UBUNTU is a multi-site specific public art installation that practices the indigenous philosophy of Ubuntu’s premise I Am, We Are. UBUNTU exhibit re-textualizes CSULB campus into fertile ground for reconciling its’ white supremacist past and further re-envision an equitable, inclusive, and diverse future for all. CSULB site locations are the LA 5 Plaza featuring the Gathering proposal QR code, a drumming ceremony by American Indian Studies Inter-Tribal Drummers (AISITD), and the KCAM Pavilion screening the human freedom of speech wall (HFOSW) video projection, and the UBUNTU Monument.
UBUNTU exhibit asks us to recognize the importance and value of each human beings’ livingness, so we might recognize ourselves in the communities we inhabit The Nauri precept Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngbatu means "a person is a person because of or through others." Ubuntu's philosophy suggests an "African is not a rugged individual, but a person living within a community." In today's world, it is only through cultivating a community of solidarity that hunger, isolation, deprivation, poverty, and any emerging challenges can be survived because of the community's concern for each other. Nelson Mandela describes Ubuntu as "a philosophy constituting a connecting truth, a way of life, which establishes an open society." One of the commonalities between Ubuntu and American Indian indigenous thought is the importance of growing a conscious community. Consciousness inherently seeks to recognize itself in its surroundings, this connecting truth resonates with both teachings suggesting we should consider whether what we are doing will enable or empower the community around us and help it improve.
Gathering brings a sense of commemoration, joy, and movement to the LA-5 Plaza through the creation of an inclusive space that honors the diverse CSULB community and the Tongva Gabrielino people. The plaza's redesign will include a large rope sculpture, a mural representing the Tongva Gabrielino people of Puvungna, native plant landscaping, local artworks from the CSULB population, and an artistic process that will include representatives from CSULB and Long Beach’s diverse communities. The Gathering link connects to the interactive proposal website.
Originally founded on ceded land of Puvungna, CSULB has had a tumultuous history with the stewards of the land, the Gabrielino, Tongva, Juaneno, and Acjachemen peoples/nations. Puvungna translates to "the gathering place," which is the site of an ancient village, a burial ground, and the sacred birthplace of the American Indian deity Chinigchinich. Several decades ago before CSULB, "gold rush" settlement colonizers raped Puvungna of its natural resources, such as 49er Prospector Pete (PP). Until 2020, the contentious Forty-niner PP was an idolized emblem of the university, as shown by the former mascot and the Greco-Roman bronze statue erected in his likeness and displayed at the LA 5 Plaza. The people of Puvungna began the long and arduous legal process of irradicating PP, his figure, and his legacy from the culture and campus of CSULB. Puvungna has served as a gathering place for spiritual celebration by the indigenous peoples of the region. Today, a vacant plinth sits atop the LA5 Plaza, which now seems to function as a memorial to the struggles of the indigenous Gabrielino, Tongva, Juaneno, and Acjachemen people/nations.
Gathering attempts to honor and commemorate the past, present, and future inhabitants of the sacred land, Puvungna. Gathering re-frames the narrative of LA5 Plaza to reconcile the egregious history of Puvungna with a healing and drumming ceremony by the American Indian Studies Inter-Tribal Drummers. American Indian drumming sounds are considered the heartbeat of the planet by the Gabarelino-Tonvga people. Historically, Inter-Tribal Drumming has been a way to gather the community in healing and celebration to raise the community’s vibration consciously. The AISITD generously accepted an invitation to facilitate a healing and drumming ceremony at the LA 5 Plaza on December 1st, 2021, at 5 pm. The now-vacant plinth is the site location for an engraved QR code linking to the Gathering proposal.
The KCAM pavilion, formerly the UAM, is the second site location of the UBUNTU exhibit. The Ronald and Sylvia Hartman wall features the human freedom of speech wall (HFOSW) performance video from September 19th, 2018. The HFOSW interventionist silent performance employed mindfulness as a "state of being" to open passive dialogue in the community about the covert-institutional censorship of artist lauren woods AMERICAN Monument exhibition in fall 2018. Woods monument addressed issues of police brutality related to black lives and was later "paused" by the artist in attempts to open a restorative justice process with the museum and the institution regarding the firing of the museum director Kimberli Meyer. The controversy surrounding AMERICAN Monument became the inspiration for the performance to demonstrate how a silent protest can effectively empower ideas of free speech. The Hartman wall features the HFOSW's video on December 1st, 2021, from 4 pm to 7 pm.
UBUNTU Monument is a mixed media iron sculpture installed at the south corner of the KCAM pavilion adjacent to the Hartman wall. The monument honors the breath, strength, and livingness of the ancestors and martyrs who lost their lives while being Othered. Ubuntu’s philosophy suggests WE envision an Equitable, Inclusive, and Diverse COMMONPLACE for all of Earth’s people by recognizing yourself in each other. Let us take a moment to remember the over 37.2 million people living in poverty in the United States, where 417,281 of those people live without housing, and 297,108 of those houseless persons are minorities. A 2020 US census identified Black people to have the highest poverty rate of 19.5 percent from 1959 to 2019, with no significant change in 2020. In Los Angeles, 27.1% of Black residents live below the poverty line. While a recent US Census estimated that Blacks make up 12% of the population, Blacks sadly account for 26.4% of those killed by police under all circumstances. Black people are significantly the victims of lethal use of force by police at nearly twice the general population's rate. Black people in the US are disproportionally affected by systemic oppression that permeates every aspect of their lives. A mantric “I AM WE ARE” is inscribed throughout the hollow sculpture monument and echoes the indigenous percept so WE may consciously recognize our commonalities in the communities WE inhabit.