Maria Thereza Alves

Recipes for Survival
Seeing you

Still Here…


Still Here…, 2023

Site-specific Installation of three works, realized for the exhibiton "Green Snake: women-centred ecologies". Commissioned by Tai Kwun Contemporary, curated by Kathryn Weir and Xue Tan, with assistant curators Tiffany Leung, and Pietro Scammacca.

Chalchiuhtlícue is the "Lady of the skirt of chalchíhues or precious stones". She is the deity of earthly waters: rivers, lakes, and springs and thus specifically of Lake Tlahuac-Xico – formerly in homage to her known as Lake Chalco in Xico, in the State of Mexico – before colonization destroyed that lake and the homage to her. Her dual deity is Tlaloc. In the interpretation of this duality of water, Tlaloc refers to the celestial waters, the rain that comes down to the earth to fertilise the cultivated land. Xico is also the permanent home of Quetzalcoatl, the deity of wisdom and the creative acts such as art, poetry, music, the sun, and thus fertility. In Xico, Quetzalcoatl gave the inhabitants seeds of corn, which would be the basis of the food of the Mesoamerican peoples.

The three panel work Still Here: Chalchihuitlicue, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc and Further Complexities is inspired on the Church of Tonantzintla in Cholula in Mexico where Indigenous artists and craftspersons in the 17th century conceived an intensity of religious myths and images for a Baroque church and in the midst also placed the local community’s deities and imagery. There is Tlaloc among fruits and flowers and yes angels. The work offers celebratory perspectives from original peoples of the basin of Mexico of place and beings.

Xico is in the State of Mexico and I have been working with the Community Museum of the Valle de Xico since 2009. Xico means navel – the center, in the Indigenous language of Nahuatl. Xico’s pictograph is an island surrounded by mountains and water since the place was surrounded by Lake Chalco which was then desiccated in the early 20th century by a Spanish colonizer in order to illegally gain thousand of hectares of land. The ecocide of the communal water of the lake resulted in a land forced into being a plantation and for the raising of cattle. The communal resources of the lake, which the local inhabitants were dependent upon such as fish and birds were made no longer available. Lake Chalco was part of five lakes interconnected with each other forming one system most which were systematically destroyed by the colonizers. Today, some of the Lake returns and has a new name Lake Tlahuac-Xico.

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