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“Metaphrase: Idioms”
Summer Residency Duration - July 2016 till September 2016
Exhibit Duration - September 16th till October 1st, 2016

Solo(s) Project House
972 Broad Street, Newark, NJ

Excerpt from "Un-speaking a Theology of Otherness in David D. Oquendo's Metaphrase:Idioms" by Eric Valosin

The Extranjero
With the help of Oquendo’s disambiguation (which is often provided in the titles of the work), the walls now take a new meaning, plastered with what turns out to be off-beat, non-sensical Spanish idiomatic phrases. Just when I think I’ve solved the riddle, I’m faced with another refusal of meaning.

“Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana; si no, hasta que llegue tu hermana.”

Directly translating to something involving a “little frog ass,” the refreshingly irreverent non-sequitor is actually a Spanish nursery rhyme spoken encouragingly to children after a scraped knee or other ailment; something like the English, “Dust yourself off and try again.” “Heal, heal, tadpole tail. If you don’t get better today, you’ll get better tomorrow,” the Spanish goes on to say, “if not, then when your sister arrives.”

Repeated over and over on almost every gallery surface, this becomes a mantra for the extranjero, the foreigner, the other. In a way, it seems a fitting sanctuary in today’s political climate.

The bronze lettered entry wall is the only one sporting a different phrase, lyrics from Puerto Rican singer Noel Estrada’s “En Mi Viejo San Juan.” The song tells of the singer’s return to his beloved home country after many years, only to find, “time passed by / and destiny mocked / my terrible nostalgia, / and I couldn’t return / to the San Juan that I loved.”

Oquendo, a Puerto Rican American himself, speaks of this inability to return. “Even if you try, you’ll never go back to that fairy tale,” he explains, “You can’t become a child again.” He describes hearing those lyrics and realizing it was speaking of his own experience, always labeled as the Puerto Rican in America, and as the American in Puerto Rico. He smiles, references his brown skin and admits he barely speaks any Spanish.

“Metaphrase: Idioms”