Walking The Beast
“Walking The Beast” is a collaborative investigative art project with current Central American refugees traveling through Mexico and with unaccompanied immigrant minors currently living in foster care in Oakland California.
For 3,000 miles Central American refugees ride on the train, also known as the “Beast” in hopes of making it into the United States. The frequency of kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, rape, and homicide puts Central American migrants’ plight in Mexico atop the list of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian emergencies. It is reported that six out of ten women are raped, over 20,000 immigrants a year are kidnapped, and over 70,000 were reported missing in the last six years. In June of 2014 it was reported that an unprecedented 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America had arrived at the U.S. border escaping extreme violence and economic hardship. Like the present situation in Europe, refugees from Central America were demonized as invaders. The root causes of this migration remain hidden from our current news feeds and circles of discussion.
In October of 2014, I, along with two other artists, Saul Kack and Mia Eve ROllow, traveled to two-immigrant refugee safe houses at the Mexican southern border. For one month we lived at a rehabilitation center for immigrants suffering from loss limbs and serious injury. We acted out collaborative performances with over 40 immigrants based on their recent lived experiences and together painted two murals within the refugee homes. We visited the Suchiate River and collaborated with Central American children crossing by raft in an all day public performance.
In the summer of 2018, I hope to continue in this reasearch work by following along side the immigrant route, living three weeks at four of sixteen migrant safe houses that offer shelter, food, legal council and medical attention. During this time, I will establish nomadic artist community studios and create workshops on mural painting and sculptural performance. Through mural painting we establish a working relationship and create an atmosphere of co-authorship and enthusiasm while transforming the architectural environment. Sculptural performances allows for us to revisit the ritualistic aspects of migration in a poetic theatrical form and use material as a vehicle for collective and individual expression. We will also be collecting stories from leading human rights activist, community leaders and refugees for a 2017 book publication of murals and stories co-authored by unaccompanied immigrant youth currently living in foster homes in Oakland California. We are collaborating with East Oakland Youth Alliance that work with unaccompanied minor migrants.
Through these workshops we wish to directly create change through a pedagogical approach to art making in that Art allows us to become actors of our own realities. Creative action with rich shared narrative is a means to recovering our humanity in the face of such violence, uncertainty, and life threatening circumstances.
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