Survivance, Art, and Empire

Going back through my recent blogs, I realize I haven’t been writing much. But then I remembered school work, and the fact that in the past few months I’ve passed my comprehensive exams, applied for three major funding opportunities, taught class, kept my cats and self alive, and excelled in my own coursework.

I’ve wanted to write about 1,000 things since then, but often find myself exhausted by words, and am thus moved to paint and swim in color.

I came across a quote that I posted of Arundhati Roy’s 

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.”

I love her. And it makes me think of a helpful concept I wrote about in my exams, this idea of “survivance.” Native Maori academic Linda Tuhiwai Smith wrote about the it in her book, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples.  She explains survivance recognizes that “indigenous peoples and communities have retained cultural and spiritual values and authenticity in resisting colonialism” which is often “reflected in story form…popular music…and sometimes as an event in which artists and story tellers come together to celebrate collectively a sense of life and diversity in connectedness.”*

Existing is an accomplishment. Waking up in the morning, is resistance in the face of an empire’s attempts to erase you. Getting out of bed, laughing, and enjoying the sunshine, is chipping away at the grips of oppression. Sharing a meal with your loved ones and cherishing community defies the destructiveness of the empire’s efforts to sew fear and division.

Making art, telling our own stories, remembering those who have not survived, cooking, celebrating, writing, sharing, praying, creating lays siege to empire.

Keep doing what you do and recognize the power of your own heartbeat….


I paired the quote with a photograph I took on a day trip farther up north from the other weekend -Deception Pass, Washington

* from Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Dunedin, N.Z.: University of Otago Press, 2012.

2 responses to “Survivance, Art, and Empire

  1. Pingback: Food: “the most ephemeral of the performing arts” | EmaBee's Art·

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