This project is part of Container's Multitudes series, which invites writers and artists to transform the same object into works of visual and literary art.
In this series, MFA and MA students from University of Massachusetts Boston's Fall 2018 special topics course were invited to interpret a piggy bank. Proceeds from the sale of these items are split equally between Container and the artist.
Our shared interest in ritual was apparent to us in our partnership, and found a home in Ritual Deposit. Kyéra’s work attempts to capture the gravity and import of the ‘mystical’ and seeks to unite the mind with the processes of the inarticulate body, a unison that naturally leads her to ritual. Sarah’s first thought on receiving the object was of the Pushke, or charity box, in Ashkenazi Jewish tradition. Rabbis teach that the act of giving is not about you; it is about creating and participating in the fabric of society. Any act of giving contributes to making community, a value that far exceeds typical commodified exchange.
The U.S. economy - predicated on exchanged goods, derived from exploited labor - fails to tell the entire story of valued exchange. Here enters the inalienable object: objects or possessions that go beyond transactional commodities. These cultural goods are not exchanged but circulated. Rather than symbols of monetary worth, these objects consecrate a social assemblage of heritage. The process of creating these ‘objects’ involve a ritualistic outpouring of tradition, passed down through generations, imbuing the object with layers of meaning. The inalienable object, forged through community ritual and time becomes a repository that reflects the distillation of culture and legacy.
Drawing on the way that ritual knowledge circulates, and runs parallel to economic exchange, Ritual Deposit seeks to capture the process of ritualistic creation. Like the interaction with the Pushke, Ritual Deposit invites the reader into a migratory journey for belonging that begins with a setting of intention. As prayer and penny unite to habitualize the act of giving, entrance into Ritual Deposit engages the reader’s ‘token of intention’ on a journey through weavings of Afro-Caribbean migration, and knottings of Halakhic remembering in search of home and belonging. In moments of need, the reader opens Ritual Deposit to find a repository of intention. Light a candle, breathe as you contemplate the night sky, relax and read the receipts of personal ritual and religious traditions. Contrasting the logic of the cash box, Ritual Deposit rewires ‘economy’ from simple accumulation into a synchronous multiplicity of culture and legacy, inviting the reader, through ritual, to a discovery of ‘home.’
TOOLS & MATERIALS USED
Wire, tissue paper, wax, translucent vellum, receipt paper, tea and coffee.
Kyéra Sterling is an MA candidate at the University of Massachusetts Boston where her research interests center on literatures of the African diaspora and the excavation of spiritual traditions as community cultivating practices among the displaced. An aspiring filmmaker, Kyéra’s academic research informs her cinematic genre and approach. Following the threads left to her by her ancestors, she is currently producing her first short film Witches That Marry in the Rain.
When not filming, writing, or researching, Kyéra serves as Chief of Staff in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Sarah Shapiro is a poet and visual artist whose current projects explore (dys)abilities poetics, feminist walking, place-making, and New Deal Post Office history through concrete poetry. She is a poetry MFA candidate at University of Massachusetts Boston and teaches there, as well as at Suffolk County Correctional Facility.
Sarah’s first chapbook The Bullshit Cosmos is forthcoming, July 2019, with ignitionpress. Her poems have appeared in TIMBER, glitterMOB, She Grrrowls, Bunbury, and Poetica Magazine. Her visual work has been featured at BAAA Gallery in Cambridge, MA and she has completed a residency with Cove Park, in Scotland.