On the empty stage, there are sounds of a chair scraping across the floor and a clock ticking. The projection spaces fill with images of an open suitcase full of family photographs, slowly zooming in on the details in the pictures. The Woman describes the suitcase, which remains stowed under the old stereo in the front room of her parents’ house. The room is full of photographs and memorabilia such as trophies and pennants—it is a monument to the family’s good times. The suitcase contains the pictures of the dead and nameless. It sits safely out of reach beneath the stereo. On the day of the Woman’s grandmother’s death, she and her parents remove their pictures of her from the wall and place them into the suitcase, pushing her out of sight.
This scene introduces the central symbol of the suitcase. As the suitcase contains pictures of the dead, it becomes a repository for the grief that the Woman and her family feel. The suitcase makes that grief easier to carry (putting the pictures away is a concrete step for processing grief and it keeps those memories both safe and out of sight), but the suitcase also—with each added death—becomes heavier and more difficult to bear. This scene also hints at the community’s constant collective grief. The fact that they have a designated process (putting pictures in the suitcase) for dealing with loss shows that they’ve had to grapple with how best to tolerate their ongoing grief. Aboriginal communities like the Woman’s are in a constant state of grief for the lands, traditions, cultures, and people that have been lost, which leads to rituals like these.