Category Archives: Latin America

Encuentro Internacional de Estudios Visuales Latinoamericanos 2014


III Encuentro Internacional de Estudios Visuales Latinoamericanos 25, 26 y 27 de junio de 2014 en la UAEH, Pachuca de Soto, Hidalgo, México

El Tercer Encuentro Internacional de Estudios Visuales Latinoamericanos, tiene la finalidad de reunir especialistas internacionales en relación con el estudio de la imagen como instrumento fundamental para la construcción tanto de memorias colectivas como del acontecer histórico latinoamericano. En esta ocasión, el Encuentro centrará su atención en las metodologías del estudio de las imágenes y la cultura visual.

La propuesta de la Red va mucho más allá de la Historia Oficial, que ha utilizado la imagen y el registro visual para justificar políticas de exclusión o interpretaciones sesgadas e interesadas del transcurrir histórico. También va más allá de los métodos empleados por historiadores de carácter tradicional, que han considerado la imagen como un subproducto histórico, un objeto auxiliar que acompaña a la palabra o, en el mejor de los casos, la ilustra.

La Red sostiene que la imagen (y, en general, la cultura visual) desarrolla estructuras propias que conforman discursos que deben ser leídos en otras claves: rigurosas, actuales y tomando posición.

La imagen provoca procesos de intertextualidad que la historia y las ciencias sociales no han sabido o no han querido explorar, ni asumir. Hoy en día, es imposible acceder al estudio del pasado y del presente de una manera eficaz y verosímil si no tenemos en cuenta la imagen, instrumento que sobrepasa la noción limitada de documento que maneja el discurso escrito.

La imagen plantea sus propias condiciones (y contradicciones), y responde a preguntas que no están presentes en la ortodoxia de la tradición histórica. Además, en momentos en que la construcción y recuperación de las memorias sociales e individuales se ha convertido en un reto para la academia, las imágenes son un instrumento ineludible, una herramienta de comprensión quizás más cercana al individuo social y a los procesos de globalización en los que estamos inmersos.

El Tercer Encuentro Internacional de Estudios Visuales Latinoamericanos tendrá lugar en el marco del III Coloquio Internacional Imagen y Culturas que organizan el Cuerpo Académico de Estudios Históricos y Antropológicos y el Grupo de Investigación en Estudios Sociales y Culturales del Área Académica de Historia y Antropología de la Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo.

Con el objetivo de estrechar relaciones académicas entre investigadores de América Latina, la Red de Estudios Visuales Latinoamericanos se suma a la convocatoria del III Coloquio Imagen y Culturas para, juntos, construir un espacio de intercambio académico interdisciplinario en torno al estudio de la imagen.

El Tercer Encuentro Internacional de Estudios Visuales Latinoamericanos se desarrollará en varias sesiones organizadas en mesas de acuerdo a las coincidencias temáticas y/o metodológicas de las ponencias seleccionadas.

Las propuestas deberán incluir los siguientes elementos: título, breve biografía académica del autor (máx. 500 palabras), datos de contacto (postal y electrónicos), resumen de la ponencia (máx. 600 palabras), y cinco palabras clave. Deberán ser enviadas antes del 28 de febrero a: redevlat@gmail.com

Las ponencias tratarán de los diversos temas que son propios de los Estudios Culturales y la Cultura Visual, con una cronología que va desde la Colonia hasta nuestros días, siempre dentro del marco geopolítico de América Latina. Se podrán abarcar todos los medios de expresión que conciernen a la imagen. El tiempo máximo de exposición será de veinte minutos.

image

The truth about the resignation of Benedict XVI

One wonders if Esteban Bedoya has some secret hot-line into the Vatican. When he published The Apocalypse According to Benedict in 2008 it seemed an audacious fantasy that Pope Benedict XVI, AKA. Joseph Ratzinger, would ever retire from this highest of worldly offices. Popes don’t retire: they assume the Papal throne at an advanced age and moulder away on the job. One need only think of Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who died at the age of 85, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and severe degenerative arthritis. By the end of his life John Paul II had survived two assassination attempts and several cancer scares, but his decrepitude was alarming.

In his novella Bedoya has Benedict retire – and so it came to pass. On 11 February 2013, two months’ short of his 86th birthday, the Pope announced his intention to step down, citing “a lack of strength of mind and body”.

Having witnessed the lamentable final years of his friend and ally, John Paul II, one can understand Benedict’s actions, even if had been 598 years since the previous Papal resignation. That was when Gregory XII was forced to resign in order to end the Great Schism which divided the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1418.

The novelty of Bedoya’s story is that the Pope does not resign solely because of declining health. His decision follows a landmark decision that throws the Church into crisis. Those who considered the Pontiff to be an ultra-conservative, now call him “Benedict the Revolutionary”.

Having detonated his bomb the Pope declines the offer of spending his retirement in the Vatican and withdraws to his native Bavaria. The real Benedict has remained in Rome, but with the caveat that his only ‘revolutionary’ gesture was the resignation itself.

The startling parallels between art and life lend a seductive power to Bedoya’s imaginative rewiring of reality. Is it impossible that the real Benedict might have felt the same anxieties about the “crisis of faith” faced by the Church today? The crisis is real enough with the Catholic Church often resembling a vast multinational corporation peddling a medieval view of personal morality. Believers around the world find their faith tested by doctrines seemingly at odds with the circumstances of their lives.

Bedoya’s Pope takes decisive action then resigns while the shock waves are still radiating outwards. He knows there can be no stopping the forces he has unleashed. For the reader this extraordinary scenario has a eerie plausibility. One can believe the real Benedict nurtured similar ambitions which never came to fruition. The author leads us into this state of heightened credulity by presenting the Pope as a creature of flesh-and-blood who talks freely about his childhood temptations, feeling the conflict between his vows to the Church and the pangs of sexual desire.

For the Church the Pope is an immaculate figure whose life and actions can only be exemplary. Bedoya’s version seems much more like a mere mortal – more capable of eliciting our sympathies, less demanding of reverence.

And so we read The Apocalypse According to Benedict as both an outlandish work of fiction and a tale that brings a touch of earthy realism into our views of that otherworldly kingdom, the Vatican. The book dispels the air of professional mystery concocted by the Church and leads us to focus on those greater mysteries contained within the human heart.

Review by John McDonand

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Kukuli Velarde–the empire looks back

Kukuli Velarde, Patron Santiago (Corpus Series), red clay low fire, underglazes, casein, gold leaf and wax, 84 h x 49 d x 26.5 w cm, 2013

Kukuli Velarde, Patron Santiago (Corpus Series), red clay low fire, underglazes, casein, gold leaf and wax, 84 h x 49 d x 26.5 w cm, 2013

Kukuli Velarde is a Peruvian-born artist whose work deconstructs the Spanish colonisation of Andean peoples. Here she writes about the southern agenda behind her work:

Like the majority of Peruvians, I am the product of the forced combination of the european and the indigenous worlds, which ultimately can be seen also as the forced combination of two aesthetics. CORPUS is an attempt to explore and develop a body of work that visually narrates Peruvian history through physical syncretism, combining pre-Columbian and Colonial sensibilities within the objects created, in order to document our paradoxical idiosyncrasies. CORPUS is also a search for a truer Peruvian aesthetic than just the one taught by the victor. Once we are able to artistically represent what historically we have experienced, then can we successfully join in the larger community of nations and contribute to the wealth of international aesthetics… The European aesthetics, which is the international aesthetics today, was formed in the image and likeness of their creators, maybe it’s time to reflect and reconsider whether we, Peruvians, shouldn’t place ourselves at the center of our likes and dislikes,  stopping being the dissonant ugly ones in the ‘movie’, the stone guests to a banquet to which we were not even invited.

Corpus rite in Cusco

Corpus rite in Cusco

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the city of Cusco had 350 Wakas, sacred places where representations of beneficial entities could be placed, linked to natural elements such as sun, water and corn. Colonisation involved the occupation of shrines, replacing many local gods with the one Jesus. The rite of Corpus has been held since 1572 when Viceroy Francisco Toledo received the order of the king of Spain to “fight” the Wakas of Cusco. This involves a procession of fifteen icons, representing religious figures such as Saint Sebastian and Santiago.

Velarde’s Corpus series reveals the indigenous figure harboured inside its official Christian mask. The pedestal is inspired in the actual platforms on which Santiago is carried in the Cusquenian Corpus. The form and designs of horse and man are drawn from Tiwanaku sculptures.

While exposing the hidden reality, the works also bring together the two worlds that house the mixed identity of someone like Velarde – ‘I am the product of the forced combination of the European and the indigenous worlds.’ Velarde’s work does not fit neatly into the essentialism of indigenismo, which seeks to de-colonise the Andean region, stripping away the traces of European colonisers. It is rather a carnivalesque play of cultures otherwise ordered hierarchically in order of whiteness. See her website for more examples of this prolific artist.

Decolonial Aesthetics out in Social Text

Decolonial AestheSis

Decolonial AestheSis

Walter Mignolo’s application of decolonial theory to art practice is discussed in a number of papers for the latest edition of Social Text.

“Decolonial aestheSis asks why Western aesthetic categories like ‘beauty’ or ‘representation’ have come to dominate all discussion of art and its value, and how those categories organise the way we think of ourselves and others: as white or black, high or low, strong or weak, good or evil. And decolonial art (or literature, architecture, and so on) enacts these critiques, using techniques like juxtaposition, parody, or simple disobedience to the rules of art and polite society, to expose the contradictions of coloniality. Its goal, then, is not to produce feelings of beauty or sublimity, but ones of sadness, indignation, repentance, hope, and determination to change things in the future.”

Materialidades (Pos)coloniales y de la (de)colonialidad Latinoamericana

II Coloquio del Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios en Teoría PoscolONIAL
Facultad de Humanidades y Artes
Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina
18, 19 y 20 de noviembre de 2013

El Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios en Teoría Poscolonial convoca al envío de resúmenes para su II Coloquio,Materialidades (Pos)coloniales y de la (de)colonialidad latinoamericana. Los mismos deberán abordar algún aspecto de la materialidad colonial, poscolonial o de la (de)colonialidad en América Latina, desde cualquier disciplina de las humanidades o ciencias sociales.

Nos interesan especialmente aquellos trabajos que puedan mostrar el impacto de la cultura material en la articulación de perspectivas críticas tanto sobre situaciones coloniales como poscoloniales y decoloniales, y también aquellos trabajos que indaguen en las tensiones que emergen al yuxtaponer representación/discurso y materialidad en situaciones (pos)coloniales y (de)coloniales en nuestra región.

Proponemos reflexionar sobre las siguientes preguntas: ¿Qué es lo que se entiende por cultura material en nuestras respectivas disciplinas y abordajes?  ¿Cómo es que la cultura material en cualquiera de sus formas, interpela, atraviesa y tensiona los discursos crítico teóricos-sobre el colonialismo y la colonialidad en América Latina? ¿Qué perspectivas crítico-teóricas emergen del diálogo entre abordajes filosóficos y de análisis de discurso con aquellas disciplinas marcadas por la materialidad de sus objetos de estudio?

Para más información Enviar resúmenes a  cietp_unr@ hotmail.com

The proposal to legalise drugs in South America

Security is one of the most important topics in International Studies. This concept is not always related to the North, the South has had its own threats too: throughout 19th and 20th centuries there have been Western empires, ideological battles and US interventions. But today, in South America, the main threat is drug trafficking and its roots are in economic globalization.

Free trade around the world is one of the most important long term economic trends and the exploitation of the free trade by emerging powers is an important short term trend. In this way, regions around the world have been impacted by new world economic powers like China. The Chinese demand of commodities around the world has resulted in high international prices and lucrative imports from countries like Chile, Peru and Brazil.

Together with China, Brazil has been very important in South America (in spite of its low growth throughout 2012) especially for countries like Bolivia or Paraguay, two landlocked states, where the main export to the Brazilian market is energy.

Thus, most of South American economies are growing around 4%[1] and during last decade poverty has decreased, even in Bolivia, the poorest regional country;[2] this is mainly because government efforts in this period have been focused on keeping macroeconomic responsibility plus implementation of social programs. Nonetheless, there are two main economic menaces in the region: first, most of South American countries are relying on China’s economy success, which in turn will not be forever. Second, if Brazil keeps its economy dependent on a bumpy Europe, and if the called “Brazil Cost”[3] continues without solution, most of its neighbours will suffer some consequences in the future[4].

In this context, most important security challenge in the region is drug trafficking and the first goal of defence policies is in human security. In order to overcome these issues countries are developing their own military actions: Democratic Security Policy (Colombia), “Ágata” Military Operations (between Brazil, Bolivia and Peru), “BOLBRA” war games (Bolivia and Brazil), or the New National Security Strategy and Defence of Chile whose main theatre of operations is Arica, region located in the border with Peru and Bolivia.

To understand this regional security challenge, first we have to highlight two of its main causes. First, despite the regional economic growth and social programs there are a huge social inequality and a strong social feeling of injustice (let’s remember student’s riots in Chile during 2011), many disadvantaged people choose alternative ways to realise social progress through gang activities. This happens in Rio do Janeiro (Brazil), Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), VRAEM (Peru), La Legua (Chile), and so on. It is certainly true that South American social problems could be worst if emerging powers cannot maintain its economy growth in the future.

Second, the economic growth and social programs in countries like Chile or Brazil have resulted in a huge middle class with capacity to consumption and, therefore, drugs traffickers have new markets to sell cocaine, besides its traditional big markets such as the United States and Western Europe. Clear example of this is the power gained by gang Primero Comando da Capital in Sao Paulo, which traffics from Paulist jails to the Brazilian market. In this sense, it is very important for Brazilian authorities to keep the control over international borders, because these gangs make business with cocaine dealers from Bolivia or Peru.

Without doubt, the situation is more complex when gang activities are connected to terrorist groups or irregular armies like the FARC. In this case the Colombian government has made enormous military and political efforts in order to combat this organization; actually today there is hope on Colombian peace negotiations lead by President Santos, because the end of war in Colombia could be the end of the main “narco-guerrilla”.

The Colombian case is especially worrying due to the guerrilla’s war impacts on Venezuela and Ecuador[5], two countries known by their difficult borders. According to the UNODC (2012) Venezuela has become the main port for Colombian cocaine to transatlantic routes, and Ecuador has become an important transit place too.

There is not easy solution to this kind of regional challenge, because drug trafficking and social inequalities are the first link in an intricate chain connecting Central America and Mexico, where transnational criminal gangs have got a dangerous power. On the other hand, South American countries are not the primarily responsible or, at least they are not only responsible of drug trafficking, because the primarily cocaine consumers are in the West.

In other words, this problem seems to be a transnational issue, and in this sense, one alternative would be legalizing the cocaine trafficking in order to dismiss criminal gangs, to get secure cocaine markets and better statistics of cocaine consumers. But this kind of solution would require big cultural and institutional changes.

For instance, in Uruguay President José Mujica has recently proposed to legalize marijuana consumption and to educate people about this issue, but this proposal will not be able to become law while conservative groups have influence over popular opinion, especially the Catholic Church and right wing parties. In fact, Mujica recognized later that society is not yet ready to this kind of measures.

Another important step has been Bolivian experience during Evo Morales presidency, because his administration recognizes coca leaf farmer rights and coca cultural values. Bolivian policies on coca leaf represent a deep change of mentality since DEA interventions in the country two decades ago, when coca leaf activities were synonymous of crime. But at the same time, the new Bolivian institutional model has not meant the end or decrease of illegal coca leaf planting.

Both Uruguay and Bolivia cases show that, at least, the legalization debate has started. In this sense, maybe the most important signal of a new time has been the Global Commission on Drug Policy, where much respected intellectuals and politicians were able to participate, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, César Gaviria, Ernesto Zedillo, Kofi Annan, Paul Volcker and George P. Schultz. In its report (2011) the Commission proposed to create new institutional models around the world in order to legalize drugs. The main argument for this proposal is the failure of drug policies during last fifty years, especially the war against drugs launched by President Nixon; together with this, the commission stated the importance to pay more attention to health programs instead of military policies[6].

Notwithstanding this, all these signals are not enough to take seriously an international legalization model and certainly they are not enough to overcome current military policies as key actions to combat drugs trafficking.

Claudio Coloma is an academic at the University of Santiago of Chile

Notes


[1] IMF-Western Hemisphere Department. Regional Economic Outlook. Washington, D.C. October 2012.

[2] Weisbrot, Mark, Rebecca Ray and Jake Johnston. Bolivia: The Economy During the Morales Administration. Center for Economic and Policy Research. Washington, D.C. December 2009.

[3] Combination of bureaucratic hurdles, complex taxes and insufficient infrastructure. Glickhouse, Rachel. Rousseff Takes on the Infamous “Brazil Cost”. AS/COA. May 22, 2012.

[4] According to IMF “low growth and uncertainty in advanced economies are affecting emerging market and developing economies”. Emerging powers such as China and Brazil are reliant on developed countries, especially USA and UE. IMF. World Economic Outlook. Washington, D.C. October 2012.

[5] IISS. The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of ´Raúl Reyes`. London. 2011.

[6] Informe de la Comisión Global de Políticas de Drogas, junio de 2011, www.globalcommissiondrugs.org

In 2008, Paraguayan author predicted and described the Pope’s resignation

Life, at times, imitates art.

In the novel, “The Apocalypse of Benedict” (El Apocalipsis según Benedicto) published in 2008, prize-winning Paraguayan author, Esteban Bedoya, accurately describes the Pope’s retirement at the age of 85. Incredibly, one paragraph of Bedoya’s novel reappeared 2 years later in 2010, when Benedict XVI, in an interview (which was later published as a book) with a German journalist, expressed a possible condition for his retirement. At the end of Bedoya’s short novel, after his retirement, the ex-Pope was continued to be called “Benedict”.

In the first part, with an admirable writing style that is both precise and surgical, Bedoya tells a story, very similar to reality, of the public life of Benedict XVI, whose full name is Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, who after the death of John Paul II, was elected as the 265th Pope on the 19th May, 2005.

In the second part, Bedoya unleashes his creativity and, amongst other events, Benedict XVI resigns. What follows, is a recommendation for anyone who has yet to read the book: to get themselves a copy and read it.

But it’s not just by coincidence or chance that Bedoya is lead to such an accurate prediction. It is however, the development of the novel that drives and justifies this outcome.

The resignation and retirement of the Pope, detailed in Bedoya’s fiction, is now seen today repeated in reality and has taken many by surprise. Accordingly, use of this fiction should be highlighted as an effective method to interpret and explain what really occurs in the dark, yet elaborate corridors of the Vatican.

One of the extracts from the novel that accurately describes certain sentiments and reasons for retirement which have since been publicly expressed by Benedict XVI himself, years after Bedoya’s novel had been published, includes:

The press speculated and started rumours which spoke of the retirement of the Pope: Benedict himself had announced his intention to resign in the case of being unable to carry out such responsibility (“The Apocalypse of Benedict”, page 21).

Benedict’s sentiment in Bedoya’s 2008 novel, fits perfectly with the paragraph highlighted by the Basque newspaper, GARA, on 12th February 2013 which reads:

The protagonist himself (Joseph Ratzinger), in a book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, confessed in November of 2010 his willingness to “resign due to illness, if physically, psychologically and spiritually (he) were not able to perform (his) job (in: http://preview.tinyurl.com/cy9az8y).

The idea is not to take away potential readers of the novel, so in it, after the resignation, the former Pope was continued to be referred to as Benedict…

In light of this, Cubadebate published the article: “Lombardi: We will continue to call him Benedict XVI” (in: http://tinyurl.com/bu7vd4r).

It’s worth highlighting the film “Habemus Papam”, by Italian film director Nani Moretti, which tells the fictional story of Cardinal Melville, who, when elected Pope, suffers a panic attack that prevents him from taking office. However, in the case of the Bedoya’s novel, both the identity and age of the Pope who decided to retire is actually depicted: the same Joseph Ratzinger – Benedict XVI, at age 85.

To think that a Pope can retire is not something extraordinary, even though the last time it happened was 598 years ago, but to actually predict the name and age of the Pope who has now, in real life, resigned and retired…. well that’s a different story.

In turn, author Frei Betto has so far written about five resignations, including that of Benedict XVI:

In the history of the Church there are four popes who resigned …: Benedict IX (01/05/1045), Gregory VI (20/12/1046), Celestine V (13/12/1294) and Gregory XII (04/07/1415). Benedict XVI will be the fifth, as of 28 February 2013 (in: http://tinyurl.com/bfdyls2).

Literature is also capable of writing the history of the future

In delving into universal literature and cases of authors who produced works considered clairvoyant, emerge the names of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury and Manuel Scorza.

Julio Venre was a successful French writer thanks to his ability to attract a very diverse readership. He captivated audiences by pioneering the science fiction genre and his works were not only popular in his time, but even still today.

He predicted with great accuracy in his fantastic tales the appearance of some of the products generated by the technological advances of the twentieth century; TV, helicopters, submarines and spaceships (in: http://tinyurl.com/ylmn3om).

Herbert George Wells was a writer, novelist, historian and British philosopher. Wells wrote science fiction novels such as “The Time Machine” (1895), whose original title was “The Chronic Argonauts”, “The Invisible Man” (1897), “The War of the Worlds” (1898) and “The First Men in the Moon “(1901).

George Orwell, under the pseudonym of Eric Blair, was a British writer, and wrote the novel “1984″ in 1948. Perhaps this title arose as a rearrangement of the last digits of the year to place the work in the future. It is often cited as a counterexample to a utopia (an imagined place in which everything is perfect), with “dystopian fiction” (an imagined place in which everything is undesirable). In this book the concept of “Big Brother” emerges; a police state which is totalitarian, vigilant and repressive, as it used to be three decades ago, due to results of projects like “ECHELON” (UKUSA Security Agreement: United States, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

Ray Douglas Bradbury, American science fiction writer, wrote fantasy stories with a poetic prose such as; “The Martian Chronicles” (1950), “The Golden Apples of the Sun” (1953), “A Medicine for Melancholy” (1960), “The Machineries of Joy” (1964) “Ghosts of the New” (1969), and among his novels, the unforgettable “Fahrenheit 451″ (1953), is also highlighted as part of his dystopian fiction.

Manuel Scorza, excellent writer, poet and social activist from Peru, wrote the monumental epic series “The Silent War”, composed of five novels: “Drums for Rancas” (1970); “Garabombo, the Invisible” (1972), “The Sleepless Rider “(1976), “The Ballard of Agapito Robles”(1976) and “Requiem for a Lightning Bolt” (1978). In the latest of the series, Scorza wrote about certain characters and their actions which, two years later, came true in a few sociopolitical cases in Peru.

However, in the case of “The Apocalypse of Benedict” Esteban Bedoya went a step further, venturing into unchartered territory and creating a piece of literature which, five years ago, described with amazing accuracy something that then was the future and today is now the present.

International recognition of Bedoya’s nouvelle format

In some proposals for the classification of novel literary works nouvelle or novella is a story of a lesser extent than a novel and is defined by Julio Cortázar as a “genre somewhere between a story and a novel.”

With respect to the number of words in a nouvelle, some authors set their limits between 30,000 and 50,000 words, but it is not an inflexible rule. Two nouvelle works are: “The Tracker” by Julio Cortázar and “Perjury in Snow” by Adolfo Bioy Casares.

This extension which responds to the nouvelle format is apparently where Esteban Bedoya is most comfortable. “The Apocalypse of Benedict” in its Spanish version has 13,389 words and in English, 14,756. His excellent nouvelle will be republished under the title of “The Ear Collector” and in its Spanish version will be 35,914 words.

The novel “The Apocalypse of Benedict” is not limited to the accuracy of the story and guessing what happens now in 2013, it has outstanding literary merit pertaining to both the structure and the level of creativity. In fact, for this work Bedoya received the 2010 PEN America/Edward and Lily Tuck Prize for Paraguayan Literature.

As a writer, Bedoya has also received awards from the Academy of American Poets (1982) and publisher, Helguero (1983).

His much publicized novel “The Bear Pit” (2003), was translated into French under the title “La fosse aux Ours” (2005), the German title “Der Bärengraben” (2009) and published in France by La dernière Goutte.

His novel “The Evil Ones” (“Les Mal-aimés”) (2006) was translated and published in France as by L’Haremattan and the novel, now titled “The Ear Collector” will be translated into French and published in France by La dernière Goutte.

“The Apocalypse of Benedict” is being translated into English for publication in the United States.

After ten years of his creative work being published, Esteban Bedoya’s writing continues to increase in creativity, with genuine stories that are not only worthwhile reads, but are enjoyed with the same pleasure as that of the best of Augusto Roa Bastos.

Article by Vicente Brunetti from Kaos en la Red (translated by Gabrielle Hall).

jorge_amado

Honouring Jorge Amado in today’s Brazil

Exhibition curator and academic Ilana Goldstein describes her exhibition about the life of one of Brazil’s leading writers, Jorge Amado. According to Amado, “We did not want to be modernists but modern.”

A video glimpse of the exhibition “Jorge Amado and the Universal’

Jorge Amado (1912 – 2001) was one of the the most well-known Brazilian authors – in Brazil and abroad. Most part of his 33 books are translated into 49 languages and he has been adapted many times to soap-operas (television), films (cinema), theatre plays and cartoon.

Some scholars and critics from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have been sceptical about Amado, saying that his literature is too popular, too easy to read. But despite his apparently funny and easy style, his novels are well constructed, he was a very cultivated person (friends with Picasso, Neruda and Sartre, for example) and really concerned with national problems and issues – which underlie his fiction.

The exhibition was a celebration of the 100h Birthday of Jorge Amado. It was on in São Paulo untill the end of June and then toured to Salvador, Bahia, maybe Recife, Frankfurt and probably other cities, not yet confirmed. The show is sponsored by Santander bank, using the Lei Rouanet, a federal law which allows sponsors to pay less Income Tax (saving almost the same amount given to the cultural project).

The rooms of the show

1. The tile wall in the entrance

Getting out of the lift, the visitor will see a big tile wall. It has two senses. First of all, it alludes to the traditional architecture of Salvador. Old colonial buildings are traditionally decorated with blue-and-white tiles. The houses of Jorge Amado and all his friends (artists, writers from Bahia) in Salvador are also decorated with tiles, but replacing the traditional Portuguese drawings by sentences and quotes carefully chosen, that welcome guests.

The second reason of the wall to be in the entrance of the show is to suggest that the public leave behind all its prejudices and all television images linked to Jorge Amado. The surprise effect is obtained through the reading of the sentences, which deal with history, the mission of the artist, ethics, universal questions. The quotes are not signed, so that for some seconds the person asks himself/herself: am I in the correct floor? “Are these sentences really from Jorge Amado? They have nothing to do with the clichés I have always had from him…”.

2. Characters room

The first room is devoted to Amado´s characters. Nine LCD screens show 3 minute-films about nine selected books and its main characters. The names of these chosen characters are written in the wooden walls around the room. But this is just an “appetizer”, for Jorge Amado has created more than 5.000 characters! Our way to represent that huge universe was writing the names of other 200 characters in the colourful back wall of the room. The small ribbons remind the typical souvenir from Bahia: “fitinhas do Bonfim”.

The scenography of this room and of the rest of the exhibition is composed by urban “ready-made” objects: washbowls, market boxes, book shelves etc. Nothing is fake, little was fabricated for the show. They remind the popular and collective daily life of Bahia, which was the main source of inspiration for Jorge Amado. The scenographical choice has a reason. The writer said he didn´t make up things: he used to write about people he had known and situations he had experienced in the streets of Bahia, of course adding imagination and poetry to them.

3. Politics room

In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Jorge Amado was very engaged in left-wing politics. He became a member of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), he travelled to many socialist countries in East Europe, and he was even elected as a congressman in 1946. As a congressman, he proposed two very important legislative changes: one in the the Copy Right Act and the other in the Religion Act. He was responsible for approving the cult freedom in Brazil. Even if he was an atheist himself, cultural diversity was very precious for him. He had seen Afro-Brazilian temples being invaded and destroyed by the police in his youth and that really touched him.

During 25 years, Amado´s fiction was influenced by his political concerns. Strikes, poverty, hunger are common elements of the books in this moment. Amado has also published a lot of newspaper articles in this period, working as a journalist and as an editor. This fact explains the scenography of the room.

But in 1954 he found out all the crimes committed by Stalin. At the same time, he was tired of the rules the Party imposed to communist writers. So, he decided to get out of the Communist Party and to devote himself exclusively to his literature. The first book of this second period of his work and life is Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, published in 1958. His fiction changes a lot then, becoming funnier and lighter. Gabriela receives many prizes and sells very quickly.

4. Mixtures and blends

The third room of the show deals with the cultural mixture characteristic of Brazilian society. In the United States, for example, people classify themselves as blacks or whites. But in Brazil the identification process is much more complex. First of all, people don´t think about races, they think about colours. And they don´t think in a dualistic way. In 1976, the government let the question “What is your colour?” open in the census. The result was a list with 136 different answers, comprising from “dirty white” to “light black”, from “sun tanned” to “pale”, from “green” to “blue”. This funny and impressive list is reproduced in one of the room walls. Jorge Amado was very sensitive about this Brazilian feature and in his novels we have found dozens of different manners of describing the colour of the characters as well – which are reproduced in the opposite wall.

A second important element in this room is the religious syncretism, represented by the various religious elements coming from Afro-Brazilian cults as Candomblé and Umbanda, but also from Catholicism, Judaism and Islamism. In Amado´s books, some characters combine different beliefs and all these religions appear in a respectful way. It was another way for the writer to spread his message of tolerance and cultural exchange.

5. Sex and tricks

Love, sex, prostitution and sometimes pornography or sexual violence are frequent elements in Amado´s fiction, specially after Gabriela (1958). It is a way to celebrate the pleasures of life but also to talk about social relations in another manner.

The neon lights in this room contain names of brothels that appear in Amado´s novels. Brothels were central institutions in Brazilian society in the 1rst half of the XXth century. Housewives were shy and repressed. Men were almost authorized to visit whorehouses – including Amado´s father, uncle and the writer himself. Men made business, discussed arts and decided politics in these places. Extracts from Amado´s book dealing with these subjects are shown inside the light boxes.

A second subject present in this room is the “jeitinho brasileiro”, or “the Brazilian way”. Since colonial times, as the historian Sérgio Buarque de Holanda has already written in 1936, Brazilian tend to erase the limits between public and private spheres, avoiding to follow rules, using the law only when it seems interesting, asking personal favours instead of achieving formal rights. On one hand this brings much flexibility to our society. On the other other hand, it is dangerous for the development of the country, because everything that is official and formal tends to be disdained and only what is connected to friendship and affection seems to be desirable. Some of the texts in the light boxes bring parts of Amado´s books that translate this “Brazilian way”.

6. Bahia square

This is the last and biggest space of the exhibition. Some of its highlights are:

  • The photographic wall with pictures of Bahia, displaying its beautiful side (nature, food, street parties) and its sad aspects as well (poverty, architectural destruction, dirty).
  • The bottle wall, containing Dendê oil in dozens of plastic bottles. Dendê oil is a central ingredient in Bahia´s recipes, very appreciated by Jorge Amado. At the same time, the disposal of so many bottles allude to the sea, very important in Amado´s novels. Amado´s sentences describing the sea are glued on the bottles´surfaces.
  • The cacao seeds walls, where the LCD screens are. They allude to Amado´s childhood in the south of Bahia. His father was a pioneer cacao farmer in the first years of the XXth century.
  • The “Jorges” room, separated from the rest, where hundreds of biographical documents are hanging, from family pictures to passports and diplomas, from book covers to letters sent to him by other writers.
  • The artworks wall, where original prints from three Brazilian artists are displayed: Renina Katz, Calasans Neto and Carybé. All three have translated the literature of Jorge Amado into the visual arts.

After all, one of the impressions we think the exhibition will leave is the mutual relation between representations and reality: Bahia/Brazil has become similar to Jorge Amado’s portrait and, at the same time, the writer looked and acted like one of his characters.

What it takes to tango

Opening of 'Make the Common Precious' in Santiago, 2006, showing links between art from everyday materials in Australia and the poetry of Pablo Neruda

Opening of 'Make the Common Precious' in Santiago, 2006, showing links between art from everyday materials in Australia and the poetry of Pablo Neruda

On 29-30 August 2012, the University of Melbourne hosted a two day event Melbourne-Latin America Dialogue which was designed as a ‘space for high-level exchange of ideas and experiences that brings together Latin American and Australian experts from scientific, technological, artistic, business and educational fields.’ It was indeed an intense series of events, with up to two hundred people, including the full contingent of Latin American ambassadors and many caped volunteers.

After welcome and opening remarks, the dialogue began with a focus on resources, including professors of mining and representatives of business. This marked the main theme of the dialogue – economic opportunities provided by the growth of Latin American countries. Of particular interest was the $65 billion privatisation process recently announced by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, offering a significant opening for foreign investment.

By the final session, ‘Opportunities and challenges for the Australia-Latin America relationship’, participants were very upbeat about future partnerships. But there were issues to overcome. Ronaldo Veirano, Honorary Consul of Australia to Rio de Janeiro and Executive Director of the Macquarie Funds Group, pointed out the obstacles in the way of realising these opportunities. For many Australian businesses, they still see Latin America as a politically unstable continent, while for Latin Americans Australia is barely visible.

Given that cultural stereotypes were raised as a major issue in development partnerships, it was odd that there was no session devoted to culture, arts or ideas in this dialogue. The more or less exclusive focus was on economic opportunity. While this is clearly a limited range of engagement in terms of broader international relations, it is also fraught within its own terms. If the aim is to expand business activity into Latin America, it seems critical to change these stereotypes through broader cultural exchange between Australia and Latin America.

In the final session, Jose Blanco, the Chairman of the Australia-Latin America Business Council, spoke about team Australia-Latin America in competition with team Australia-Asia. If this is indeed the scenario, then it is worth looking at how the competition have been building up their capacities. Ever since the Asian focus was elevated when Paul Keating was Prime Minister, it has been seen as important to develop our regional identity through cultural programs – sending a diverse range of Australian exhibitions and performances to Asia and hosting Asian artists here. Both the Asia Pacific Triennial and Asialink were established as necessary platforms to pave the way for future economic ties.

Much of the exchange currently is being handled by the Council of Australia Latin American Relations. This is largely a back-room body, supporting individual projects. Those businesses that are keen on Latin America could do worse than the Myer Foundation, who largely funded Asialink, and help establish a public body to foster cultural ties. Like Asialink, this could be done through a hosting of exchanges and visitors, publishing thought pieces, and nurturing a broader narrative about cultural partnership.

There are some obvious common interests across the Pacific:

  • the place of Indigenous cultures in a contemporary context
  • impact of globalisation, particularly on cultural diversity
  • intellectual property in the information age
  • impact of mining and development on communities
  • multiculturalism
  • relationship to nature
  • gender in society

There are immediate opportunities for business across the Pacific. But if these are to grow into long term partnerships, then an understanding of common interest would need to be developed.

It may take two to tango. But both have to learn how to dance first.