Decolonizing minds

Decolonizing minds

It may be a coincidence, but the Spain pavilion at this year's Venice Art Biennale, which is essentially a critique of colonial narratives and historical ways of seeing the world, is really appealing to non-Europeans. An American visitor considered it “magnificent” and “wonderful.” Another Japanese is surprised when Commissioner Agustín Pérez Rubio explains why climate activists killed in Latin America (such as the Brazilian Mariel Franco) should be given a space in the enlightened racist cabinet. The same man also paid much attention to Máscares mestissas, in which paintings by Spanish masters were adulterated to give relief to figures in these works who were left in the background or presented in a negative key.

Susana, a Brazilian from São Paulo, sums it up simply. “The most interesting thing is that they show us that you can think differently,” he notes. “Spain was a great colonial power and I believe that initiatives of this kind can lead to reconciliation with Latin America. It's a start,” she says after becoming one of the first visitors, on the day of its opening, Migrant de Pinacoteca. The name chosen for the suite. Works that wish to question institutional racism or women's role in their reproductive function are also shown exclusively.

Sandra Gamarra, Peru, the first artist not born in Spain to represent the country in this important Venetian competition, believes this is her own grain of sand. “I was very interested in creating a comfortable space and through that space creating subtle cracks, so that people would ask questions about the past and its continuity in the present,” he says. Is now the right time? He adds: “What is important is to end the colonization of minds and hearts, so that the laws and ways in which we deal with others change.”

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Indigenous leaders

Gamarra and Pérez Rubio also work as guides for visitors for hours (mainly many journalists and cultural sector workers). Also crowded with traffic from groups coming and going are the migrant gardai, the final room, a tribute not to the conquistadors, but to indigenous leaders who fought for their countries, such as Bolivian Juana Arzué.

“We have to deprogram ourselves, and it's not about tearing our clothes off,” says Pérez Rubio. “We need to reveal and speak openly, without feeling guilty, but with recognition of what happened.” [en l’etapa del colonialisme espanyol]”, he argues, rejecting the argument that this would inflame anti-Spanish sentiment. According to him, the time is now because Spain “suffered a dictatorship for 40 years, from which we actually emerged in the 1980s, and that is why immigration came at a time when Later, this migration is bearing fruit now.”

Both Gamarra and Pérez Rubio – each to a greater or lesser extent – do not hide that they are aware that not everyone will like this proposal of the Spanish winger. Qamra draws an analogy by referring to the problem of the climate crisis and its critics, something that is also present in the pavilion. “It seems that our way of seeing things is the natural way and everything else is ideologies,” says the curator. “But our ways of seeing also respond to myth.” Meanwhile, a short distance away, three Italian soldiers guard the closed Israeli pavilion while a pro-Palestine march takes place.

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