This body of work flows from contemplations about the sacred amidst irreverence. The work invokes the spiritual within the interiors of an old cigar factory located in Long Island City, Queens. This factory exists on homeland of Lenape and Canarsie peoples. From the late 1800’s to 1960 the building manufactured hand-made cigars using the labor of thousands of people. It’s now a renovated commercial space and in this space my work focused on the sacred tobacco plant. The plant is indigenous to the Americas and has ceremonial and medicinal uses for native peoples across the Americas and Caribbean Islands. I began creating work in this space with thoughts about the factory’s role in furthering the desecration of this sacred plant, and at the same time, I reflected on the experience of my Puerto Rican grandmother who picked and chewed tobacco as a young woman. My work invited spiritual presence into the spaces of Cigar Factory.
Photo Credit: Sakeenah Saleem