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It is necessary to deconstruct in order to re-signify

© Taylla de Paula

Decolonization, connection, and preservation are the key words of the debate that united 16 specialists from various parts of the world, around the theme “Art as a way of union,” during the Conference Echoes of the South Atlantic, at the Goethe-Institut Salvador. 

The discussion involved ways of deconstructing the role of (political, economic, and cultural) dominance of the colonizing nations. The participants considered as being fundamental the construction of a network of connections between nations of the South, as well as the preservation of their symbolic places.

“It is necessary to instigate new forms of art, promoting ancestry and the emancipation of the artists,” highlights the Angolan architect Filomena Carvalho.

The reflection is inspired by practical examples of what this means, such as the story told by the Nigerian princess Iya Adedoyin Talabi Faniyi, about the Oshogo Sacred Forest, in which artists live and expose their wood, rock, and concrete sculptures, amidst nature, in a place of cultural and religious relevance. The works of art attract thousands of people to the forest. “The initiative not only values local art, but also preserves the Sacred Forest, which is as important for the environment as for our identity and culture” affirms the princess.

Another action of preservation is part of the personal story of the musician, professor, and researcher Manual Monestel. He integrates a movement of valorization of the calypso in Costa Rica, which culminated in the International Calypso Festival. “Previously considered a form of cultural expression marginalized by the local elite, today the rhythm attracts thousands of people to the capital San José during the vent, being of extreme importance to the local identity and economy,” comments the composer. 

In contrast, the artist and investigator of Amerindian and Afro-Brazilian cultures, Anita Ekman, speaks about the sambista Waldir 59, who, although not well known, was one of the founders of the samba school Portela. “He died without the recognition that he deserved, although having been the creator of one of the most famous samba schools in Brazil,” laments Ekman, who worked to diffuse the composer’s work.

It is of consensus among the group that these initiatives are enabled when there is a network acting together. This way, people and institutions of the South need to connect and support local artists, without the concepts imposed by the colonizing nations concerning what is art and curatorship, the role of the museum and of the artist. For everyone, this must be done in a harmonic and egalitarian way, in order to develop and value local cultures - and, above all, without the oppressive standards of the capitalist system.

“We need to recuperate memory and to track the origins of the different artistic expressions of our countries, such as folkloric, native, indigenous, and African arts, that are not in the museums,” reinforces Manuel Monestel.

There is a tendency for colonized nations to lose their feeling of belonging, due to the impacts of the colonizing cultural violence, making the internal dialogue itself more difficult, according to the Guinea-Bissau writer Abdulai Sila. “Certainly, this is an obstacle, besides the oppressing capitalist system, which makes the understanding difficult.” To him, the process of decolonization and organization needs to be done in a more humane way.

There is yet another challenge that must be taken into consideration, according to Emi Koide. “Decolonization is trendy. Searching for novelty, Europe appeals to artists from the South. Besides, the very concept of art is Western. We need to deal with this. Otherwise, everything remains the same,” she reflects. 

Participants of the barcamp: Amanda Abi Khalil, Anita Ekman, Iya Adedoyin Talabi Faniyi, Marie-Christine Gay, Emi Koide, Filomena Carvalho, Manfred Stoffl, Manuel Monestel Ramírez, Patrick Pessoa, Jane de Hohenstein, Mona Suhrbier, Wolfgang Schneider, Tatewaki Nio, Ana Hupe. 

by Iara Crepaldi