Samay Arcentales Cajas
Ecuador / Kichwa / Toronto
In 2019, Cecilia Araneda spoke with Samay Arcentales Cajas as part of a multi-year curatorial research project on Latin Canadian cinema. This is a brief extract of her research.
Samay Arcentales Cajas is a Toronto-based Kichwa artist and filmmaker exploring human-land relations, the new media dimensions of indigenous cosmology, and immersive art as a site of liberation. Her works have been shown at ImagineNATIVE, Xpace Cultural Centre, Mayworks Festival of Working People, Maysumak Quichwa Film Showcase, among others. Samay works as video designer, and editor for artists and filmmakers across the country. | samaycajas.com
Samay Arcentales Cajas is a two-spirited Indigenous Kichwa artist. Her art practice is diverse and ranges from filmmaking to digital art to theatre. Arcentales was born in Toronto and grew up in both Ecuador and Toronto. In her creative practice, she explores human connection to land, the meaning of urban Indigeneity (which is linked to displacement) and how to to meld together Indigenous cosmology with technology.
Arcentales’ work diverges from the Western notion of storytelling by placing emphasis on the importance of the spirit within an Indigenous context. Her work is also a reaction against the notion of Latinidad, which is by its very nature a colonial construct in opposition to the indigenous.
Arcentales also frequently examines in her work her identity as Mindalae, or a Kichwa person who is outside of their territory seeking more resources for their community. The departure of the Mindalae from their home territory is only ever temporary, and they are in an active state of needing to return. Arcentales, as a self-identified Mindalae, pinpoints herself as in a state of being away.
Field Notes from Samay
CA: It’s been over two years since we spoke in Toronto pre-pandemic. What have you been working on?
SA: My latest solo project is a short film named Mindalaes in Quarantine, which was shot during the first global lockdown in 2020 through the Queer Emergencies Program at TQFF. This film gave a glimpse into the lives of me and my family as we struggled to make sense of what was happening around us, navigating yet another pandemic as Indigenous peoples. This theme of recurring difficult times in relation to unknown disease is something I wanted to address and challenge.
As soon as the pandemic hit I began documenting me and my family, knowing that this archival work could serve generations to come. Disease has historically been used as a tool of genocide, so what does it look like to witness a family survive through it in a contemporary context? What tools do we have and use? How does our relation to one another lift us up? The teachings that have been passed on to us from generation to generation allowed us to find stability, love, and strength even when confronting the biggest life altering situations.
CA: What’s next on the horizon for you?
SA: I look forward to having more time and space to create works more consistently. I attempt to have a delicate balance between contract jobs, collaborative projects, and more personal ones. Truthfully, it does often go out of balance, and I’m sure many can relate to that. I’d like to continue to hone down on my skills as I delve into digital world building to express Kichwa cosmologies that often feel obscured by everyday tasks forced on us through capitalism.
- The Dancing Heart, 16 mm short film – post production
- Brave, music video – 2019
- In Moment, 16 mm short film – 2017
- Searching for Light, short film – 2017
- Will You Listen: Latinx Voices of Tkaranto, documentary series, 2015
- Rimanakuna, short stop-motion film – 2014
- Illegalized, short documentary – 2014