Tracing Nepantla (EN)

The artistic research “Tracing Nepantla” approaches the concept of nepantla, a space in between, from a spatial perspective. The term nepantla originates from Nahuatl and translates roughly to ‘standing in the middle’. In the 1980s, the author, theorist,self-proclaimed Chicana and lesbian Gloria E. Anzaldúa (1942-2004) developed a language to articulate this feeling of in-betweenness between different, fluid identities and affiliations. Based on the history of the Mexico-US border region, her bilingual book “Borderlands – La Frontera: The New Mestiza” (1987) expands the geographical and cultural understanding of the border space. Anzaldúa illustrates how borderlands are not only physical or spatial constructs but also intersect our lives, manifesting as psychological or sexual boundaries depending on our positionalities. 

Anzaldúa employed the concept of nepantla to describe this border space and continued to refine it until her death. Through her writing, Anzaldúa crafts spaces and develops knowledge by challenging hegemonic epistemologies and conventional notions of knowledge. Suspended between two realms, nepantla is also a space of disruption. Anzaldúa refers to those who inhabit it as nepantleras, beings living amidst and between multiple worlds. Through painful negotiations, they develop what Anzaldúa terms a “perspective from the cracks”, highlighting how knowledge and practices can emerge from this often painful and contradictory experience, enabling nepantleras to navigate this liminal situation. In this way, nepantla becomes a space where transformation processes unfold. 

This work considers nepantla as a transformative space and aims not only to locate and identify the tangible and visible manifestations of nepantla, but also to map and record them, thereby taking on the seemingly contradictory challenge of capturing something that is in an intermediate state. To map something is to mark a space, solidify it and give it legitimacy. Drawing upon personal experiences, a series of individual and collective exercises and embodied methods give rise to drawings, diagrams, and maps that depict everyday spaces, spaces of gathering, remembrance and resistance.