Maya Mercer’s photo series “The parochial segments” is the starting point for her joint project “YUBA – Ring of fire” with playwright and author Albert Ostermaier.

Originally, Yuba County in California, like the entire United States, belonged to Native Americans. Entire indigenous communities (societies, peoples, tribes) were attacked by the gold prospectors and driven off their land.

Maya Mercer’s “YUBA – Ring of fire”

Mercer’s protagonists are the descendants of white people who strayed here less than 100 years ago, fleeing the destruction (and drought) of their agriculture in the Great Plains. These “Okies” flooded California in waves that remind us of today’s migration movements, and encountered the same resistance, prejudice and cruelty – from their fellow American whites. This was not a racial conflict, but a class conflict, and it still is.

Maya Mercer has known this community since her youth and lived there continuously from 2012 to 2021. Mercer staged and photographed mainly local teenage girls and a boy with indigenous roots. The photographs are not a direct “reportage”, but rather see themselves as an artistic record of a “karmic debt” to the land, which is now characterised by extreme drought as a result of climate change.

Albert Ostermaier has taken up the mood of the photographs and written a series of poems. This has resulted in a combination of two different art forms, which will be reflected in a reading by Ostermaier.

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