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59 Leslie Marmon Silko’s Photo-­ Narratives ​ “A Story Connected with Every Place, Every Object in the Landscape” Leslie Marmon Silko creates autobiographical photo-­ texts— narratives in book form in which words and photographs inform, parallel, or contradict each other. The uncaptioned photographic images float like memories and create “a part of the field of vision for the reading of the text.” Rather than overwhelm the image, the words “depend upon the pictures for a subtle resonance.” (“As a Child,” Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit 169) Like Peter Najarian, Laguna Pueblo writer-­ artist Leslie Marmon Silko interweaves text and photographs in the service of self-­ narration. Rather than focus on historical trauma, however, Silko emphasizes the interpenetration of past and present. In her photo-­text autobiographies, Silko moves back and forth between Western linear time and Pueblo cyclical time and emphasizes the coexistence of past and future in the present moment. Educated in the United States and raised at Laguna Pueblo, about forty miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Silko is schooled not only in two distinct conceptions of time but in the process of negotiating between them. Silko’s Pueblo sense of time is geocentric, focused on natural cycles of the earth—seasons, meteorological patterns, and geological processes. Silko’s autobiographical persona is grounded in specific places, and those places are temporalized. Time and place, then, are interpenetrating. “My interest in time,” Silko explains, “comes from my childhood with the old-­ time people” for whom “time was not a series of ticks of a clock” but rather “round” with “specific moments and specific locations ” (“Notes” 136). Silko elaborates on the traditional Pueblo notion of time: “All times go on existing side by side for all eternity. No moment is lost or destroyed. . . . The past and the future are the same because they exist only in the present of our imaginations” (136–37). For the old-­ time Pueblo people, time passes, one day succeeds another, one week follows another, but the “succession is cyclic” (137). In The Turquoise Ledge, Silko’s autobiographical account of family, indigenous, and geological history, she explains: “I learned the world of the clock and calendar when Literature-Based Image-and-Text Forms 60 I started school, but I’ve never lost my sense of being alive without reference to clocks or calendars” (47). For Silko “nothing is lost, left behind, or destroyed. It is only changed” (“Notes” 137). This is the continuum, noted by historian of Maori art Ngarino Ellis, a nonlinear evocation of time notable in indigenous life writing, that “moves back and forth into and from the past and present” (440). As well as embracing Pueblo cyclical time, Silko has come to believe in an ancient Mayan notion of time as “a living being” with “a personality , a sort of identity. Time was alive,” she explains, “and might pass, but time did not die; moreover, the days and weeks eventually would return ” (“Notes” 136). Of course, Silko does not naively deny the ravages of colonialism. Rather, she emphasizes a Pueblo epistemology that considers cycles of time on a grand geological scale. Throughout her work, Silko displays an acute awareness that despite the massive losses of the more than five hundred years since Europeans arrived, the Pueblo past is very much alive in the present. The ancestors “didn’t go anywhere; they are still here, right now” (Turquoise 274)—most often in the form of stories embedded in specific places. The Pueblo people in the Southwest are “the descendants of the original natives of North America’s vast southwest region” (Sando 1). Scholars estimate that Pueblo people have lived in the area continuously since “about ten thousand years before Christ” (Sando 1). Indigenous writers, artists, and scholars often need to explain how such a long history in a specific place results in a deep connection between time and place: “Here Indian people remain in their traditional homelands, and much that is vital in life remains as it was, timeless. Here is the oldest continuous record of human habitation on the continent outside of Mesoamerica, a habitation that has fashioned this region into a humanized landscape suffused with meanings, myths, and mysteries” (Ortiz 1). Storied places animate the past. Tribal elders, Silko concludes, appreciate “time as space, infinite generous space on the plane of being” (Bennett n.p.). Cultural geographers, architects, anthropologists, philosophers, and feminists have written about conceptions of space. Often space and place, two related but distinct concepts, are conflated...


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