Name Tags Question:  Where on the land were you born.  (Wendy Saby, Photographic Artist)

Name Tags Question: Where on the land were you born. (Wendy Saby, Photographic Artist)

As people entered into the space we had a table set up with name tags and markers.  There was a question on the table asking:

Where on the land were you born?

We instructed the audience to write down there answer with as much detail as the wanted on a name tag and stick it on their shirt.  This score came from my own experience the month before living and studying with the Inuit in Pangnirtung Nunavut.  Many of the elders new exactly where on the land they were born. They would point out sites where they were born or new other friends and family were born, when we outside on the land out of  Pangnirtung.

Within our performance, the stories people told and wrote down made visible our stories of settlement. At the same time, Billy always writes on his name tag, “unceded territory.” In doing so he highlighted the Indigenous naming of the land he lives on now and the fact this land is not recognized as unceded by the nation state. In highlighting the ways we name different settlements, we acknowledge the way these settlement stories have become naturalized or how there is still resistance to these stories, and or other kinds of stories and ways of being on the land.

After people entered the space they greeted each other, reading where the other person was born.  This simple question brought up many stories.  It was an interesting way for people to learn about each other. It created a dynamic relational force that we had not predicted.  The participants would tell each other about others they new from that town, or ask the person how they ended up all the way here in this goodwill building in London Ontario.  It was a way of situating each person in the performance.  Each person had a story of where they were born, whether it was Angola, India, the Oneida reserve, in the Soho neighbourhood, Belgium and many more. Each particular spot on the land written down revealed the kind of relational thinking taught, learned and practiced to this place.  

Our performance can be thought of as an entwining of paths that move from the place on the land we were born (but don’t necessarily start there), weaving or meshing these paths together.  I like the word wayfaring from Tim Ingold’s book “Being Alive.”  As each person comes into contact with other people and the paths they make, they open themselves to being made different by and with this entwining/ performance.