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Looking for Blackness | Update

I’ve connected with Mai Elka Prado Gil who is the co-founder of The Afro Latino Project. It’s an organization that has as mission to serve as a digital resource center and archive for the historical and material documentation and preservation of the cultures, histories and experiences of Afrodescendant people in the Americas and the Caribbean. We are planning to get together to talk further about the ways she and her partner, Amilcar Maceo Priestley can help in developing the project, Looking For Blackness. My hope is that it will be a seamless addition to the overall Guatemala project. Mai Elka mentioned that they are connected to the Garifuna and have collaborated on other projects. Right now I’m looking at developing an installation of video, photography and live performance. Included will be a panel discussion on race, art and curation in Guatemala/Latin America. Taking a cue from Julian, who suggested connecting with AfroLatinos here in New York, we can draw out the connections between the American experience and that of Latin America, with regards to questions of racism, curation of art and general access or cultural inclusion. I also have a connect in Belize that I am exploring.


Proposal: Looking For Blackness

Novel Sholars
AMC – Guatemala
Fall 2014

Proposal: Looking For Blackness


Looking for blackness has as it’s main focus identifying the gaps in presentation of
Afro Latino art through the curatorial practices of the region. Through the research of historical references of the African slave trade and its impact on Latin American/ Guatemalan society, the hope of this exploration is to eradicate the erasure of Afro-Latin peoples, their culture and artistic expression through the exposure of the deep seated racism that is evidenced.

The Issue-

Though blacks in Latin America make up a significant amount of the population, they are currently underrepresented in the curatorial practices of it’s art world. Many factors may lend themselves to this reality still the question remains; is this an issue that plans to be addressed? Acknowledging the differences between the mind set of Latin America and its American counterpart regarding race, the understanding that the Mistiso population has within its makeup Spanish, Indigenous and an African contingent, a common thought is that the mixture of peoples makes racial difference less important. The question remains, what is lost in this thought and how does it aid in the suppression of specific populations? For example in the case of places like Cuba, to mention racism is considered an act of sedition as they consider themselves a mixing pot of cultures and traditions. With that being said, where the catastrophic conditions of poverty and questions of access affect the darker side of the equation, this philosophy becomes problematic.
Data illustrates that race continues to be one of the most persistent predictors of poverty in the Americas, which is particularly troubling because African descendant populations tend to speak their nation’s language as their mother tongues — whether it is Spanish or Portuguese — and are in close proximity to urban, coastal, port or mining areas, which tend to be centres for employment and economic growth opportunities. A targeted approach to eliminating racial gaps is needed to combat discrimination and lack of access to opportunities for these large communities.There are an estimated 150 million African descendants in Latin America, according to the World Bank in 2006, which makes blacks the largest marginalized racial or ethnic group. In contrast, there are approximately 28 million indigenous peoples in Latin America, according to 2007 estimates, also from the World Bank. This makes the African descendant population five times larger than the indigenous population.
Race and Poverty in Latin America – UN Chronicle

Economic and educational access is probably the most relevant factor with regards the artistic representation of The Afro-Guatemalan/Latino communities. Over the past few weeks I have seen very little representation of Indigenous artist and no representation of Afro-Guatemalans/Latinos artists. Where are the communities and what art is being produced? Should we assume that there is no cultural artistic expression from the Afro-Latin communities, particularly in Guatemala?

I have been looking at the work of the Garifundo which at this point seems more performative. With further examination my hope is to discover more of the ways in which art is expressed in these and other Afro-Latin communities. With more research; interviewing historians, and the actual people of the regions in question, I hope to uncover the artists and more of the work. Once the work is uncovered, I would like to explore original ways of presentation that might establish a relevance within the contemporary art context.

The Garifundo

The Garifuna (/ɡəˈrɪfʉnə/ gə-rif-uu-nə; pl. Garinagu in Garifuna) are descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. The British colonial administration used the term Black Carib and Garifuna to distinguish them from Yellow and Red Carib, the Amerindian population that did not intermarry with Africans. Caribs who had not intermarried with Africans are still living in the Lesser Antilles.
Today the Garifuna live primarily in Central America. They live along the Caribbean Coast in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras including the mainland, and on the island of Roatán. There are also diaspora communities of Garifuna in the United States, particularly in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and other major cities.

Example link
Black in Latin America Series: Full Episodes


Roatan Island Honduras

Research: Looking for Blackness- The search for Afro-Guatemalan/Latin contemporary artists.

Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean: Social Dynamics and Cultural Transformations (Blacks in the Diaspora) Volume 2 Paperback – October 22, 1998 by Arlene Torres (Editor), Norman E. Whitten (Editor)
Book Presentation of Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America
Pigmentocracies is a richly revealing analysis of contemporary attitudes toward ethnicity and race in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, four of Latin America’s most populous nations.
Based on extensive, original sociological and anthropological data generated by the multi year Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA), this landmark study analyzes ethnoracial classification, inequality, and discrimination, as well as public opinion about Afro-descended and indigenous social movements and policies that foster greater social inclusiveness. A once-in-a-generation examination of contemporary ethnicity, this book promises to contribute in significant ways to policy making and public opinion in Latin America.

****The “Book Presentation of Pigmentocracies” is part of the public programming leading up to our second transnational conference Afro-Latin@s Now: Race Counts! to be held in New York City on October 23-25, 2014.

The story of the afrolatin@ forum
Faces of Afro-South Americans

Published on Jun 27, 2013
“Mongulu” from The Garifuna Collective’s album “Ayó”
directed by Garry Bassin / The Listen Project

Black in Latin America E02, Brazil: A Racial Paradise Collective

Garifuna Heritage Foundation mission statement


The LatiNegr@s Project

Arturo Lindsay: The Professor-Artist

Though the Panama-born Lindsay grew up Roman Catholic (“I wanted to be a priest, but then I discovered girls”), occasionally attends a Buddhist temple off I-85 (“Buddha was a pretty slick dude”), and edited Santería Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art for the Smithsonian.

Additional media links:

Research for Conflict in Guatemala – presentation
Looking For Blackness – Race Conflict, Curitorial Practices & Art in Latin America
Henry Luis Gates executive producer
Black in Latin America
45:33 – 50:47
Mexico and Peru
Costa Chica – coastal African region
19:35 – 23:10
Memine Pynguine – La caricatura en Mexico
Stamp – popular comic book beloved by Mexicans

Israel Reyes Larrea / teacher /radio show to raise awareness Rights of black people in Mexico
27:16- 29:24. You can’t be great if you suppress the identity of a people

Mestizo is problematic

Afro Peru
Susana Baca – singer ( the soul of black Peru)
30:00-33:00. Estimated 2mil that live in Peru

Professor Carlos Aguirre – University of Oregon
33:31-34:24. Malyanbo Slave Market Pizarro brought first slaves to Peru in 1527
Lima was considered a black city 30-40% black
Diseases desmated the indigenous so they the Spanish brought slaves over 100thousand to work the sugar plantations and silver mines

Black Artisan inspires cult
Largest procession was inspired by unknown Angolan slave 17century El Senior Deyos Malagros 33:37-36:10

Another Painter documented life in Lima over 100 years ago Pancho Veraro free black man
Professor Maribel Arrelucea Barrantes
National University of San Marcos 36:05-38:54

Cotton Pickers – black town of El Carren
Only 27% finish high school only 2% get a college education – Reinvention as Heartbeat of Afro Peruvian Music – Chebo Ballumbrosio
Public Apology
Monica Carillo head of LUNDU fights against images like Negro Mama

He talks about the denying of access to society that the ancestors help to create

Afro-Guatemalan are Guatemalans of African descent. Afro-Guatemalans comprise 1-2% of the population. They are of mainly English speaking West Indian (Antillean) and Garifuna population. They are found in the Caribbean coast, in Livingston (a Garifuna settlement), Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomas. During the colonial period, African slaves were brought in, but have mixed with the general population and can be referred to them as Afro-mestizos. So, due to miscegenation, the majority of black people became in Mulatto (50% black-50% white) and Zambo (50% black-50% Amerindian), and these in turn became in Quadroon (75% white and 25% black) and Cambujos (75% Amerindian and 25% black). Due to centuries of miscegenation, Afro-Guatemalans (aside from the Garifunas) today form part of the country’s mixed-race, non-indigenous ladino population.

Choices – Erika Verzutti

I was struck by the work of Erika Verzutti and artist from Brazil, in hindsight. I suppose that’s a good thing because it implies a resonance. For instance her work Venus on Fire references Venus of Wilandorf a fertility figure, sometimes called the nude woman, which dates back to 28,000 and 25,000 BCE and is one of the first art sculptures ever found. You sense it’s relation to history and blackness. When looking at it you feel it with out touching it. It was one of the few pieces that felt of the earth and organic structure. She inverts it, standing it on it’s head which can mean so many things in it’s context, the context of curation and the context of modern contemporary art.

Painted Lady

The work Painted Lady is the personification of a woman. Verzutti uses fruit and found objects, something that people can relate to, and sculpts it into what we recognize as breast and the limbs of a woman. She talks a lot about being local and not being disadvantaged because of not being a part of something. This is much like the experience of women, particularly those of color. Her work to me is about access, certainly this work which reminds me a lot of African sculpture. She uses things essential like food in this case, because we all eat it. We immediately recognize the sensual quality of this work and interact with it on a level that is base human.

Verzutti has a video segment on Artist Talk in which she talks about curation and choices.
In this talk she curates a few pieces within the curation of Under The Same Sun . The pieces she selects are the pieces most associated with found objects or the earth. This is telling about how she sees the world and the things she’s exploring in her work.

Erika Verzutti | Cruzamentos: Contemporary Art in Brazil from Wexner Center for the Arts on Vimeo.


Erika Verzutti is interested in the formal qualities of things found in nature, and her work reveals the beauty and symbolic power of common objects with enigmatic properties. The intuitive and material qualities of Verzutti’s sculptures, collages, drawings, and paintings recall the mid-20th-century Neo-Concretist movement in her native Brazil, which rejected mechanized and overly intellectual approaches to art making in favor of a sensual, intuitive relationship between the artist and the object.

Verzutti initially studied industrial design (focusing on graphics) at the Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, São Paulo, and subsequently studied fine arts at Goldsmiths College, London. Her installation Pet Cemetery was exhibited at Galeria Fortes Vilaça (São Paulo) in 2008 and her work was the subject of an exhibition at the Centro Cultural São Paulo in 2012, the same year her Lilliput was shown on New York’s High Line. She is participating in the 2013 Mercosul Biennial (Porto Alegre, Brazil).

Carnegie Museum of Art

a question of access…

Last week I spoke a bit about class and color distinction when referencing the idea of mestizo. My fear and focus is all about access and the issue of definition as  we  often see things through a  white colonialist lens which obstructs this as a possibility. My fear is that the people  and its culture may be subject to the violence that is this act and that we are often complicit .  Our readings this week addressed this issue but certainly opened the doors to future examination in this regard.  I was particularly struck by the reference  to the school, La Ivan Illich and it’s  “Address to University of Puerto Rico students, graduating ceremony 1969”,  which was a call to abolish schooling and reimagine learning in an atmosphere of freedom.  La Iván Illich is an open school where anyone can propose a class, workshop, conference, reading group or other type of knowledge exchange.  They look to break the binaries between teacher-student, artist-spectator, expert-amateur, and instead propose flexible structures that allow for mutual learning and produce collective knowledge. This is, in theory, is the kind of open access situation in learning to strive for. But  in my opinion  I question if it’s manifesto is being realized. Free access to creative and educational space should not be a privilege but a right. But then theres the question of money/capitalism.

In the section Decolonial Aesthetic,  key to me was the mention of creative practitioners, activist and thinkers  who continue to nourish the global flow of decoloniality towards a transmodern and pluriversal world. I was unaware of Bandung’s uniting 29 Asian and African countries and that it was followed by the formation of the Non-Alligned Movement in 1961 which included former Eastern Europe and Latin America. Its goal and legacy was imagining a world beyond capitalism and communism and  imagining a third way which was de-colonial .  It’s  big when it is recognized that there is a need for self reflection. This  self reflection seemed to be interwoven in its goal by rein-scribing , and dignifying  the ways of thinking  once demonized and devalued by colonial , imperial interventionist agendas as well as by postmodern and alter modern internal critique. Im anxious to investigate the ways modern curators of the region actually apply this imperative.
Delinking, yeah.


Reading response 1 – Contemporary Art in Latin America

Contemporary Art in Latin America

 The idea of Mestizo,(mixed Spanish and Indigenous)and what that means to those Indigenous Mayans of Guatemala is a topic of interest to me. Not to implicate Pablo, but I was aware that he made a definite point of letting us know that Mestizo is his distinction. So I looked up some info on the relationships of the Mestizo and the Indigenous Mayans of the region, as I suspected racism and discrimination akin to what we experience here in the states. According to the online publication, Minority Rights Group International, the majority of the indigenous Mayan peoples and minority cultures, which includes those mixed African-Indigenous experience disrespect, violence, and negative treatment in the media. This brings to the forefront the question of access as it relates to what is considered curatable and marketable. This is a challenge most poor and disadvantaged people experience worldwide when it comes to it’s cultures artistic expression and general viability to the world at large. When it comes to the question of how one’s culture should be defined, with regard to poor folk, it often seems absent from the equation how those folk define themselves. With respect to the Guatemalan/Mayan culture there seems to be no exception to this dilemma, particularly with regard to it’s art and culture.

 In the reading Contemporary Art in Latin America I found  themes which support my assertions. In the current globalized art scene we find Eurocentric notions and stereotypes as it relates to identity and intercultural dynamics. Speaking to this are the writings of Gerardo Mosquera in Against Latin American Art, where he talks about the Latin American predicament, a dividing of the coin in a sense as he speaks of hegemonic western meta-culture and internationalisation versus personalities of singular contexts, local traditions and the embracing of the ‘non-west’. Further reading of this text can make the case of a society willing to be short sold, as Oswald de Andrade coined the the term anthropophagy in 1928, which dealt with the idea of cultural appropriation or the inverse. His words were ‘it only interested him what was not his’. What came from this sentiment was an apparent reversing of the fundamentalist politics of authenticity. Instead of being imposed on by colonialism, anthropophagy voluntarily swallows dominant culture to it’s on benefit. I found this concept problematic as it seemed, in my opinion, to play into the idea of accepting the annihilation of cultures indigenous to the region and a decimation of it’s inherent voice. In support of this Heloisa Buarque De Hollanda warned that anthropophagy can stereotype a problematic concept of a carnivalizing identity that processes beneficial everything that is not its own. I find this interesting as it relates to an exploration and comparison of the ways americans of African decent deal with the charges of inequities that often lend to the vulnerabilities associated with a lack of social,economic and political standing. This too as it relates to the “curatable” and more importantly how american/world media represents it’s so called minority populations.


a few loose citations

Against Latin American Art; Gerardo Mosquera