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The Ofrenda Community Project, Nia’s Reflection

Family Trees

Nia's object, a lemon and orange tree

A collaboration between the Museum & WriteGirl

Community voices within Museum exhibits bring added value, perspectives, and spirit.  In partnership with WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity and critical thinking, the Community Engagement team at the Museum created The Ofrenda Community Project.  Participants received at-home storytelling kits anchored in the ofrenda or altar located in the Becoming Los Angeles exhibition.  WriteGirl youth selected an inspiration object in the ofrenda that they felt drawn to and created a memory map based on that object to explore connections and meaning in their personal experiences.  They then crafted their own object to add to the ofrenda and developed a creative writing piece derived from the memory map activity.

Nia's inspiration piece, pictured below, is the Tree of Origin, which represents life, growth, and wisdom.  This photo holder includes images of prominent Angelenos such as Charles Lummis who was an activist for Indigenous communities, Abel Stearns an important landowner in L.A.,  and Harris & Sarah Newmark one of the founders of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Ofrenda tree of origin

MEET NIA, 17 YEARS OLD FROM WEST HILLS, CALIFORNIA 

Nia Headshot

Nia is a Junior at El Camino Real Charter Highschool in L.A., where she is a member of the BSU (Black Student Union) and French Club.  For the past three years, she has been participating in WriteGirl, a writing organization for teenage girls in L.A.  She has published her poem “I hear Coyotes” in their 2019 anthology book, “This Moment”.  Nia is currently working on her first novel, a modern-age fantasy story about six friends.  She hopes her novels will one day be published and inspire many other people.  She wants to acknowledge her weird, dramatic, and inspirational family.  To her loud Chinese mother, her strong Black father, her crazy and brave older brother, and her wild little brother; she thanks them for pushing her and loving her every day.

 


 

I was inspired by the ofrenda object that resembles a family tree, called the “Tree of Origin.” It made me think about my Chinese and African American ancestry and my own unique family trees. I thought about the two trees at my house, the lemon and orange, and how they are so different, so I decided to have my ofrenda creation be the two trees with items representing my two ancestries underneath: a set of broken chains for my African American side, and some pieces of gold with a pick-axe for my Chinese side. When I was jotting down ideas for my piece, I thought about how my two family trees resemble each other, so I had the poems mirror each other in format, theme, metaphor, and perspective. You can read this poem one tree at a time or even from left to right from one tree to another tree.

Family Trees

Grandma

The tree
Our lemon tree
Its roots buried into this country
When the ships came
Bringing our seed in chains
The gardeners with whips in their hands
But through that seed
A resilient and proud tree has grown
It has resisted:
Time
Whips
Chains
Masters
People
It has stayed strong
He is one of the many lemons
Strong skin
Full of flavor
Life tried to make him bitter
But like the rest of the lemons
He resisted
Grew
Became sweet
Added another branch
A son
In L.A.
He met an orange
And fell in love
She’s an entirely different kind of fruit
I wished he chose a lemon
This orange
Is sweet
Strong
Full of flavor
I wish I was in L.A.
Watching him wear an African wedding vest
Watching them plant a new kind of tree
An orange lemon tree
New and resilient

 

Gung Gung

The tree
Our orange tree
Is just a sapling in this country
We, the seed, have sailed here
With hopes and dreams
Leaving everything behind
Our sapling is resilient
Like other orange trees
Who have resisted:
Time
Oceans
Poverty
Mines
People
We have stayed and grown strong
She has a strong skin
Full of sweetness, a kind heart
Yet tart, a quick wit tongue
A true “Kwai Nui”*
Adventurous
A tomboy
Flirty
Actress
In L.A.
She met a lemon
And fell in love
He’s a different fruit
I thought, Why?
I thought, he would never fit
I thought, their fruit would be disgusting
Yet he has proven me wrong
He is strong
Sweet
Proud
Here in L.A.
Watching the Lion Dance surround the hall
Watching them plant a new kind of tree
An orange lemon tree
New and resilient

*Kwai Nui: This means “bad girl” or “naughty girl” in Chinese

Nia documents the making of her ofrenda object

Nia mourning loss of lemon tree

Mourning my lost lemon tree.

Nia holding orange

Tasting inspiration.

Clay being molded

The beginning!

Cutting felt

A fuzzy mess.

Clay model of tree base

The branches have grown.

Making clay lemons

When life gives you clay lemons…

Two clay trees

The trees are growing.

Clay trees with lemons and oranges

Oranges, lemons, and leaves! Oh my!

Nia and trees

Completion!

 

1 of 1

Mourning my lost lemon tree.

Tasting inspiration.

The beginning!

A fuzzy mess.

The branches have grown.

When life gives you clay lemons…

The trees are growing.

Oranges, lemons, and leaves! Oh my!

Completion!