Perceived differences among people has often allowed for exploitation, marginalization, segregation and alienation. Inside our DNA we carry genetic markers that prove that we share the same ancestors and are one human family.
Xavier Cortada’s interdisciplinary work depicts the ancestral journeys of this Hemisphere's current inhabitants as a route to liberation. In their blood they capture evidence of the routes their deep ancestors took from their original journey out of Africa 60,000 years ago. By marking the appearance and frequency of genetic markers in modern humans, we can determine when and where ancient humans moved around the world.
The art piece uses genetic data (collected from individuals born across the Americas and tested through the Genographic Project) to explore how nature influenced human migration and history. The artist will create a portrait of his maternal and paternal ancestors' journeys as they populated this hemisphere. All of our Hemisphere's ancestral journeys lead back to the same place. Showing us that we are all one human family, our DNA helps us find that our "liberator” is inside of us, inside ourselves:
For our ancestors, the natural world was the only world. They navigated through it —slowly moving where nature provided them with better opportunities to hunt and gather.
Today, the biggest threat we face is a lack of connection to one another and to our natural world. This work shows that we are descended from folks who walked through Africa 60,000 years ago.
Some stayed there. Others left Africa and populated the remainder of the Eastern Hemisphere. Some of their descendants began arriving in the Americas during the last 500 years.
However, 12,000 years-ago, a small group of their descendants (including the artist’s maternal ancestors) chased reindeer through Siberia and across the Bering Straits. Within two millennia these few dozen people had populated the Americas.
Since time immemorial, factions, whether based on nationalism, race, religion, sexual orientation, class or ethnicity, have created distance between people who are genetically the same. All humans capacity to free their minds of prejudices and practices that are destroying our societies and our planet.
Using DNA from a diverse group of individuals, the artist creates work that will help change the way we see one another and to liberate ourselves from false notions of who we are-- or aren’t.
Click here to see related work: Ancestral Journeys