I remember the kitchen table as a place of sharing. A place of warmth where sharing of culture, sharing of pain, sharing of love, sharing of stories, and sharing of everything else took place. The kitchen table is symbolic for a lot of families, and for my family which was defined by immigration histories and American assimilation tales, we treasured that kitchen table as if it was part of the family itself.

Thinking back on it, I thought that with the death of my grandmother parts of my family’s culture I treasured—like having cousins over for Sunday gravy or the unannounced afternoon family visits—would also come to an end. While that did not happen when she died 20 years ago, I was right that traditions would change with the loss of matriarchs.

The last matriarchal generation to disappear from the kitchen table was almost three years ago, right before I started my MFA program. For the last few years, I have seen my family drift apart. In a way, I believe we have all filled our heads with an American individualist dream. The want for one’s own separate kitchen table has created a disconnect to the familial foundation that built us.

This installation has turned my artistic practice inward, working in an interdisciplinary way to rebuild a communal space to collectively reenact familial history and community. I use my art as not only a way of understanding my own grief but also to stop further loss by opening space for conversation. I am revitalizing that kitchen table that lives so deep in my memory. I am revealing my family’s culture’s dedication to hanging around, its reluctance to being forgotten or deliberately abandoned, and showing its ability to shine bright.

Copyright Nikki Silva. 2020. All Rights Reserved.
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