Acknowledging Knowledge

Cornejo in her piece “Indigeneity and Decolonial Seeing in Contemporary Art of Guatemala” refers to a colonialist misrepresentation of the indigenous community by Guatemalan artists who were formed in Western countries outside of Guatemala. Through different artistic techniques these artists misrepresent the indigenous body, since they were merely inspired by their bodies and expressed them, even objectifying it at times. He refers to the artists who simply see the indigenous body as a muse, as a “subject matter”, considering this type of art a form of colonialism, since those artists impose their ideas, their power, over the indigenous community.

On the other hand, Cornejo presents artists who show the indigenous community as a source of knowledge. I believe this is a crucial point since by considering the indigenous community a source of information, the artist is empowering them, transforming the indigenous community from a subject matter to a resource, a person of crucial value.

In a lecture by Professor Kjetil Fallan, he referenced to “subjugated knowledge”, referring to the popular, local, regional knowledge. The decolonization of the indigenous community in Guatemalan art is an acknowledgement of this type of regional knowledge, recognizing the value of the indigenous culture without its romantic component. As curator Pablo Ramirez commented in his talk, recognizing the indigenous community as a different type of knowledge -that is literate even though many of their members cannot read or write- is the way we acknowledge the richness of this culture and the value of its history for Guatemala.

As Cornejo explains, modern Guatemalan artists have drawn experience and knowledge from the indigenous community, producing activist art that acknowledges the indigenous culture. Chavajay and Sandra Monterroso are two artists that not only employ performance art as a sociopolitical critique, but also draw knowledge and experiences from indigenous tradition. The way these artists used indigenous tradition as a form of activist art as a healing and condemning process as Cornejo refers, is a de-colonial way of representing the indigenous culture, learning from it and despoiling it from its romantic aspects.

By Ivana García


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