A new exhibition at the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block documents the complex intersection of religion and migration along the borderlands of Arizona. “The Place Where Clouds are Formed,” a Magnum Foundation-supported project, combines poetry, photography, and critical text to examine the impact of current and historic government policies on the Tohono O’odham people who have been separated from their sacred sites, ancestral lands, and one another by the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Place Where Clouds Are Formed combines poetry by Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O’odham), critical text by Martín Zícari, and photography by Gareth Smit to investigate the intersection of religion, migration and community in the Sonoran Desert—more specifically in the original territories of the Tohono O’odham. The project started in 2018 as a result of a Magnum Foundation Grant, and this installation includes creative explorations by activist Amber Ortega (Tohono O’odham) and potter Reuben Naranjo (Tohono O’odham) to further explore this land.
The U.S./Mexico border in Arizona separates the Tohono O’odham people as well as their sacred sites and ancestral land—this international border has long been the site of struggles over sovereignty. Since the Guadalupe Treaty in 1848, and later the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, the desert and the people were repeatedly divided and clustered by federal laws. The desert has increasingly become the focus of political debates and issues related to immigration, disrupting the livelihood of its inhabitants and those who transit through it.