Seba Calfuqueo’s performance Ko ta mapungey ka (Water is also territory, 2020) took place on June 3, 2022, at the Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Córdoba, Spain, as part of “Pasaje del agua | The Journeying Stream”—a three-day program of performances, meditation, music, and conversations convened jointly by TBA21 and TBA21–Academy.
The work establishes a poetic and political relationship between water, the body, the Mapudungun (Mapuche language), and the land while exposing the devastating effects of extractivism in causing aridity and depletion. The performance expresses the suffering inflicted by the Chilean Water Code, which controls the distribution of the country’s water resources by granting permanent water titles to private companies.
The performance begins with an act of ritual cleansing, whereby the artist, dressed in a white skirt with kaskawillas (Mapuche percussion instrument) attached to its hem, holds a censer made of eucalyptus and pine (monoculture evergreens damaging to the Mapuche territory) in their hands, and rings the musical instrument. This subtle reparative act is used to activate and inhabit an imaginary aesthetic belonging to the Mapuche consciousness. The Wunelfe, the morning star, which rises in Chile and is a symbol of Mapuche resistance, is painted on their face. Their use of Mapudungun acts as an interpretative framework for expressing and recording the inalienable memory of the Mapuche resistance, being written into the drying waters. Water also speaks to Calfuqueo’s fluid identity, a landmark in their work which recurrently deals with the problematic and limited construction of gender and identities in the West.
Calfuqueo traces a performative path that departs from the Mapudungun water toponymy, and as they meticulously paint the toponymies for temuko (waters of the temu tree), kuruko (black water), likan ko (waters of the likan stone), luma ko (waters of the luma tree) onto the white canvas covering the floor, they map the formerly overflowing and now desiccated waterways of the territory of today’s Chile. Next to it, they write the sentence “Mapu kishu angkükelay, kakelu angkümmapukey” (The soil does not dry by itself, others dry it) on the canvas. For Ko ta mapungey ka, the artist collaborated with Spanish artisans to create a series of ceramic replicas of water gallons. As Calfuqueo raises the large cobalt blue ceramic gallons one by one, water slowly begins to seep through the words carved on the surface of the vessels such as saqueo (plunder) and sequía (aridity), both emblematic of the violent history of (neo)colonialism and the loss of Indigenous sovereignty. The performance denounces the geopolitics that have forced lack and scarcity on Indigenous peoples and their worlds.