Tonight at 7pm I gave a talk about my project at the International Center at IUB. The talk was sponsored by La Casa. I introduced my grandmother as a healer from Puerto Rico. I then talked about how she defines herself as an espiritista because of her belief that there is a metaphysical aspect to life, that there are spirits or souls that we can interact with in order to manipulate the world. This is her definition of herself, not necesarily of other espiritistas.
I continued to narrate her life history in order to situate her as a healer in the context of the Bronx in the 60's-90's and in the mountains of Puerto Rico more recently, exemplifying her identification with both urban and rural healing methods. In January the Program of African Expressive Traditions (POAET) will publish online an article I have written about Jerusalén's engagement in urban and rural healing methods.
I also introduced my exhibit to the audience. It was very nice to step back and reflect on the process. The audience asked many wonderful questions ranging from how I am dealing with the curatorial process at the Mathers to specifics about the power of Jerusalén's prayers.
My friend and colleague Gabrielle Berlinger asked a very important question.
How does my grandmother feel about the fact that the objects (specifically the statues) are going to be stored in a museum?
I have run into this issue in my museum studies course, in conversations with another colleague Suzanne Inglesby as we catalog together in the basement of the Mathers and in considering the Mathers own collection.
If these objects can be considered ritual objects and are considered (at the very least by Jerusalén and myself) to be imbued with powers
1. Should they be in the museum? Why not! Jerusalén helped me collect these objects with the intension to place them into a museum collection.
2. What does it mean for these specific items, these statues, to be placed in the collection considering that they are imbued with spiritual energy, and considering that they are susceptible to other energies? The nature of these objects means that energy will ebb and flow in and out of them. They will hold both positive and negative energies during their lifetimes. For their display in my exhibit they have been imbued with positive energy from Jerusalén as well as from myself. Jerusalén tells me this energy will help the audience enjoy the exhibit, it will pass along a good vibration. If they are displayed again, it is written in the collection notes, that the items need to be blessed or re-energized.