Deconstructing the Colonial Body

In her piece, Indigeneity and Decolonial Seeing in Contemporary Art of Guatemala, author Kancy Cornejo, writes about how the indigenous body was and is still used as an object of violence, historical discourse and sociopolitical analysis, which in many ways continues to uphold problematic Western perspectives. Within art, the indigenous are usually depicted as representations of a fictive romanticized past. This is a dangerous lens with which to approach their history because it allows the public to veil itself from the lived reality of the people; a reality which can most generally be defined by racist and dehumanistic colonial treatment. In order to decolonize minds, the indigenous identity can no longer be manipulated and used as a source of silent artistic inspiration. This brand of historical romanticism and revisionism enables the violence of the past to continue onwards into the future.

Many groups in Latin America, Guatemala in particular, believe that actively preserving collective memory will serve as a foundational mechanism with which to protect people from future injustices. Social justice based art is used globally as a form of collective expression, healing and identification. As noted in the piece specifically, visuality and performance art are valuable vehicles of expression because both recognize how sound and language remain implicated in coloniality, and thus by intervening in public spaces with their bodies, these artists are able to enact visual and corporal screams of denunciation.

Moreover, visuality and art is a vital transmitter of histories and identities because many of the repressed lack the educational resources to access these issues through other mediums. Art becomes the means through which people can come to reevaluate, reflect and respond to what has happened to not only themselves, but also their communities. Given this, decentering Western perspectives is critical in order to reinstitute the position of the dispossessed. By romanticizing the lives of the indigenous, the West enacts a massive disservice upon these marginalized communities. It’s incredibly valuable to continually highlight how indigenous groups are reclaiming their discourse in order to protect their cultural identity and spirituality. These acts help clear the path towards implementing justice and overcoming silence. Decolonial gesturing is critical to de-colonializing ways of seeing, approaching knowledge, and truth. That said, this process will always be in flux and decolonization is an ongoing endeavor which will need to constantly be examined. Nonetheless, movements, especially those taking place within the arts are working to revitalize societal consciousness.

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