No matter the person’s path to get here, few people inside or outside are convinced that the system is just or constructive for the greater good. Here in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, artist Said Dokins shares the words and nicknames of people who live in a so-called “supermax” prison in this calligraphic art mural, an ornamented emblem to preserve memories and restore a sense of connectedness.
The muralist says that his work here was only possible with the participation of residents. Listening to people gave him the inspiration and the necessary elements, a painted alloy of memories that acknowledges the many routes that lead here.
Dokins says that dignity is one of the qualities his art seeks to preserve, or build, with the mural he calls Memoria Canera (a space for memory). He says he “gathered phrases, experiences, words used frequently in the prison’s daily life, but also poems, long writings, tales, feelings,” – painted into the composition, retained and preserved on the wall.
Here the sentence fragments, words, letters, all are poured together, forming a new human metal, a combined product that reveals the typical qualities of people and life in a place that can be absent of humanity but which nonetheless is a place where people are living.
“Memoria Canera reflects identity, memory, and life in jail. It’s about the underground culture that emerges in there, from the language, that includes the slang used inside, the nicknames of the people, to the deepest thoughts about confinement and freedom,” he says.
A creative gift to the institution, Said also creates perhaps with the knowledge that many people will rejoin greater society. Our incarceration systems need to take that into account, and ultimately we all are connected no matter the separation.