Category Archives: Latin America

An-other way of being in the contemporary world

Reflections on Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Dr Riccardo Armillei
The Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University

Dr Eugenia Demuro
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

‘Que todo lo que hagamos tenga una dosis de humanidad’
(Rigoberta Menchú Tum)

Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Rigoberta Menchú Tum


On Wednesday 29th of July, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Rigoberta Menchú Tum delivered the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Diversity and Social Justice Annual Oration at Deakin University. Since its inception, the UNESCO Chair Program has promoted the establishment of hundreds of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks, serving the dual function of ‘think tanks’ and ‘bridge builders’ between academia, policy-makers, local communities, research and civil society (UNESCO 2013). The Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation was endorsed with this prestigious recognition in 2013, when Prof. Fethi Mansouri was awarded the UNESCO Chair in comparative research on ‘Cultural Diversity and Social Justice’. Due to her illustrious career in the struggle for Indigenous rights and ethno-cultural reconciliation, Rigoberta Menchú Tum was chosen, and kindly accepted the invitation, to be this year’s orator.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum was born in 1959 into a Quiche Mayan peasant family in Guatemala. A year later Guatemala was plunged into a civil war that lasted 36 years. It has been estimated that the civil war caused the death of 200,000 people, the displacement of more than half a million people, and the destruction of countless Mayan villages. The worst of the war came between 1979 and 1984, ‘during which over 90% of the total human rights violations were committed’ (Chamarbagwala & Morán 2011, p. 42). In 1982, following the military’s systematic oppression of any form of insurrection, and after the death of several members of her own family, Menchú Tum fled to neighboring Mexico. At that time, she was virtually unknown in her own country. It was after the death of her father in 1981—when he was burned alive by the Guatemalan army in the Spanish Embassy along with another thirty-eight members of the Committee for Peasant Unity (CUC)—, that Menchú Tum’s public visibility started to grow (Arias 2001). In 1983, she published I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, a gripping document that charts her path to political awareness and which attracted international attention and courted controversy. Since then, she has become an icon of indigenous resistance, a leading advocate of indigenous rights and a voice in recognition and reconciliation processes, not only in Guatemala but globally. Her work has earned her several international awards, most notably, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 (The Nobel Foundation 1992).

At Deakin University, Menchú Tum spoke on the guiding principles of her philosophy and of her ancestral knowledge – a model for another way of thinking. Her message was to imbue all our actions with a dose of our humanity, and for those of us working within academia, to put ourselves in the service of the world and to work towards an ‘integral academic vision’. This approach entails three different dimensions: human beings are composed of a spiritual, a material and a social dimension, which need to be in equilibrium with each other. The emphasis on materialism, and the lack of consideration for the spiritual and social dimensions, has had disastrous consequences for the times we live in. This is grounded on the premise that ‘what happens to others happens to us’. In this way, the need to bring together the personal and the collective is an important means to enact community practises of mutual respect and cooperation. The practise of respecting others, of acknowledging and seeing others, must be central to our behaviour and code of ethics.

For Menchú Tum, the social is built on the practise of a true egalitarianism that emphasises our social selves within a collective, with the aspiration of bettering ourselves in the service of others. This, Menchú Tum cites as the creation of a ‘culture of peace’. According to Menchú Tum the biggest secret of human beings is humility, as it is through humility that we can experience gratefulness towards other living creatures and towards the earth. Without dismissing the material dimension–for we are material beings—we should be content to take only that which ‘fits in our hands’ and leave the rest to others, as when we accumulate beyond our needs we are taking what is meant for others. Menchú Tum’s words, derived from the accumulated wisdom of her Mayan ancestors, spoke of a ‘science for life’ that provides guiding principles to live and to address three pressing questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? And, Where am I going? According to Menchú Tum, answering these involves seeing, listening and feeling. Our eyes, she tells us, are not enough.

For social scientists this requires developing new standards and categories of ‘knowledge’, and to re-consider how knowledge is used and re-produced. For instance, what social scientists regard as Education (with a capital E) within a Western context, and by extension what often defines Indigenous peoples the world over as ‘uneducated’, excludes non-Western epistemological and ontological traditions, and fails to recognise and appreciate other ways of knowing. If Indigenous peoples measured knowledge only within this Western frame, they would loose other ancestral ways of knowing the world. In an academic context measured by outputs, citation indexes and our ability to generate commercial returns, the idea of academia in the service of humanity is a revolutionary stance. And with academic peer-review plagued by gatekeepers and conservatism, opening up research to new ways of knowing the world and accommodating ‘subaltern’ epistemologies is a radical call to action. Any response will require us to shift the value system of the academic endeavour away from competition and the status quo, and towards community, humanity and new possibilities.

Menchú Tum has been often characterised as a ‘subaltern voice’ and has herself become an ‘object’ of study under the intensive scrutiny of Western intellectual elites. In particular, as Arturo Arias (2002) has argued, the controversy regarding Menchú Tum’s testimonio should be interpreted as ‘a symbolic lesion (lesson?) about the unwillingness of hegemonic intellectuals to listen to subaltern ones’ (p. 481) – part of a broader tendency to distort and transform other voices with the aim of misrepresenting ‘subaltern’ narratives. At one point of her oration, recalling the torture of her family members, tears welted in her eyes, yet her message was an optimistic one: to promote a different ‘code of thinking’; to reconfigure ourselves in the contemporary world. Those of us working within humanities and social sciences, and more broadly within academia, cannot be impassive in the face of these requests. We are left pondering on the need to open up new horizons of inquiry and on how to accommodate different perspectives within our academic endeavours. Undoubtedly, this will also require listening and engaging with seriousness and respect to the wealth of Indigenous scholarship and other knowledges. Today, the still-apparent lack of an intellectual investment in this direction, as Rigoberta Menchú Tum stressed, is frustrating any real possibility to enact other ways of being in the world.



Arias, A 2001, ‘Rigoberta Menchú’s history within the Guatemalan context’, in A Arias (ed.), The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy, University Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, USA, pp. 3-28.

Arias, A 2002, ‘After the Rigoberta Menchú Controversy: Lessons Learned About the Nature of Subalternity and the Specifics of the Indigenous Subject’, MLN, vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 481-505.

Chamarbagwala, R & Morán, HE 2011, ‘The human capital consequences of civil war: Evidence from Guatemala’, Journal of Development Economics, vol. 94, no. 1, pp. 41–61.

The Nobel Foundation 1992, ‘Rigoberta Menchú Tum – Biographical’,, retrieved 3 August 2015, <>.

UNESCO 2013, University Twinning and Networking, UNESCO, retrieved 11 August 2015, <>.

South Ways – art undercurrents across the South

Paper for South-South Axes of Global Art (Paris, 17-19 Jun 15)


I present this paper as a curator, more concerned with opening up a space for new possibilities than analysing the past. My purpose is to present alternatives to the biennale model that are conducive to horizontal south-south exchange. Presenting these here, in the cultural capital of the North, affords a critical space to consider its limits and potential for further development.

Before I begin, I need to account for my voice as a citizen of Australia. Australia is an extractivist settler nation that has largely ignored its position in the South in favour of models inherited from Europe and North America. Until recently, the colonial imagination was fired by nationalist tropes like ‘Downunder’, the ‘Great Southern Land’ and ‘Southern Cross’, but these are mere clichés in a neoliberal state that is more concerned with the people it can exclude than the shared stories it can generate from within.

Charles de Gaulle was rumoured to have said of Brazil, that ‘it is a country of the future, and always will be’. So in Australia, our place in the world remains, paradoxically, a distant horizon. But as Paulin Hountondji remarked ‘culture is not only a heritage, it is a project’ (Sahlins 2005). The South is our project, to be more than a colonial outpost. Australia’s distance from the centre has potential to open a space for new possibilities.

Also before going further I should clarify my use of the term ‘south’. Though it seems uncomfortable in a globalised world to offer spatial limits, I do use ‘south’ as a political reality, more than a convenient trope. Jorge Luis Borges proposed that ‘universal history is the history of various intonations of a few metaphors’ (Borges 1973). Derrida proposed light was one of these key metaphors (Derrida 1978), evident since Plato in the symbol of knowledge as enlightenment. South could be considered among these key metaphors. The meaning of South is predicated on the concept of a vertical hierarchy, where value lies above. It is more than just a trope—an improvement on ‘Third World’, but not as incisive as ‘Majority World’. South cannot be readily transposed. South is a real fixed phenomenon, what Ricoeur calls the vestricktsein, ‘living imbrication’ (Ricoeur 1984, 75). By convention I fly up to Paris, despite that our experience of the world is as in the long run as an even plane. ‘Going south’ has become synonymous with failure. This is a phenomenological function embedded in how we see the world. We live in metaphors, which suits some better than others. Just as blackness is historically tainted with ignorance, so ‘southern’ is by default lowly.

The biennale dream

The story begins with the quest for civic identity. Sydney and Melbourne are Australia’s rival cities. Missing the nature-given attractions of Sydney, Melbourne identifies more with man-made elements, such as its architecture. Through its Major Events strategy, Melbourne also seeks to feature in the international circuit through programs like the Formulae One Grand Prix. But an important piece has been missing. Though originating many of the artistic movements in Australia, Melbourne lacks a place in the international visual arts calendar. Finally, in 1999, it acquired its first, and only, visual arts biennale. Mostly praised by local critics, the event proved a financial disaster. In the end, the Melbourne Biennial didn’t receive the same kind of international funding support that was already directed towards Sydney, one the oldest biennales. At a forum in RMIT Gallery, the godfather of biennales, Rene Block, explained cruelly that there was just ‘no room on the carousel’ for Melbourne. It was too similar to Sydney, which was already established, and did not have the exotic appeal of new members like Istanbul or Gwangju.

This led to many discussions about what it meant to have a biennale in Melbourne. Was there an alternative model? Brisbane had shown how it was possible to consolidate a place in the international calendar outside the carousel, in the Asia Pacific Triennial. Rather try to inveigle oneself into an existing circuit, the Art Gallery of Queensland had created a new set of exchanges framed by an east-west dialogue between Australia and the cultures of its region. At a public discussion at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in 2000, the Brisbane model was explored and the question asked—what new international space could Melbourne help open up?

At that time, the democratic turn in many countries in the South were relatively fresh. Nelson Mandela had just stepped down as President of the new South Africa. In Latin America, countries like Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay had broken with the military dictatorships of the 1970s. The 20th century story of the South as a region of tin-pot dictators and banana republics was no longer relevant. Boycott was no longer the most appropriate ethical engagement with the South. In this context, it seemed that a triennial style event in Melbourne could provide a new space for trying out exchanges with these reformed countries along southern latitudes.

South Project

In 2003, the South Project was initiated and heads of the city’s cultural institutions came together to endorse a future APT style event in Melbourne. In the meantime, however, most of the leading visual arts organisations like the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art reverted back to architecture as a forum of ambition. New buildings like Federation Square testified to Melbourne’s cultural value. It was left to a relatively marginal organisation, Craft Victoria, to carry the South baton. For a craft organisation, the South Project offered not only the potential to forge south-south alliances, it also provided a way to engage with craft practice in an otherwise highly conceptual visual arts scene. The rationale for this came from the relative importance of craft as a means of both livelihood and cultural identity in many countries of the South.[1]

Rather than see this developmentally as evidence of a cultural backwardness, the challenge was to integrate crafts into the platform. This was framed as a democratic issue. Craft helped ensure that this exchange was not simply reproducing the cultural elites that normally ride the carousel, but embraced also those in townships, slums and poblaciones.

The democratic framework was attempted in three ways. The first was to include where possible a local indigenous welcome alongside the inevitable meeting of dignitaries. While now a common feature of public events in Australia, it was still a relatively new component in other countries, particularly South America.

The second was to include practical workshops alongside the standard format of talks and exhibitions. Fibre crafts played a leading role, including Australian Aboriginal techniques in Johannesburg and Māori basket-making in Wellington. This offered craftspersons and artisans with a more direct benefit in attending, as well as opportunity for the university educated participants to engage in a dialogical space was did not privilege their cultural capital.

The third involved exchanges with children. The South Kids program featured the story of an emu that wanted to fly. A kit including the toy emu and camera circulated around schools in the South, enabling children to document their worlds. In Soweto, this was a pretext for praising the capacities of the ostrich, which though unable to fly has unique features such as physical beauty, useful eggs and impressive running speed. The story of the flightless bird was a predicament seen to typify the South, as a region lacking the capacity to share its unique features with each other.

In the end, the South Project did not achieve its grand ambition to establish a triennial in Melbourne. While this was partly the consequence of internal political factors, it was not helped by the relative lack of economic opportunities for Australia across the South compared to the Asia Pacific.

Nonetheless, the South Project left a residual network and a trail of unanswered questions. What does the South share in common, besides a shared opposition to the North? To what extent is the focus on the South reproducing a post-colonial dynamic where indigenous cultures are defined by their oppression, rather than in their own terms? What would be a space such as the South that didn’t need the North to define itself against? A kind of Hegelian dialectic had been initiated to discover an autonomous identity for the South.

Southern Theory

Meanwhile, there emerged a call in the academy to broaden the purview beyond the trans-Atlantic north. In 2007, the book by Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell was published, titled Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science (2007). Connell addressed the degree to which the discipline of sociology was built on a set of interests that were particular to the northern metropolitan centres. She argued that the theories of Marx, Durkheim and Weber did not account for the experiences particular to the periphery, especially that of its subaltern majorities. Rather than the universal systems offered by those theorists, Connell advocated for a ‘dirty theory’ that takes into account the particularities:

The goal of dirty theory is not to subsume, but to clarify; not to classify from outside, but to illuminate a situation in its concreteness. And for that purpose — to change the metaphor — all is grist to the mill. Our interest as researchers is to maximise the wealth of materials that are drawn into the analysis and explanation. It is also our interest to multiply, rather than slim down, the theoretical idea that we have to work with. That includes multiplying the local sources of our thinking, as this book attempts to do. (Connell 2007, 207)

While concerned particularly with the institutional production of knowledge, Connell’s work paralleled others that have recently used the South within a framework of critical social theory. This includes Enrique Dussel’s work constructing a discipline of liberation philosophy (Dussel 1985), which evaluates ideas according to their impact on social justice.  Such a philosophy takes geopolitical space seriously. As Dussel writes, ‘To be born at the North Pole or in Chiapas is not the same thing as to be born in New York City.’ (Dussel 1985).  This drive has been continued by thinkers and activists such as Boaventura de Sousa Santos, whose epic ‘epistemologies of the South’ (Santos 2013) aims to deconstruct universalising gestures.

There is much diversity among the theorists framing their work in a Southern context (Rosa 2014). But they share the key principle of place as a valid framework for the production of knowledge. This means working in the South can be more than just a second best option, indicative of failure to succeed in the North.

Southern Theory and visual arts

How might Southern Theory apply to the visual arts? Within an ecological framework, ideas are evaluated not only for their internal consistency but also the greater world they make possible. We may thus look at anthropology not as the disinterested study of an exotic tribe for the production of academic knowledge elsewhere, but as an exchange involving solidarity with the aspirations of the community under scrutiny. While Southern Theory is predominantly a matter of reflecting social realities, in the case of creative practices it is more about constructing alternatives to the world as it is.

Walter Mignolo is one theorist who has extended the southern perspective to the practice of visual arts and design (Kalantidou and Fry 2014). From an academic base in Hong Kong, Mignolo has led a group of scholars to develop a ‘decolonial aestheSis’ (Mignolo and Vázquez 2013), which critiques Western aesthetic categories like beauty through practices of juxtaposition or parody. Mignolo highlights the Sharjah Biennial (Mignolo 2013) as an example of radical decentring. According to Mignolo, this event ‘turns its back on the intellectual Euro-American fashions that have dominated, until recently, the “biennial market place”’ (Mignolo 2013).  For Mignolo, the value of Sharjah is a matter of its content; the countries and artists that participate represent an alternative ‘cultural cartography’. He notes that of the 100 artists, only 2 were from the USA and 20 from Europe. However, he refrains from mentioning any work in detail. The works are seen to illustrate a particular world view that is independent of the West. An example of one ‘illustrative work’ is:

Nevin Aladag, Turkey, Session (2013). This video triptych shot in Sharjah brings together the topography of the city and percussion music composed with Arabic, African and Indian percussion instruments. The video triptych invokes the spirit of re-emergence in that it works with musical instruments that elude the European renaissance. At the same time, that the instruments are played by and in the environment of Sharjah, cultures once disavowed by western hegemony ‘re-emerge’ with the force and the confidence of pluri-versal futures. (Mignolo 2013)

While its subject may seem non-Western, the format is readily assimilated into the dominant model. It is a ‘white cube’ work, detached from the work, where the visitor is an anonymous viewer. Apart from its geographic location, this work reproduces the biennial model of the world as spectacle.

The current Venice Biennale curated by Okwui Enwezor has brought the concerns of Sharjah to the centre. The majority of works offering a political critique of capitalist hegemony. But as noted (Cumming 2015), there is some irony in an event that is resourced and enjoyed by the very elites it attempts to critique. While some may argue that the carousel is opening up to the South (Gardner and Green 2013), there is no guarantee that it extends beyond the strata of cultural elites found in almost all countries. The challenge is to consider platforms for art making that go beyond reflecting the world as it is, and instead offer alternative pathways for creating a world that might be.

South Ways

It was with the aim to develop alternative platforms that a project was formed last year within the Southern Perspectives, a network of writers and artists that continued after the South Project. The aim of South Ways was to initiate development of platforms for art that act in the world. The process involved roundtables that brought together a variety of voices from those involved in creative practice. Four roundtables were held in different cities of Australia and New Zealand reflecting a diversity of perspectives. To provide a simple pragmatic frame, the seed for each roundtable was provided by a single verb that reflected a distinctive mode of engagement found in the South.[2]

I will provide a brief overview of these verbs and an example of their use.

To bestow

The first roundtable was held in Wellington New Zealand and included a mix of Māori and Pākeha participants. The verb to consider was ‘to bestow’ reflecting the traditional Māori practice of koha or gift giving in art practice and the emergence of Pākeha jewellery forms of engagement involving gift exchange. The main challenge concerned the vulnerability of such practices when exposed to consumer capitalism. Even in biennales, the freebie expectation means that gifts offered as part of the art world are rarely taken in the spirit of exchange. The task was to develop a platform that fostered trust and reciprocity between artists and their audiences.

The project Joyaviva was an exhibition where artists developed prototypes of modern amulets. This drew on the South American tradition of public shrines that receive ex-votive offerings. In the exhibition format, visitors were offered plastic flowers to adorn works and encouraged to reflect on the impact of these amulets on their lives. One of the participants, the Māori artist Areta Wilkinson, integrates koha into both her art work and academic research. For Joyaviva, she featured an initiative to support a Māori community devastated by the Christchurch earthquakes, which included a Matiriki brooch symbolising the Pleiades constellation that signals the New Year.

To open

Melbourne was the site of the second roundtable. Initially, the verb to open related to the work of artists like Nicholas Mangan who chose to expose sites of production in art galleries, such as guerrilla supply lines or factory assembly belts. Present were some of the artists who had chosen to boycott the Sydney Biennale because of its association with Transfield, the company commissioned to manage offshore detention centres. As befits the birthplace of Julian Assange, the Melbourne gathering advocated for a radical transparency, which would highlight the economic value that artists contribute for sponsors to major art events. The proposed WikiLeaks style of platform has yet to emerge.

But one initiative that does aspire to this is the Sangam Project. This platform emerged from the context of the practical workshops in the South Project, where North and South sometimes met in the process of product development, where designers and artisans sought to build creative partnerships.  The program attempts to use the new e-commerce platforms as a means to give economic value to the information about the maker, otherwise unacknowledged. This aspires to platform that is alternative to the commodity circuits that occlude the means of production.

To swap

In Sydney, the verb ‘to swap’ was set up to reflect the phenomenon of reverse primitivism in which Southern artists turn the exotic gaze back on the North. In the end, the subject of contention again was the biennale. In this case, the issue was the way the carousel privileged the art of international relations, rather than local practices that draw on urban nature and community histories. The proposal was a distributed biennale which spread its program across local sites in different cities.

An existing example is the project Minga Sistemas de Trabajo Colectivo in Santiago, curated by Angela Cura Mendez and Felipe Cura (Donoso 2015). Minga is a precolombian term for collective labour. In the island of Chiloe, it often takes the form of a Tiradura de casa when the community gather to move someone’s house to a different location. Working with the community of artist-run art spaces in Chile, this exhibition involved gathering more the spaces themselves than work within them. Maria Gabler re-constructed the walls of Galería Tajamar, which exists in a public housing estate, within Galleria Gabriela Mistral in downtown Santiago. This Minga of contemporary art enables a concentration of work that still retains its locatedness within its home community.

To glean

The roundtable in Hobart was concerned the practice of recovering what is left over, ‘to glean‘. This reflected not only the arte Povera practices such as El Anatusi, granted the Golden Lion in Venice for sublime recycling, but also recovery of cultures lost during the process of colonisation, which was particularly dramatic in Tasmania. The discussion eventually led to the revival of the idea of a Museum of Southern Memory, initially proposed in the first South Project, reflecting the common experience of Apartheid, Stolen Generation and the Disappeared. This museum will not be a physical structure, but a network of individuals and groups that sustain a story or cultural practice through use.

This year, the project of a Social Repair Kit involves re-modelling traditional forms of conflict resolution through blood money. The ‘sorry object’ is the subject of workshops in Bogotá, Santiago and Melbourne. The focus is the injury sustained by conflicts such as the Colombian civil war, coup against Allende and last year’s Sydney hostage siege and consequent islamophobia. Rather than reflect on these conflicts, the aim is to draw inspiration from traditional modes of conflict resolution, such as the Palabreros, in order to develop objects that can be introduced into the communities to facilitate apology and pardon.[3]


South Ways is a scattering of seeds, each with a kernel of action. Of course, we need to be realistic about the likelihood that these proposals will flourish, given the kind of soil in which they are planted. Stepping off the carousel means leaving behind the capital which it has proven effective in gathering. The success will depend on the strength of solidarity rather than self-interest of participants. But if South is to be more than a primitivist mirror to the North, it needs to be a space were we can test out other ways of being.


[1] See (Skinner 2014) for a more developed framework for the importance of craft in a settler colonial art history.

[2] The theoretical framework for this use of verbs is Actor Network Theory, which offers a flat explanatory structure that does refuses the mimesis and instead identifies the effects that accompany representation (Harman 2014). Accordingly, the dominant verb in visual arts is ‘to explore’ or ‘to examine’. This colonial mode entails a distance between the active world of the artist and unknowing object of knowledge. Viewed in this way, the challenge becomes identifying alternate actions in the world.


Borges, Jorge Luis. 1973. “Pascal’s Sphere.” In Other Inquisitions, 1937-1952, translated by Ruth L. C. Simms, 1st British ed. London: Souvenir Press.

Connell, Raewyn. 2007. Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Cambridge; Malden, MA: Polity.

Cumming, Laura. 2015. “56th Venice Biennale Review – More of a Glum Trudge than an Exhilarating Adventure.” The Guardian. Accessed June 14.

Derrida, Jacques. 1978. “Violence and Metaphysics: An Essay on the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas.” In Writing and Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Donoso, Diego Parra. 2015. “Cuidado: Zona de Autogestión Apuntes sobre Minga en Galería Gabriela Mistral.” Revista Punto de Fuga.

Dussel, Enrique. 1985. Philosophy of Liberation. Vol. 1. Maryknoll, N.Y. : Orbis Books, c1985.

Gardner, Anthony, and Charles Green. 2013. “Biennials of the South on the Edges of the Global.” Third Text 27 (4): 442–55. doi:10.1080/09528822.2013.810892.

Harman, Graham. 2014. Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political. Pluto Press.

Kalantidou, Eleni, and Tony Fry. 2014. Design in the Borderlands. 1 edition. New York, NY: Routledge.

Mignolo, Walter. 2013. “Re:Emerging, Decentring and Delinking.” Ibraaz. August 5.

Mignolo, Walter, and Rolando Vázquez. 2013. “The Decolonial AestheSis Dossier.” Social Text. July 15.

Ricoeur, Paul. 1984. Time and Narrative Vol.1. University of Chicago Press.

Rosa, Marcelo C. 2014. “Theories of the South: Limits and Perspectives of an Emergent Movement in Social Sciences.” Current Sociology, February, 0011392114522171. doi:10.1177/0011392114522171.

Sahlins, Marshall. 2005. “On the Anthropology of Modernity, Or, Some Triumphs of Culture over Despondency Theory.” In Culture and Sustainable Development in the Pacific, edited by Antony Hooper. Canberra: ANU Press.

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa. 2013. “Public Sphere and Epistemologies of the South.” Africa Development 37 (1): 43–67.

Skinner, Damian. 2014. “Settler-Colonial Art History: A Proposition in Two Parts.” Journal of Canadian History 35 (1): 131–75.


[3] I should also mention a more dispersed project drawing from the Melanesian language of silence to develop a platform outside of discourse. Vakanomodi project is named after the Fijian practice of deep listening to the land.

Image is from the exhibition Mirador, de María Gabler, en Galería Tajamar, Santiago de Chile, 2015. Foto: Sebastián Mejía

Photographic call for solidarity with victims of Iguala

Vivos ©Marcelo Brodsky, Buenos Aires, 2014

Vivos ©Marcelo Brodsky, Buenos Aires, 2014

Tlachinollan, Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña   the Latinstock Foundation  and Human Rights Organizations organizations in Latin America call for an international visual action in solidarity with the victims of kidnapping and murder that happened last September in Iguala, Estado de Guerrero, Mexico.

The visual campaign seeks photographers and groups of students who will pose for a picture with a sign reading in order to express world wide sympathy and support_for the missing students and their parents in their stuggle to pursue justice and truth for this brutal and unimaginable act of violence against unarmed young students. The sign reading will send a message for Truth and Justice to prevail in Mexico. The production of the sign should be made by the students so this becomes an educational experience in the production of images for a social and solidarity purpose.

The students and social organizations of Mexico will receive these images and distribute them around the country, in the social networks and in contact with the Mexican Human Rights Organizations such as Tlachinollan, that represents the families of the victims and other Photography and Human Rights organizations in Mexico. For them, this support is essential to strengthen their fight for justice and the respect for Human Rights, a struggle that will gain for them the support of sensible people around the world

The brutality against a group of 43 rural students of the Teachers Rural School Isidro Burgos of Ayotzinapa conducted by the Mexican state of Guerrero and its police in collusion with drug lords of that state , mark an elevated level of violence and horror exerted on Mexican people. This requires an immediate action in Mexico and around the world so that the truth is known and Mexicans can move ahead in the implementation of real justice in this case. World wide support as manifested in this campaign will give moral, public, and powerful support to the seekers of justice and truth in this case.

For more information, go to or to


The images can be sent in low resolution to:

  • [email protected]
  • [email protected]
  • [email protected]

And in High Resolution, for possible exhibition in Mexico when the campaign is completed to: [email protected]

If your organization wants to join this initiative, please send an email and your URL to [email protected]

Alfonsina Barrionuevo interview

Alfonsina Barrionuevo

Alfonsina Barrionuevo

Alfonsina Barrionuevo is a Peruvian writer whose work seeks to recuperate the indigenous knowledge lost to colonisation. Her scholarly research of Machu Picchu is a great contribution to our understanding of Inca culture. She keeps a rich set of texts online at
A continuación, explica las ideas que hay detrás de su trabajo:

En su trabajo, usted parece tener un compromiso con la recuperación de la cultura prehispánica. ¿Por qué es esto importante para usted personalmente?



Porque si el Perú hubiera sido un conjunto de grupos aldeanos, sin desarrollo cultural, no habría para qué buscar las raíces.  Aquí se habla del orgullo de ser peruanos, pero orgullo de qué.  La gente se queda en el aire. No es así. El país que tenemos fue extraordinario. Tiene ocho regiones y 84 pisos ecológicos. Tenemos 69 culturas que tuvieron un extraordinario desarrollo tecnológico, científico y cultural. Lo demuestran las construcciones de ciudades, sistemas de irrigación, cultivo y cosecha de lluvias, textilería, orfebrería, cerámica, escritura, tradiciones, música, danza, etc.  Hace diez mil años  comienzan con la domesticación de 450 especies alimenticias más o menos que se dan al mundo a partir del siglo XVI.  Su religión fue ecológica y carismática, no tuvimos dioses, conocieron tanto la naturaleza y las fuerzas cósmica<s y terrígenas que las consideraron familia. Hay que recuperar la memoria de lo que tuvimos y de lo que queda en las comunidades nativas para tener una base firme, para crecer ordenadamente, para sentir un compromiso para seguir adelante . Los políticos corruptos no tienen idea de la obligación que contraen con sus representados, la indolencia de muchos es fruto de su ignorancia, el no encontrar sentido a la vida ni respeto por la vida de los demás es consecuencia de todo esto en parte. En mi país sigue existiendo gente maravillosa honrada, trabajadora, inteligente y eso me reconcilia con las cosas negativas que pasan cada día.

Como intelectual peruana muy activa, puedes decir lo que las revistas o asociaciones locales eran importantes para usted en el sostenimiento de su trabajo?



Yo soy periodista. Siempre he trabajado en diarios y revistas. De qué otra forma hubiera podido sostenerme y sostener a mi familia. Yo no tenía herencias, no venía de una familia acomodada. Mi padre era periodista y mi madre una mujer de talento pero económicamente de clase media. Hoy no tengo trabajo en periódicos ni revistas porque prefieren gente que trabaja a destajo. Alguna vez vendía fotografías para mis artículos y me dijeron que preferían el regalo que les hacían los mochileros a quienes les bastaba una mención de su nombre o una propina. También son de su preferencia jóvenes periodistas que no tienen grandes obligaciones.

¿Hubo influencias intelectuales de fuera de Perú que eran importantes para usted?

He leído mucho a autores españoles, franceses, ingleses, desde los cuatro años de edad. Siempre estaba enferma y la única forma de mantenerme en la cama para mi padre fue enseñarme a leer y comprarme después libros, las revistas las leía en minutos.

¿Cree que es posible recuperar las formas de pensar que pertenecieron a las culturas pre-coloniales? ¿Qué importancia pueden tener ellos ahora?

No creo. En tantos siglos pasados la vida ha cambiado, los sueños, las pesadillas, las tecnologías, las necesidades.  Si pudiera hacer retroceder el tiempo sólo iría a ver cómo era su vida, los centros poblados, el paisaje. Debe haber sido fascinante. Hay valores que persisten en las comunidades andinas. Ahora que tenemos tanta inseguridad, asaltos, robos, etc. es casi un milagro sentir que en las comunidades se puede dejar equipos, provisiones, dinero y saber que no tocarán nada.  Muchas veces he compartido en mis viajes su fiambre ofrecido con generosidad. He dejado mis pertenencias en sus estancias o chozas que no tienen puertas ni llaves  con tranquilidad. Son gentes excelentes, con un sentido solidario qu4e no se encuentra en las ciudades. Los españoles inventaron una especie de máximas que muchos operuanos creen que son de Pachakuti Inka Yupanki. Ama Suwa, Ama Qella, Ama Llulla. Es decir “no robes” (lo que en realidad era no le robes al patrón  porque todo es suyo); “no seas ocioso” (trabaja para el patrón sin descansar porque es tu obligación y los hacían trabajar desde las 5 a.m. hasta las 5 a.m.) ;  “no mientas” (cuéntale todo al patrón porque es tu dueño y debes hacerlo sin ocultar nada)  Eso no funciona para ellos.

En los Andes sin que los obliguen trabajan cuanto pueden y si se rebelan es contra la explotación (recuerdo haber visto mujeres que iban por los chakiñan, caminos de pie hilando, sus manos nunca estaban ociosas); no necesitan robar porque la producción de sus tierras les basta, además tienen algún  ganado, alpakas, vacas, ovejas, kuyes, etc); no tienen para qué mentir. Esto es impracticable en las ciudades. No sólo en el Perú sino en medio mundo.  Es cierto que son recelosos pero se debe a que siempre los han engañado y se aprovechan de ellos, pero cuando advierten que estamos en el mismo camino, que creemos en lo que ellos creen, se abren y hablar de historias muy hermosas, costumbres muy antiguos interesantes, tradiciones que asombran,  artes (textilería principalmente, teñido), ciencias (conocen todos los huesos del cuerpo humano y son unos quiroprácticos excelentes, igualmente las virtudes de hierbas medicinales), técnicas agrícolas (sus antepasados domesticaron 427 o más especies alimentarias y medicinales que hoy usan los países del mundo, saben sembrar y cosechar las lluvias, auscultar en el cielo y a través de indicadores animales y vegetales si el año será bueno para el campo); tienen  música para nacer, morir, curar, comer, meditar, comunicarse, etc., ya alegre, ya triste, ya bélica), danzas ( por lo menos unas cuatrocientas de las mil doscientas que tenemos son ctreaciones de ellos,  los pulis registran en sus danzas el crecimiento de la kinua o kihura, etc,)

No hubiera escrito revelaciones en mi libro si ellos no me hubieran contado los relatos que se hicieron de padres a hijos por cientos de años. La gente de ciudad incluyéndo los antropólogos afirman que no saben nada sin haber hablado con ellos.

Kukuli Velade image

Kukuli Velade image

Kukuli Velarde ‘Mater Admirabilis’ (2010)

A portrait of Alfonsina Barrionuevo by her daughter Kukuli Velarde



28 libros y  ensayos acerca de instituciones prehispánicas y contemporáneas, novela y cuentos para niños,  entrevistas con especialistas e investigaciones en la Biblioteca Nacional de Lima  y Archivos Históricos de las capitales de provincia.

*2013. “TEMPLOS SAGRADOS DE MACHUPIQCHU”. Acerca de la religión carismática y ecológica de los Inkas. Ubicación de 17 wakas, sitios o templos sagrados en el santuario. Jesús.Bellido Ediciones.

*2005 ·HABLANDO CON LOS APUS”. Ed. Ediciones Bellido.

Un encuentro fascinante con los Apus y las Pachamamas de Qosqo a través del altomisayoq Mario Cama. Ellos me contaron experiencias increíbles de cosa sucedidas. No son seres humanos sino fuentes de energía terrígena que sienten y aconsejan.


*2000. “PODER EN LOS ANDES: LA FUERZA DE LOS CERROS”. Religión andina. Gráfica Bellido. Lima

*1998. “EL PONCHITO DEL PIRGUSH”. Mitos y leyendas para Educación Inicial. Ed. BRASA. Cuento infantil a base de un pajarito, el pirgush, un hombre ocioso que fue convertido en ave,

*1997. “EL PICAFLOR DE MACHUPIQCHU”. Mitos y leyendas para Educación Inicial.  Ed. BRASA.  Un picaflor fue encargado por los Apus de Urubamba para entregar a un sacerdote inka dos plantas maravillosas, una que ayuda  a multiplicar la fuerza humana y otra que convierte la piedra en barro.

*1990. “SAQESQA: LA NOVIA DEL SANTO”. Novela corta. Ed. SAGSA. La costumbre del saqey “abandono”  simbólico de una criatura que nace de manera prematura en un altar religioso católico para que el santo o virgen se lo lleve como angelito o lo ayude a vivir.

*1989. “HUCHUYSITO, EL PEQUEÑITO”.  Mitos y leyendas para niños.  Ed. SAGSA.  Huchuysito un pajarito quie recorre el Perú cuenta historias extraordinarias a umn niño que vive solo en la puna hasta que muere.

*1989. “LOS EXTRATERRESTRES ¿CONSTRUYERON SAQSAYWAMAN?”.  Un recorrido por el Valle Sagrado de los Inkas. Ed. SAGSA.

*1988. “AYACUCHO: LA COMARCA DEL PUTKA AMARU”.  Mitos, leyendas, historia, tradiciones, etc. Ed. SAGSA.

*1986. “QORIMANKA, CULINARIA EN OLLA DE ORO”.  Mitos, leyendas, e historia sobre los alimentos. Recetas. Ed. SAGSA.


*1981. “CARTAS DE LIMA”.  Lima virreinal. Ed. UNIVERSO. Leyendas de iglesias y casonas.

*1981. “LIMA: EL VALLE DEL DIOS QUE HABLABA”-  Historia prehispánica de Lima. Ed. ARICA. Recorrido por puieblos que conservan rituales y costumbres prehispánicas.

*1980. “CUSCO MAGICO”. 2da. Edición. Ed. Universo. Lima.

*1979. “EL NIÑO DIOS EN EL PERU”. . Ensayo. Banco de Crédito.

*1978. “ARTISTAS POPULARES DEL PERU”. Estudio sobre artistas populares de diferentes lugares del país,  Ed. SAGSA.

*1978. “HABLA MICAELA”.  Ensayo sobre Micaela Bastidas, Jefe de Estado Mayor de Tupaq Amaru.  Ed. Talleres  Gráficos IBERIA.  “Autobiografía subjetiva” sobre lo que fue pensando Micaela Bastidas a medida que trascurría la revolución de Tupaq Amaru hasta su muerte. Es una de las obras más bellas MÁS BELLAS QUE HE ESCRITO que he escrito con mi sentir de mujer andina, pensando en qechwa y escribiendo en español.

*1978. “KUKULI”.. Una niña  cuenta cómo empezó a pintar a los 3 años de edad . Editorial DESA.

*1976. “LA CHICA DE LA CRUZ”. Novela para niños en castellano. Una niña de ciudad atemorizafda por las espeluznantes historias de tipo religioso logra superar su situación psicológica con la ayuda de una niña andina que le muestra su mundo maravilloso donde los elementos de la naturaleza son familia.  Ed. SAGSA. Lima. Traducido al alemán y publicado por Ed. J.G. Blaschke Verlag.Printed  in Austria.

*1974. “MACHUPIQCHU Y SUS LEYENDAS”.  Edición en inglés y castellano. Ed. STUDIUM.

*1974. “CAPITAN PELICANO”. Libro para niños en defensa del pelícano. Ed. ARICA.

*1973. “SIRVINAKUY, EL MATRIMONIO DE PRUEBA”. Ensayo sobre el matrimonio andino. Ed. SAGSA.

*1972. “PINTADITA, LA VIKUÑA”. Libro para niños en defensa de la vikuña, traducido al alemán. Ed. ARICA. Campaña nacional con  50,000 ejemplares.

*1971. “EL VARAYOQ: EQUILIBRADOR ENTRE DOS MUNDOS”.  Ensayo sobre el alcalde andino.Ed. SAGSA.

*1971. “EL MUKI Y OTROS PERSONAJES FABULOSOS”. Ensayo sobre 18 personajes fabulosos en inglés y castellano. Ed. SAGSA.


*1970. “CUSCO MAGICO”. En castellano y en inglés. Ed. UNIVERSO. Traducido también al rumano.