Zoomorfia No. 1
Franz Caba. Dominican Republic
I don’t remember the first time I was called “Pájaro”, I don’t know if it was something that was born with me or if it got stuck to me in a moment of my childhood.
When i was a little boy my mom studied fashion design for girls and all the dresses she made were dropped on me, for me it was like a game, a fantasy, I couldn’t care less if the dresses were for girls, brooms or dolls, in that moment I felt them as mine, I didn’t feel pájaro.
I remember that I loved to play with my sister’s dolls, when nobody was seeing me, I’d sneak out in her room to dress and brush the dolls. One day I was found playing with the dolls by a service lady that worked at home. I was filled with terror imagining her telling my parents what she had seen. I remember she told me: “That’s not for boys, if you keep doing it, you’ll turn into a pájaro.”
I loved to play with flowers, I was amazed by their colors and forms, one time i was at my godmother’s front stairs, on the steps I was organizing a line of little flowers I had picked from a parish near her house, when she saw me, she came out yelling at me, asking me what i thought i was doing and shouting at me that men don’t play with flowers, that it was something that pájaros did.
At school I was bullied for every reason, because I was fat, ugly, weird, and when they got tired of all of it, they started to bully me because I was pájaro. I think that was the first time I felt truly vulnerable, because it was also the first time I realized that in fact I was pájaro.
Since that moment and for many years, I have fantasized with the nightmare of one day my human body wouldn’t be able to contain my pajaril self and from the stretch marks in my tits and belly feathers would start to sprout in front of everybody.
In 5th grade I blacked out singing the national anthem. I remember I started feeling light headed and for a fraction of a second I thought: coño, this is it, now I’m turning into a pájaro just before falling at the feet of a girl that studied with me. I remember a guy saying: the pájaro fainted..! while 4 teachers grabbed me by the extremities and took me to lay down inside a classroom.
At the building I grew up in, lived a mister pájaro, Don Victor. Every night he took a parade of bugarrones into his house, it was a well known secret. One day when my father was bringing us from school we found the building we lived in surrounded by the police. Don Victor, by 47 stab wounds, had been murdered by his lovers to take his money. I recall when the police was taking out his body, covered in a white sheet while the neighbors whisper: Se lambién al pájaro (The pájaro has been killed)
I came out of the closet two times, the first time convinced by the gringo fantasy of MTV and the second time before our family Christmas dinner of 2009, the first time they refused to believe me, the second time it was hard for them to accept me.
The same year I came out of the closet, Miki Bretón, another pájaro from the Dominican TV was stabbed to death by a gay lover, I remember sitting in front of the TV with my mother and I heard her say: how ugly pájaros die. Six years later, Claudio Nasco was murdered in the same way, but this time my mother told me: That’s how you are going to die…!
When I came out of the closet my relationship with my dad went to hell, before that we had a difficult relationship but after confirming my pájaro, my father’s answer was to stop looking or talking to me for 2 years. The only time we spoke during that period was through an email, in his response he told me that I was a monster, that I was not his son, that I was a fucking pájaro.
When I heard the word “pájaro” I never imagined myself, my head had taken charge to manufacture a ficticious body and face that contained that noun. For a long time that image of the pájaro that I had in my memory served me as an escape route. I was clear that I was pájaro, but I was not the pájaro people were talking about.
I’d like to remember the time I lost fear, if I ever had, to be pájaro and to feel comfortable inside this linguistic animal vessel. I’d like to remember the moment I embraced my feathers, my tits and my desires, but I can’t. I keep fantasizing the moment feathers start to sprout from every corner of my body, now I want to be that monster, that thing, that pájaro.
1. (Noun) Bird
2. (Noun) homosexual person in Dominican Republic.
Franz Caba (1991) is an Architect and self-taught multidisciplinary artist whose work is an intimate exercise that explores issues around identity, the body and vulnerability. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, he holds an architecture degree from Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (2017) and is currently enrolled in a master in contemporary art at the same university. Franz participated in the Caribbean Linked V art residency at Ateliers ‘89 in Aruba (2018) and was selected for a CATAPULT Stay Home Artist Residency (2020).
He has exhibited his work in the Dominican Republic and Aruba. He was awarded the Premio Diario Libre de Arte Contemporáneo (2015) and has been selected for several art contests in Dominican Republic.
Franz’s work is influenced by psychology and states of mind. He sometimes presents physically entangled characters symbolizing the loss of mental integrity or bodies that are filled with an animalistic wrath, fighting over fabric while searching for a way out.
Curator: Nelson Gonzalez & Gerardo Zavarce
Production: Nelson Gonzalez & Zurishaddai Tremus
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EL PRAN Project thanks Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Caribisch Gebied for their unconditional support and for making this Virtual Showroom possible.