Mi Bis Abuela Nikolaza
This wood panel is one in a series of two portraits that honor and celebrate my great grandmother, Nikolaza Cardenas. I only met my great grandmother a few times when I was a small child visiting my family in Lima, Peru. Yet I have fond memories about her presence and affection. Based on family stories, she loved to cook and that was part of how she sustained herself and her family. She cooked meals for the families in the barrio, her home serving as a small diner.
I come from a lineage of fiercely independent Afro-Peruvian women, women who were unmarried and raised families as single mothers during a highly patriarchal and racist era. My parents were economic migrants to the United States in the 60s. While I am the daughter of displaced people, I was able to experience the personality and love of my great grandmother through her daughter, my grandmother, Abuelita Lucia, who moved to the United States in 1989 and helped raise me.
It’s through my relationship with my abuelita that I was able to build an emotional bond and link to my family and ancestors in the land we know today as Peru. My connection to my people and culture was largely severed due to the fact that we could not return to Peru, as it was the era of civil war. I was 15 years old when my family was finally able to return to Lima after a decade, and by then much of my identity had formed.
My grandmother was always the bridge. She was a storyteller, a resilient woman who also carried a lot of grief due to her lived experiences. For many years, she was a domestic worker in Lima. She would share how outspoken, powerful and dignified my great grandmother, Nikolaza was, always willing to confront any man that crossed her.
In my plant medicine journeys, I've been reconnecting to my ancestors and specifically the women in my lineage to help heal from generational trauma and to witness their stories through other channels in the subconscious. These artworks reflect how I connect to my great grandmother in my psychedelic journeys.
In these collages, I combine many of my textures, patterns and shapes to create an abstract image of Nikolaza. I am digging through my past, attempting to put the pieces together of where I come from. This piece reflects the depth of my searching, symbolizes the long journey that is generational healing.