Favianna_ButterflyWingsMy first exposure to Favianna Rodriguez was last year at Burning Man, as we were camped together in a new Theme Camp, ‘Que Viva,’ at which her project, ‘Migration is Beautiful’ was a major part. Her message about migration made me think, and I found her a gifted, powerful speaker. Because my own senior project centers around Burning Man and involves our camp, which we will be running again this year, I chose Favianna for my topic, in part to learn more about her work beyond the ‘Migration is Beautiful’ project. As I researched her work, I actually jumped up at one point exclaiming, “OMG! I LOVE YOU!” (my husband is used to these sorts of outbursts from me during research and did not bat an eye) I was excited! I had no idea what an appropriate choice she was for this paper, as well as a ‘partner’ in my senior project.

Favianna calls herself a “culture worker” on her blog, and after watching her Key-Note presentation from the Art for Social Change Symposium, I think it accurately describes her. She may as well have been speaking in one of my classes to a group of WAC students, and if you are not familiar with her, I recommend this video of her key-note on Arts activism on her Blog. In this presentation she gives an analysis of various social movements, such as the Little Dreamers, why and how they were successful in changing culture, and the power of art in these movements. Among the movements she talked about was the Occupy movement, and her analysis really shed light on my conflicting feelings about it, helping put it into perspective. She said the “gift of Occupy was that they gave us an idea… a cultural concept… It was an invitation to participate… (it showed) the power of participation, effective cultural organizing…(it) injected new concepts into society…changed language, gave us tools to talk about it…(allowed us to) re-frame how we talk about things.” She also spoke about Burning Man, and I heard my own mission within the community-as noted in my last journal entry- echoed in her words, with her challenge of the principle of “Radical Inclusion,” which many in this group of privileged “mostly white” (video. 2013) people profess to believe. Her concepts about using art to change culture, fits right in with my WAC education.

Favianna, who is based in Oakland, is coming back to Burning Man with her project this year, and as I will be interning with our camp ‘leader,’ I will be working more closely with her. Migration is Beautiful is about the act of migrating being a beautiful thing and trying to erase the negative imagery of “immigrants.” Favi points out that people have been migrating since the beginning, “it’s what we do,” “migration is natural, borders are not.” I had never really thought about migration as a “human right” before. (video. 2013) She chose the Monarch Butterfly as a symbol because every year, millions of monarch butterflies make the journey from Canada and the U.S. to a small town in Mexico. Migration is built into their DNA. The monarch butterfly has come to represent the beauty of migration, symbolizing the right that living beings have to freely move, like the monarch butterfly, human beings cross borders in order to survive. Favianna’s adaptation of the butterfly shows a human profile in each wing. Favianna has taken this project to various events, as well as spreading her images around via the internet. I was interested in her reflections on the event at Burning man, and I include her blog about the event here:

A small group of us from CultureStrike attended Burning Man on our own to host Migration Is Beautiful events, at a camp we joined called QUE VIVA BURNERS camp. Burning Man was super amazing!! I know many folks have doubts, but for creative people, Burning Man is an unforgettable experience. The Burning Man foundation gives out about $1 million annually in grants to artists, and they gave our camp a premier location, at 6:30pm and Esplanade, which is basically facing the Playa! (wow!)

Our workshop was a huge hit!! The Burning Man founders came over to say hi, and folks were raving about it. Other cool things in our camp included a furry blue ICE booth and a Tell Your Migration Story booth. Also, folks who shared their story got a Black Rock City Residency Card and we made it to the COVER of one of the 
Burning Man newspapers that gets distributed around Black Rock City (where the event takes place). Without a doubt,
I plan to return to Burning Man next year and am exploring ways to do a public art installation at the Playa. Can’t wait for next year You can see pics from Burning Man 2013 here

On her website Favianna is described as a “transnational interdisciplinary artist and cultural organizer. She is an artist, lecturer, and director of “Culture Strike,” a national arts organization that engages artists, writers and performers in migrant rights. She co-founded Presente.org, a national online organizing network for the political empowerment of Latino communities. Her vision for the future is inspiring, she challenges people to examine their 
cultural values and shift from what we DON’T WANT (deportations, injustice) and think about what we DO want, saying “Art has the ability to create an alternative reality. Transnational is the new reality…the cities of tomorrow are all connected”

To learn more about Favianna, read her Blog, and see or purchase her Art, visit her website