Shadbolt Fellow Fabian Romero puts art at the forefront
By Geoff Gilliard
Fabian Romero brings a depth of perspective to their work as a community-based artist, filmmaker, and poet. Romero is a Purepécha, non-binary youth activist living on Duwamish land, the traditional territories of the first peoples in Seattle and King County, Washington.
As a PhD student in the Gender, Women & Sexuality Department at the University of Washington, Romero’s work has involved collaborating with other Indigenous artists to do creative research of what flight out of settler colonialism might look like.
“I'm writing as an urban Indian in the Seattle area,” Romero says. “So I feel like I have to connect with other urban Indians here because of the conversation about ‘grounded normativity’, a term that means land-based practices and land-based knowledges. Oftentimes people refer to this as going back into the bush but I want to have this conversation about what this means for urban Indians. We’re not living in the bush, we're living in the cities and I believe that we still have land-based practices and land-based knowledges that we can speak about as urban Indians.”
Seattle has one of the largest Purepécha communities in the U.S. due to the large need for seasonal farm workers in the Pacific Northwest. Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Romero is the child of agricultural migrant labourers whose poetry and stories stem from their experiences as an economic refugee.
“I am like many Indigenous scholars that are either from Central America or the Southwest U.S.,” Romero says. “We are interested in the condition of what borders do to Indigeneity and specifically how borders erase Indigeneity.”
As someone who entered academia as an artist, they continue to make art the forefront of everything they do.
“I write from a child's point of view,” Romero says. “I came to the U.S. when I was seven years old the last time. The first time I was in my mom's womb. The second time I was two years old. And each time I would go back as the agricultural season ended because it was just not possible to stay due to the immigration policies at the time. But the last time, we didn't return. And that's how I ended up in the U.S.”
During their Shadbolt residency, Romero wants to take up the question, “what is Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty?”
“It's so easy to mention but we don't really have a lot of conversations about what that looks like,” they say.
“I have folks in mind that I would love to bring together and have conversations about topics of authenticity, what that means for us as Indigenous artists, especially for those of us Afro-Indigenous and Central American and Mexican Indigenous people, how often we are put in a position to perform Indigeneity or refuse to perform Indigeneity. I'm interested in having some artists and musicians share their work that is related to the conversations of sovereignty and Black liberation.”
Romero notes that while those artists and musicians might come from “totally different nations and tribes, we are coming together with this common goal which is to have a better world where there is Indigenous sovereignty and we care for each other in a way that really challenges conventional settler ideas of friendship and what family is.”