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CHamoru artist presents new performance work in Seattle

DUWAMISH TERRITORY, Seatle, Washington state (Press Release) — On the Boards, a Seattle-based leading contemporary performance arts institution, will be presenting Matao/CHamoru artist Dakota Camacho’s latest performance work in the upcoming NW New Works Festival on June 14-16.

Click to enlarge
Photo by Naomi Ishisaka

For 36 years, the NW New Works Festival has provided a platform for the arts community of the Pacific Northwest, showcasing established and emerging artists creating some of the most innovative emergent performance in the region.

“When I saw that the theme of this year’s Northwest New Works Festival was investigating the many layers of history in the Pacific Northwest,” Camacho notes, “I was excited to explore how my family’s ancestral worldview has migrated to Coast Salish Territory.”

MALI’E |- Tåno’ Uchan -|- : -|- Tåno’ Dx dəw?abš is the unfolding of a ritual honoring Camacho’s ancestral and creative lineages. “It’s a really personal work,” Camacho says, “It involves my family’s story of surviving violent displacement, and how we maintain our cultural integrity by building relationships with other indigenous communities.”

The work is the second installment in a series of performance research works by Camacho that re-imagines the traditional practice of Mali’e, a Matao/CHamoru process of improvisatory, collective, oral historical creativity.

Camacho says the MALI’E performance research has been greatly informed by their participation in I Fanlalai’an Oral History Project which is based at the University of Guåhan.

“I Fanlalai’an is one of the few spaces I have found in the CHamoru community that explicitly works to reclaim our pre-contact identity, language, and traditions,” says Camacho, “Reclaiming my ancestral identity has meant that I’ve been able to build with Indigenous communities beyond the trauma of colonization. This has brought me towards a journey with healing and ceremony.”

Camacho became initiated into I Fanalalai’an’s Core Research Group in 2016 just before the Festival of the Pacific Arts. Camacho’s contributions to the research group have primarily focused on how to develop community engagement strategies through contemporary performance work.

“Since working with my cultural community towards renewing the tradition of Lukao Fuha, the Matao/CHamoru New Year Ceremony, I’ve been building stronger relationships with the many different indigenous communities living in Coast Salish Territory and it has expanded my understanding of what it means to be indigenous” Camacho says.

In January 2019, Camacho invited the LA-based Chamoru artist Micah Manaitai to join the project as the sound designer. Camacho says, “ I wanted to work with Manaitai because of his unique knowledge of Matao/CHamoru music history and skills as a multi-instrumentalist & vocalist.”

The two collaborated over the phone and in-person over one weekend in Manaitai’s apartment to create a historically-informed weaving of traditionally-styled chant, lyrical storytelling, and contemporary music.

“Collaborating with Dakota has been nothing less than liberating and fulfilling,” says Manaitai.

Manaitai continues, “Working outside of the confines of my own involved disciplines is a re-energizing process, and one that is especially rewarding while being with Dakota.The spirituality, urgency, and pursuit of the most expressive artistic choices is what makes working with a close friend a truly memorable experience.”

This is the second work by Camacho that On the Boards has presented.

The first entitled MALI’E | higher.infinite.power.healing.our.people, was selected for the Performance Lab series in December 2018. Camacho describes the work as a call-and-response to the spirit of the griot. It’s research towards spiritual relationship and responsibility. How do we (non-Black artists) approach hip hop as a sacred space?

While MALI’E is rooted firmly in re-invigorating CHamoru traditions, the project seems to be equally about investigating the complexities and possibilities alive in the CHamoru cultural reclamation movement.

“I think it’s important as an indigenous artist to be rigorous in my understanding of cultural appropriation,” Camacho says, “My family had a cultural dance group in the 1990’s that made dances that look a lot like the work by Pa’å Taotao Tåno’ and in the 2000’s I became a hip hop artist. These realities have forced me to think more critically about how, in an age of transnational capitalism, it is essential to work towards uprooting internalized white supremacy and anti-blackness in our cultural reclamation projects.”

On Camacho’s website, Guiya describes being poksai (nurtured) by a wide-range of creative expressions ranging from the Hip Hop community in Seattle, to Contemporary Indigenous Dance, to Capoeira Angola Palmares, to Danza Mexica, to House, Breakdancing, and Ballroom.

“Being connected to Black communities, their liberation movements, and art forms has taught me that the narrative of ‘cultural loss’ derives from Eurocentric narratives of history,” Camacho continues, “I hope that this performance research project can inspire the CHamoru community to go deeper in our performance practices and engage the wider Asian Pacific Islander artists community about addressing the ways we have internalized cultural appropriation, anti-blackness, and the commodification of the sacred”

With the support of Rulan Tangen of Dancing Earth, a Santa Fe-based contemporary indigenous dance company, Camacho has presented excerpts of the work-in-progress at Skidmore College and at Indigenous Now! event at Tongva Park in Tongva Territory/Santa Monica.

The work has also been selected for presentation and further development as part of the 32nd Annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance Festival in Toronto, Canada.

Camacho says, “The Festival is a rare opportunity to present my work internationally and receive hands-on, one-on-one professional development from artist elders in my field.”

Click to enlarge
Photo by Naomi Ishisaka

Camacho is asking for support from friends and family to help raise the funds for this unique international presentation opportunity via a crowdsourcing page that will soon be available via yo-ña (their) website.

“The next iteration of the MALI’E performance research project will be a more thorough investigation of the history of dance in the Mariånas and will be a collaboration between artists in the homeland and the Diaspora.” Camacho says excitedly, “We have already secured a small amount of funding and will be doing more fundraising to develop a body of work that can unify our people through cultural reclamation projects that will hopefully make material differences in our peoples lives”

You can buy tickets to the performance next weekend here: https://www.ontheboards.org/nwnewworks

To support the development of MALI’E | TÅNO’ UCHAN please stay tuned to www.dakotacamacho.com

If you want to stay connected to the MALI’E performance research project or future works by Camacho you can join the mailing list on their website: www.dakotacamacho.com