object while attempting to maintain the integrity of what is being represented. In other words, abstractions are about withholding the entire truth of the matter.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is an abstraction.
Abstractions protect us from the weight of reality. They cushion our psyche from the blunt force of having our eyes assaulted by the gruesome details of violence perpetrated against each of these women. The hashtag itself is clean and neat with crisp lines: #MMIW
While abstractions are necessary, they are not the whole story.
For me, #MMIW was an abstraction until I read about the death of a girl I once knew.
But it’s not only her that I knew; I knew her family. I played with her younger brother and dated one of her older sisters. I nervously shook hands with her father the first time I met him. She really liked Spice Girls. I think I may have even sang “Wannabe” with her one time.
Memories are also abstractions.
I haven’t talked with any of her family in a very long time. I think, perhaps, my task would be to reach out to them to let them know that I remember her.
While I know my call won’t contribute to the case or bring any sense of closure to what they feel, at the very least they would be reminded that Bella is worth being remembered.
Her name in my language means “beautiful”.
Nothing about her death is beautiful. Nothing about the pain of her loss is beautiful.
But what is true is that Bella was beautiful to the people who loved her.
She isn’t an abstraction. She isn’t a hashtag. She isn’t a cause.
Let us see each woman with the eyes of the ones who love them.
Maybe then, we’ll resist the urge to hide behind abstractions.