Curatorial essay for one of the thematic strands of ‘Embedded Souths’ online moving image exhibition curated by Zoe Butt, Uyen Le and myself. Commissioned by San Art, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the exhibition was screened in November 2016 in the framework of San Art ‘Conscious Realities’ program.
One of the achievements of imperial reason was to affirm itself as a superior identity by constructing inferior entities (racial, national, religious, sexual, gender), and expelling them to the outside of the normative sphere of “the real.” I agree that today there is no outside of the system; but there are many exteriorities, that is, the outside constructed from the inside in order to clean and maintain its imperial space. It is from the exteriority, the pluri-versal exteriorities that surround Western imperial modernity that de-colonial options have been repositioned and emerged with force.
The notion of conscious realities evokes a sense of recovery, a re appropriation of what was previously perceived as fleeting phenomena, lived without the allowance for deep examination. Through such process of recovery we are invited to examine aspects of reality that had been submersed or denied in benefit of other versions presented as pre-packed truths. Colonised people of the world understand such predicament, which unites a diversity of cultures under a similar historical paradigm.
In order to illuminate areas of human experience that have been obscured by imposed narratives humans seek refuge in immaterial legacies such as ritual, language and practices handed over by oral transmission.
Throughout history, mythologies and other knowledge systems have unequivocally been at risk of extinction during colonial processes, so the articulation of life’s mysteries and the transmission of ancestral beliefs in ceremonial performance need to be preserved as hidden treasures. Furthermore, in popular culture mythologies are safeguarded and emerge often as subtle mementos, frequently merging with elements adopted from the oppressor’s cultures, such as we see in the film Some Dead Don’t Make a Sound by Claudia Joskowicz.
In South America, a move to the centre-left took place from the start of the new century, establishing new policies that obeyed to a de-colonial re-valorisation of ancestral indigenous knowledge systems.
Among the most remarkable examples of such epistemological move was the inclusion of the rights of the earth in the Bolivian constitution in… which emerged from the concept of sumac kawsay (well being) a holistic philosophy that defines the interconnectedness of all members of a community and the environment.
In Brazil a process of re-ethnization – as expressed by anthropologist Rita Serato – redefined the national paradigm by habilitating new inclusion policies based on discourses on identity that question the one inherited from the creole elites of the XIX century during the post colonial period. In relation to these social and intellectual shifts, the films Iemanja by Renata Padovan and and FunFun by Ayrson Heráclito focus on spiritual practices of African matrix in Brazil, while Umaturka by Giovanna Miralles observes the ancestral practice of calling for water, traditionally practiced by the Aymara communities of the Andes, and its relation to recent desertification in light of climate change. As seen in Andrew Esiebo work Crazy World Crazy Faith and Lázara Rosell Albear and Sammy Baloji ‘s collaborative work Bare-Faced the transnational connections activated by both organised religion and syncretic spiritual practices destabilise the modern concept of culture, identity and territory in favour of a highly complex global phenomenon.