Reclaiming the Narrative: a Rewriting of the Census through Quipus

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Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, UK

Event details

4 - 6 Mar, 2022

A rewriting of the census through Quipus with Thread and Word
I enjoy collecting stories. I am from Latin America, born in Bolivia. I was spoken to in Quechua by Justina who looked after me as a child. Quechua is the language of the Andean people it offers a different way of looking at the world.

In the Quechua language no one word exists on its own, every word’s meaning only exists in relation to another word. This opens up the possibilities of a many-layered worldview and away from the linearity of the age of enlightenment thinking.

The UK is home to around 250,000 people of Latin American origin . They now form the largest generation of British-born Latin Americans. We are one of the country’s fastest-growing ethnic groups. This includes my three sons who are born in London, but we are “invisible” not included in official policies and almost absent in media portrayals.

Although British Latin Americans are increasingly visible in the arts, their political and wider representation still lags behind. Most strikingly, Latin American ethnicity is not recognised as a distinct category on the national census or other official forms.

Re-writing the Census is an think through craft. To acknowledge the omissions of present census categories and to include all those who feel ‘othered’ or omitted. The Inca civilisation, which predates the arrival of Columbus in South America, used textiles rather than written text to record their stories. They used ropes called Quipus and these were knotted to record and document valuable information.

Textiles allow us to create multilayered narratives through the drawing together of many threads. Through touch, we experience an alternative language. Through the meditative knotting of these ropes, we can acknowledge the complexity of identity and the difficulties of single-word definitions.

Please take a rope, feel the chords, have a think, make a knot as a menomic record. Together we can consider the complexity of creating a language that allows for inclusivity. Watch our quipu grow over the next few days.

If you would like to share your stories with me I will be here making ropes and creating knots between 1 pm and 4 pm, on Saturday, March 4th, and Sunday, March 5th.

Elspeth Penfold

SWS Award winner

Elspeth (Billie) Penfold (MRBS FRSA) is a textile artist who combines walking, weaving and performative storytelling. Billie uses hapticity and psychogeography to explore narratives. She hand spins ropes which are knotted by participants as part of perform...

Near Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, UK

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