Runa Kawsay: The Roots That Sustain Us
Photograph by Eli Farinango
Runa Kawsay explores the nuances of Indigenous Kichwa identity from the personal experiences of the Kichwa community living in Turtle Island (North America.) The Kichwa community is one of the largest ethno-lingustic communities in Ecuador, with large populations migrating to North America and Europe since the late 1950s. The community has a sizable population spread out in various cities across the U.S. and Canada, particularly in New York City, Wisconsin, Chicago, and the province of Ontario, Canada, where I grew up. In Kichwa, the term Runa Kawsay refers to the everyday moments that nurture the culture which sustains us. For many Kichwas in the diaspora, our everyday personal rituals and collective celebrations become a blend of deeply rooted traditions with adaptations that reflect our realities in the different territories we occupy. By starting this long term project with my own story of migration and reconnection to my Kichwa roots, I encourage my collaborators to use image-making as a medium for self-empowerment, and to challenge colonial practices that have attempted to silence us for more than 500 years. Runa Kawsay shares the stories of joy and pain, of resistance and resilience, of a diasporic community that is being built by a new generation of Kichwa families, activists, artists and thinkers—connecting to their roots, interpreting their culture in their own way, and leaving a historical archive for future generations.
About The Artist
Eli Farinango is a Kichwa photographer, born in Kichwa territory (Quito, Ecuador), and raised in Turtle Island (Canada). Through her practice, she explores the vastness and beauty of the healing journey while using the image to reclaim ancestral memory. Her body of work is deeply tied to documenting her experiences as a Kichwa warmi, her family, and the Kichwa diaspora.
She has exhibited at the Toronto Media Arts Centre, Santander Photography Festival, Artscape Youngplace, Casa Palma, Espace 8, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Colorado Photographic Arts Centre, and the International Center of Photography. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the International Center of Photography in New York City. She has received scholarship awards from Photographers Without Borders x Sony, the International Center of Photography (Jan Mulder Scholarship), the Banff Center, and is currently a 2021 Women Photograph Grantee.
Farinango is currently part of the Kichwa Hatari Collective, Indigenous Photograph, Women Photograph, and the 400 Years Project.
About The Organization
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