Saturday, April 11, 2009

Indigenous aesthetics and power

BBC NEWS | Americas | Colombian Indians seek security

As this piece points out the situation that the indigenous peoples of Colombia find themselves in is precarious. Threatened as the innocent bystanders caught in the middle of armed conflict between government militia, drug cartels and the FARC these groups claim their indigenous identity is being threatened. Several things pop out at me in this article that correlate to the issues we have discussed in class recently about indigeneity.

First it is interesting how the author of the article appeals in very specific notion to an _45645295_arhuacomen_226ahistorical construction of the indigenous identity. Notice:

Some 1,000 metres above sea level lies the heart of the reservation of the Arhuaco people, one of the more traditional indigenous tribes, whose members wear white robes and speak a language that greeted the Spanish Conquistadors when they landed here some five centuries ago.

-notice how the aesthetic displays (dress, language) are fixed to notions of ancientness and fixed in a particular space. When the author describes the aesthetic display of one woman who stands out in protest of the arrangements imposed by Uribe’s government – it is used to qualify her statements as contextually authoritative as the voice of the indigenous person.

Dressed in the traditional white robes with coloured beads draped around her neck, Leonor fears the consequences of allowing troops to move freely into the reservation.

The author goes on to use another visual image to drive home the point of his argument. He points to a member of another tribe who has lost his indigenous identity and marks it by referring to the ‘traffic’ that could be heard in the background of the telephone conversation.

The author seems to appeal to the Western typical notions of indigeneity inscribed in very particular aesthetics. In fairness though it seems that these people themselves are actually looking for the type of isolation from external contact that clearly is not possible.

"The more contact we have with the government, the more people that come to the Sierra, the more they will try to dilute our culture, our traditions," said Diego Garcia

This article serves to once again complexify the issues around indigeneity, aesthetics, land and power.

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