Runa Kawsay is a long-term transmedia project that explores the nuances of Indigenous identity from the personal experiences of the Kichwa community living in Turtle Island (North America).

The Kichwa community is one of the largest ethno-lingustic communities in Ecuador, with large populations migrating to North America and Europe since the late 1950s. With sizable populations spread out in various cities across the US and Canada.

In Kichwa, the term Runa Kawsay talks about the everyday moments that nurture the culture that sustains us.

For many Kichwas in the diaspora our everyday personal rituals and collective celebrations become a blend of deeply rooted traditions with adaptations that reflect our realities in the different territories we occupy.

Wilkay is the first chapter of Runa Kawsay as I begin this project by looking at my own family, acknowledging the sacred in the everyday, and empowering myself to articulate my story as a warmi* of the diaspora.  

Wilkay depicts my journey of healing my connection to my roots through self portraiture, documenting my time with my family during the first year of the pandemic and embracing a life lived between two worlds.

My intention by starting this long term project with my own story is to encourage my collaborators to use image making as a space for community building, empowerment and by reclaiming our narrative to challenge the colonial practices that have attempted to silence us for more than 500 years. 

In close collaboration with members of the Kichwa Hatari collective, a New York City based Kichwa artist collective, the chapter titled Ayllu is a collective documentation of Kichwa families, activists, artists and thinkers permanently living in Turtle Island. 

In this chapter we collectively share the stories of joy and pain, of resistance and resilience of a diasporic community that is being built by a new generation of Kichwas. Through collaborative portraits, text, audio, and interviews we are creating a community based archive from an indigenous perspective for future generations. 

Runa Kawsay is currently in progress in Turtle Island with the support of Women Photograph, and the Kichwa Hatari collective.

Eli Farinango

Eli Farinango is a Kichwa photographer. She was born in Quito, Ecuador, and raised in Ottawa, Canada.
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