HEKATOMBE III, Martha Hincapié Charry ©Fernando Frias Rodriguez

Siblings of the Earth

HEKATOMBE III by Martha Hincapié Charry, which premiered at Radialsystem on 2 and 3 December 2023, shares valuable wisdom of the Wixarika and the Kággaba Communities.

Within the blood family, the definition of siblings can be quite rigid. But what if we expand the notion of family? What if we not only humans, but also all beings are families who share the same origin, the earth? The moon, the ocean, and trees with trunks thicker than my body would be my older siblings whom I would respect and from whom I would learn.

Upon entering the theatre, I see two projection screens standing side by side (upstage) and three collections of props: a mound of light-coloured sand (upstage right), a stack of large branches (midstage left), and a pile of dark-coloured dirt (downstage centre). In the opening of HEKATOMBE III, Sara Carrillo from the Wixarika Community, who appears on the screen on the right, describes her people as “people who existed thousands of years” and refers to corn as a “sibling”. Later, Mama Shibulata from the Kággaba Community, on the screen on the left, says that white people and non-Native people are “younger siblings” who cause suffering by exploiting the earth. “If we continue to extract [from the earth]”, he says, “we will have many conflicts”.

The performance is composed of multiple layers. Each element is rich in its depth, but when they happen all at once, I feel torn, as my attention constantly jumps from one to the other. The video screens deliver poignant interviews (which I need to read the subtitles to follow) and Wixarika and Kággaba ceremonies. Live on stage, Martha Hincapié Charry interacts and dances with the sand, dirt and branches in a slow and deliberate manner. Bass-heavy and droning, the soundscape lingers throughout almost the entire piece as an ominous presence, even when beautiful songs and dances are carried out by the Wixarika and Kággaba people on the screens.

It is relieving when, for a short while, the soundscape that vibrates my body and the floor with its low booming stops, and only the singing and drumming of the Kággaba Community fills the room. Before long, however, the drone resumes. It crescendos at an unapologetic speed and soon overwhelms all other sounds. With this, the rituals of honouring nature practised by Wixarika and Kággaba Community that have been displayed on the screens rewind at an accelerated pace. The stage lights brighten rapidly, making the scenes on the screens difficult to see until they disappear completely. It feels as if the presence of the Wixarika and Kággaba has been erased by the harsh and dominating sound and light. ‘Are these sound and light metaphors of the younger siblings who destroy nature with their greed and disrupt the lives of Indigenous people?’ I wonder. ‘Are we so deafened and blinded by artificial noise and light in modern society that we fail to perceive and acknowledge the wisdom of our human and non-human older siblings?’

What is left on stage at the end reminds me of a ritual site: sand and dirt spread out around a central sculpture of branches leaning into each other. I think of the full title of the performance, HEKATOMBE III – movements and rituals for the renewal of the world. We, the audience members, may have just participated in this ritual by our witnessing. If so, it is my wish to welcome and remember the spirits of my older siblings in my body.

HEKATOMBE III by Martha Hincapié Charry (Videoinstallation: Sara Carrillo and the Wixarika Community, Mama Shibulata and the Kággaba Community) premiered at Radialsystem on 2 and 3 December 2023, tickets at radialsystem.de.