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My Father, My Martyr, and Me and the 'unarcheology' of home

Usually when I walk into a performance there’s a rumble of conversation among the audience before the show begins. The audience members at My Father, My Martyr, and Me, however, are quiet. Seated in a circle at the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center, surrounding what will soon be the performance space, we’re quiet, focused on the pile of dirt in the middle of the room. The pile of dirt in the middle of the room that’s rising and falling, rising and falling, breathing. I tried to match my breathing to the pile of dirt’s and ended up hyperventilating.

The show starts. Fargo rises from the ground, and the dirt that was burying him falls off his body, creating small piles around his feet. He introduces us to the show. Question the difference between metaphor and biology. Wonder how you’ve been rendered and by whom. Love the martyr, Sirhan Sirhan. Love Fargo. Fuck Indiana Jones. Recognize power. Dig.

“My existence is up for debate,” Fargo says, but instead of debating his existence as a queer Palestinian, Fargo uses the next 90 minutes to use his invented method of “unarcheology” to take the audience through a non-linear narrative around family, futurity, love, and rage. With his bed of dirt and a worn shovel, Fargo unearths and reburies the past, present, and future of his resistance and survival.

Photo taken by Chuck Dries at the March 30, 2019 showing in the Empty Space Theater

The soundtrack of My Father, My Martyr, and Me is a wooden ball rolling across the floor, thudding into flesh as audience members throw it back into Fargo’s hands. It’s the crunch of shovel hitting compact dirt. Rough, desperate breathing as Fargo hurriedly spits out a transcribed court case and a poem made of words his dad tells him over the phone as he clutches a ladder plastered with pages and pages of words, many of them covered by thick black bars hiding the REDACTED details. Dirt spilling onto concrete floor. It’s the song Fargo sings while crouched over Sirhan Sirhan’s diary pages and letters in the dark. Filling up the room with his words: “They say America is the greatest country in the world. I have yet to experience it,” and “RFK must be disposed of. Robert F. Kennedy must soon die die die die.”

It’s music and the sound of dozens of feet shuffling across the floor in a dance party that Fargo pulls the audience into. The first night I saw the show (because it was so good there had to be a second), I danced with my brother. The following night, with my girlfriend. Neither of them like to dance, but I do. I know I don’t look cool, but I have fun. And that, Fargo says, is a decolonial act. Having fun while I dance is a reclamation of my body. My queer, brown body and Fargo’s queer, brown body dance wildly, joyously, fully. “Colonize that!” Fargo says as the audience returns to their seats.

Photo taken by Chuck Dries at the March 30, 2019 showing in the Empty Space Theater

Fargo sits among piles of dirt in a red unitard, with glitter on his face. According to pinkwashed propaganda, "if you want queerness, Palestine doesn't want you." According to pinkwashed propaganda, Fargo's a contradiction. He smirks at this as he crawls around, making kissing noises and invoking the greatest nightmare of the oppressor — someone who doesn’t fit within the dominant narrative and even worse, doesn’t care. In an act of reclamation, Fargo refuses to allow the strands of his being to be pulled apart. He doesn’t lay them down flat in neat identity lines. Instead, he’s braiding them together, tight.

The unarcheologist, as Fargo teaches us, contextualizes the warm bodies and living spirits behind what museums call artifacts, collections. Analyzes the power that’s used to write, render, categorize, erase. “Queer home and maybe we can find it,'' among the stories that have been stolen. Home being everywhere and nowhere. Being Fargo’s 2167, 200 years after the colonization of Palestine, where there’s no more occupation, no more white people, only sunshine on tan skin, “the sweetest kiss”. Being the transition from childhood to adulthood and witnessing the death of our heroes, in Fargo’s case Robert F. Kennedy and Indiana Jones. Or maybe more accurately, enacting the murder of our heroes by our own hands as we recognize these objects of naive admiration as the symbols of oppression they always were. Still kissable though, in what Fargo calls, again, a decolonial act.

Photo taken by Chuck Dries at the March 30, 2019 showing in the Empty Space Theater

In the beginning of the show Fargo told the audience, “If you want to love my personal you have to promise to love my political.” Through all the memories, predictions, dreams, and musings Fargo shares with us in My Father, My Martyr, and Me, we learn what it means to love “the fucked up body” and what we need to do to love it better. While delivering handfuls of dirt to audience members, Fargo tells us that the show will never end. There will be no conclusion, no curtain call or house lights up that indicate it’s time for us to go. Fargo’s trapped in this continuously re-opened wound, and now we are too. He lays down in the dirt, closes his eyes, and says he’ll see us in 2167. Left in silence, audience members must choose for themselves when to leave. Slowly, we return our handfuls of dirt to the pile, sprinkling it over Fargo’s body, and walk out the door. We’re back in the world. It’s 2019. And Palestine is still occupied.

Dienae Hunter is a dancer and performance artist currently trying their best in ASU’s Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership Master’s program. Their preferred medium is sexy food and their favorite way of working is collaboratively with fellow queer hotties. Follow them on Instagram at @realdnahunter to see pictures of their tiny dog Claus.

Photo taken by Sofia Dotta

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