Recurring Themes

As spring approaches, my brain naturally begins planning for the summer. I’ve been applying, interviewing, and assessing what exactly I want to do to stay mentally engaged for 4 months. One opportunity that’s come up is curating the narratives of people living in an environmentally collapsing city in Esmeraldas, Ecuador. In short, I would be responsible for compiling written statements, audio clips of interviews, and thousands of pictures onto website in attempts to aggregate a digital history for this underrepresented group. Much like the last two readings about visualization, I would be tasked with having to find effective and meaningful ways to display this information. To me, the job description alone sounds scary. However, after meeting with the coordinator for this project, she explained that there are even more challenges than putting that history on a platform. She explained the extents we would have to go to digitalize these narratives in their complete authenticity, no easy task when translating from Spanish to English. Even moreso, there were indigenous Afro-Ecuadorian groups that have a very particular dialect that contains words with slurred meanings

During our meeting, a lot of the terms from this weeks reading came up. I recalled the coordinator—a geography professor—using terms like indigenous knowledge and variations of classification of knowledge. I felt those words were very ambiguous, but the coordinator used them with the same meticulous connation as the authors of Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies. This brought up a lot of questions for me. What are the commonalities of preserving history? In what way is visualization or visual arts a tool to curating narratives or underrepresented histories? In what ways is it a hindrance?

About Makiah Belk

Study of the Americas
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2 Responses to Recurring Themes

  1. Tionna Outen says:


    I am interested in your blog post and fairly excited for your trip to Esmeraldas, Ecuador. As I was reading your post I began to wonder how you would go about preserving the histories. What would be your primary weapon for collecting information? One of the readings for this week used an amazing scenario. It stated, for example, that an individual who was aware of various types of seasonings and possessed cooking knowledge, would end up with more of a delicious meal than someone who has little to no cooking knowledge or seasons within their meal. With that being said, do you believe you have to familiarize yourself with the Spanish language (if you already haven’t ) and utilize that knowledge to record and express recieved information through technology in order to get the best results? Do you believe searching and learning from the histories of these people prior to the project will allow you to create a more delicious meal ? Will interviews be your primary weapon? Books? google? documentaries? I believe finding and preserving the history of these people will allow them to gain a sense of appreciation. I would be fairly proud and thankful if the history of my ancestors were finally found and preserved. However, I do wonder if some of the Ecuadorians would feel more comfortable if their stories were recorded on physical paper rather than through technology, due to fear of technological errors. To answer your question on hindrance, I would say that the negative parts of their history may be hard for them to watch, or speak or hear about. Other than that, I believe this is an amazing opportunity to have and I know the results will be fantastic!

    Thank you for a great post,

    Tionna Outen

  2. Thomas Alexander says:


    Your post really made me think about my own post. In my post, I was arguing that indigenous peoples should be allowed to tell their stories however they want to have their stories documented. But hearing about your opportunity in Ecuador (which is dope) made me question my original viewpoint. I was strictly looking at the reading through the lens of Native Americans. Because their a part of the United States (to some extent anyway), it’s easier for them to tell their story. Many are at least somewhat familiar with the majority’s culture, which would allow to contribute to it in an understandable way. Many know English as well so less of a communication barrier would exist. But in the instance of Ecuador, there are obstacles in both language and culture. Quite honestly, I’m not sure of an exact solution to that either—other than being meticulous in communication—but I applaud you for being part of a group trying to create one.

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