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The Place Where Clouds Are Formed

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Su:k Chu:vak Fulwilder, Land Protector, 2021, © Su:k Chu:vak Fulwilder

The Place Where Clouds Are Formed, a collaborative project initiated in 2018 by Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O’odham), Gareth Smit, and Martín Zícari will open its fifth installment on April 6, 2024, simultaneously at the University of Arizona Poetry Center and the Center for Creative Photography’s Alice Chaiten Baker Interdisciplinary Gallery. The project features photography made in partnership with the Traditional O’odham Leaders (TOL) and communities from villages in Quitovac, Cu:wĭ I-ge:sk (San Francisquito), and Sonoyta—towns located in Sonora, Mexico—as well as Quitobaquito and the surrounding lands in Southern Arizona. Images and sculptures are in conversation with poems written and recorded in O’odham and English and translated into Spanish.

The Place Where Clouds Are Formed is an interdisciplinary arts collective that examines the intersection of spirituality, migration, and current and historical policies that have impacted the borderlands of the Sonoran Desert. This work aims to reorient narratives of this place away from the U.S.–Mexico border and geopolitical concerns and towards the genealogical stories and religious and cultural traditions of those who live and migrate here.

This iteration of the project explores the significance of collaborative work and incorporates further perspectives on migration and identity via new collaborators whose practice critically expands the purview of themes in The Place Where Clouds are Formed. Collaborating poets, photographers, and artists include Amber Lee Ortega (Hia Ced O’odham and Tohono O’odham), Terrol Dew Johnson (Tohono O’odham) Chris Lasch and Alice Wilsey, Su:k Chu:vak Fulwilder (Onk Akimel O’odham, Xalchidom Piipaash, Tlingit, Aleut and Pomo), and Monica Martínez. Through word, object, and image, The Place Where Clouds Are Formed disrupts “crisis” narratives of the border, replacing myths of the nation-state with narratives about the lived experiences of borderland communities.

The Place Where Clouds are Formed began with grant support from the Magnum Foundation. It is currently part of the University of Arizona Confluence Center’s Fronteridades project, which is made possible through a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

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