I learned more about my homeland the further away I got from it. Everything acquired meaning and became a memory I sacredly hold onto.
Colombia, a beautiful country of opposites said to have some of the happiest people in the world, amidst the misery of armed conflict and poverty. I was taught to appreciate the value in every object, in a society where people have to work so hard for so little. Families shared the same pairs of shoes for generations; inherited by the next person who needed them, by a sibling, classmate or neighbor. They were kept even when they were so old and worn out, they could no longer be used. They became sacred objects that embodied people’s life journeys and commemorated all the miles walked.
I collected shoes for years. They are the timeline of my family’s journey. These objects are material witnesses of our collective experiences, and a testimony of the past.
It is inevitable for human beings to flee from countries consumed by crime and violence; where surviving becomes a priority, and dreaming is not an option.
Migrating feels like making sandcastles. It is like walking barefoot in a house with no foundation. At times, I wish I still had the old shoes I left when I moved to a new country. They were so familiar and nurturing; we aged together and shared difficulties. The bitter sweetness of parting ways was inevitable.
Collecting objects has given me perspective and rootedness. It is a ritualistic process that helps me understand my reality and becomes an extension of my identity. When you’re considered a minority for the first time, you start questioning the color of your skin and the language you speak. The urge to fit in becomes a priority. I gravitated towards those who shared the same struggles; our differences brought us together in times where everything seemed temporary. It is never easy to create a home from scratch.
I found myself collecting shoes again, this time from the community that became my family in this new country. They were objects of personal history traveling from all over the world. The process of collecting helped me create beautiful human connections. We all have a story to tell, and empathy becomes the universal language that needs no translation. Our journeys long for significance, and art has been the channel I use to communicate the value of these collective stories, through sculptures and installations made with objects that are often neglected.
I created a series of pillars, each one made with 400 pounds of shoes I joined and stacked by hand. Most shoes are still dirty from the last time they were used. They are condensed in a structure that acts as a time capsule of relics. They remain intact, paying tribute to those seeking a brighter future, fighting for safety, peace and freedom.
The sculptures manifest ideas of resiliency and unity, taking a stand for humanity in the midst of a critical period of hate and discrimination. They represent the identity of invisible victims, their muted voices, and the struggle to escape a reality they didn’t get to choose. They are the reflection of hundreds of stories of migration, where holding onto each other and uplifting one another is the only option to have a sense of belonging.