In this issue, the featured writers have all found their own way of engaging with this topic and all that it can encompass from the more minute quotidian details of life to broader, more immaterial yens. From video explorations of homeland as a form of enshrinement, to photographs of Colombian landscapes, poems about contemplation and stillness, and odes to family and chosen family, the artists have all chosen to render the pastoral personal and in this way sometimes political. This issue also contains Egg y Pan’s first interview series. Photographers Graciela Iturbide and Patricia Mendoza talk about their work documenting and representing the lives of rural communities in Mexico and give wider insight on the significance of the countryside in an idiosyncratic socio-political context. We hope that these pieces inspire readers to use the pastoral as a framework in which to engage with current political and emotional landscapes and reflect on their own histories of belonging and ‘unbelonging.’
The Pastoral was born as a literary genre that was used by shepherds to express their yens, declare love, and write about their lives in the countryside. With time, the definition expanded to accommodate more modern renditions of similar themes that also include the urban landscape in conversation with nature, environmental theory or preoccupations. The Pastoral as a theme is enticing because of all that it can accommodate.
Bucolic poetry, or what evolved to become pastoral writing, was a genre started in Ancient Greece, as odes to be shared amongst countrymen that were capable of encapsulating political allegory, romance, and quotidian farmers’ lives. Its birth as a literary genre that depicted the lives of the working class and dealt with basic questions of being, and laboral obligations with deviousness, still characterizes the genre today. In Europe, the pastoral evolved into a genre in which urban artists and intellectuals could express their anxieties about modernization. In this sense it denotes the idea of an observer, representing a lifestyle of which he is not truly a part of.
While, The Pastoral is at times a quiet celebration of the gifts that this planet has given to mankind, it can also serve as a painful and ever present reminder of our settler-colonial histories. What does it mean to have citizenship when the mere implication of citizenship comes from the genocide of indigenous peoples? What does it mean to own property? What do we do when the same systems that were put in place in colonial times to oppress black, brown, and marginalized communities are still systems in place today? How can we use the pastoral to talk about the massive environmental crisis we face today and the disproportionate way it affects communities of color, poor communities and the global south?
Environmentalists such as Rachel Carson and Lawrence Buell reclaimed this genre in order to talk about environmental crises, the sixth extinction, and the effects pesticides have on our planet. In The Environmental Imagination by Lawrence Buell, pastoral ideology is reviewed and reflected upon as a tool that has “sometimes activated green consciousness, sometimes euphemized land appropriation. It may direct us towards the realm of physical nature, or it may abstract us from it.” (p.31, Buell)
How can we expound on this and use the pastoral to talk about climate change today? From issues such as the vulnerability of the Amazon at the crosshairs of global capitalism and under a right-wing leader such as Bolsonaro, or the massive humanitarian emergency and the U.S’s refusal to really intervene following the earthquake in Puerto Rico, these crises continue to be more and more pressing in terms of their cost on human life. The fact that proposals such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal are dismissed as too radical or unrealistic when we face the possibility of total societal collapse within our lifetimes, means that we must critically reframe the stakes of the discussion and the struggle. How do we begin to create a praxis in which nature, the valuing of, and the belief in the importance of non-human life, once again takes center stage in political discussion?
The pastoral also urges us to take a look the material framework that has lead us to where we are today. What is the wider ethos that has lead to such a deregulated, life-negating and unsustainable practices on the part of industry and governments? How do we look at climate change through the lens of colonialism in order to decolonize environmental politics?
A central practice of colonial genocide is the taking of land. In “Red Skin, White Masks,” Glen Coulthard writes: “formative acts of violent dispossession set the stage for the emergence of capitalist accumulation and the reproduction of capitalist relations of production by tearing Indigenous societies…from the source of their livelihood—the land”(7). In tearing communities from their land, settlers also jeopardized the wisdom gained from more symbiotic relationships to the land. Hawaiian scholar and activist Haunani-Kay Trask, in her book “From a Native Daughter,” writes about how specificity of location ties in to a specialized knowledge or “umbilical wisdom” of the particular environmental qualities of that location, and how to best benefit from it and care for it: “the wisdom of our creation is reciprocal obligation. If we husband our lands and waters, they will feed and care for us” (59). In this relationship between humans and the land they inhabit, the notion of responsibility becomes fundamental. How do we understand the pastoral as a genre that helps us relearn practices of collective responsibility.
Lastly, the pastoral is also a genre of nostalgia, of a desire for a simpler, more unperturbed, more authentic way of life. For many latinx and POC living in the U.S, the tangible relationship to our homelands and to the natural beauty of our ancestral countries may have been diluted over the span of years or even generations. We can only look upon with wonder and longing at the quotidian connections that our ancestors may have had to the natural processes of life, and the wounds of their severance from this land under colonialism may lied buried deep within us in a place we can no longer easily touch. How can we give ourselves the space for this yearning, how can we expound on it, and how can we uncover, unscramble our ancestral ties? How can we use a past we can no longer remember in order to let us envision a feature that we can fight for in our lifetime?
Although it stems from a specific literary movement this is a vast theme that invites you to engage with it in however way you think you relate to it most. Our Pastoral Project pushes submitting artists and friends of the magazine to reconsider their relationship to land, nature, seasons, food, structures, and whatever else this theme might inspire. Above all, we challenge you to create new work for these submissions.
From a recipe for your favorite herbal remedy, to a film about your grandfather’s garden, to an essay detailing the history of the rubber trade in the Amazon how do you interact with and reimagine the pastoral?
Micro-Video and Film Arts, up to 4 minutes long
Micro-Music-sets, up to 10 minutes (we challenge you to play as many songs as you can within the time slot!)
Micro-Theater, up to 5 minutes
Micro-Performance (Stand up, Performance Art, Movement, Yodeling?) up to 5 minutes
Micro-Class (Teach us something in 5 minutes!)
Micro-Writing, 400 words or less (*if you have something longer form that you believe would fit this issue’s theme, we encourage you to make a note of it in your submission in order to have it broken up into a series which would gradually be published by us.)
Micro-Visual Art, up to the artist interpretation. Do you want to paint tiny things in big canvases? Do you want to paint giant things in small canvases? Do you want to make a series of tiny paintings?
More-Micro… if you have something that you believe would have a home in our publication or event series, we encourage you to use our themes in whichever way they inspire you, and submit!
Open-Mic… anything you wish to spontaneously share at the event, it does not have to follow the theme, it just has to be under 1 minute!
For those who would like to make a submission and have questions, we kindly encourage you to reach out at email@example.com
Join us in this curatorial endeavor!
Although each issue features the work of Latinx artists, we strongly encourage anyone to attend the events, engage with, share, and promote the work as much as possible. At some point at the event there will be an open-mic, in which anybody will be able to share their work. We want to emphasize Egg y Pan is a safe space that does not welcome art that is: racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, sexist, in any way!