Proposed panel: Encounters and Translations Across Local-Global Divides


Un-weaving the Republic [Post]Colonial Pasts, Presents and Futures

Carolina Estrada 2019

The paper will critically discuss the processes of collaborative creation between a contemporary visual artist and artisan collectives, problematising the integration of both languages and the making of meaning across their contextual spaces. I will draw from two collaborative experiences to address the local vision around peripheral aesthetics, the artistic negotiations that result from internal migration, and the possibilities of an egalitarian incorporation of “minor” and “native” hand crafted techniques into mainstream visual arts circuits.

The first case study focuses on the co-creation and re-appropriation of a 19th century military uniform worn by the Libertadores (José de San Martín or Simón Bolivar). My idea was to re-elaborate the military uniform through the visual languages and creative possibilities of native handcrafted traditional techniques such as: weaving, embroidery, spinning and natural dyeing, and “retablos” figurines; all of which are considered minor because they are on the periphery of formal “aesthetic” and “ideological” values. It is was not only a question of re-signifying symbols of great historical value, but also of generating messages that respond to current racial problems, social inequalities, and discriminatory practices through the representation of communities, migration histories, and other non-hegemonic narratives of everyday life. I worked in a co-authorship and co-learning basis with traditional artists who were also politically engaged like Maxima Acuña, an environmental activist from the northern Peruvian highlands of Cajamarca who has been fighting against adverse effects of mining; Olinda Silvano, leader of the first Shipibo urban migrant community in Lima; and, Teodoro Ramírez, an artist from Ayacucho who uses the “retablo” to represent the Peruvian internal armed conflict.

The second case study focuses on a relational project called Sensitive Cartographies where I worked with the Awaq Warmikuna Association—a group of migrant settlers located in San Juan de Lurigancho district in Lima— to create a textile map depicting an informal and self-managed highway uniting two peripheral districts in Lima. The waist loom—a native technique from Latin-America— was influenced by the colonial textile practices transforming its domestic use into a 4-wheel craftsmanship producing woven warps of up to 100 meters, making it an ideal device for a collective work. At a contextual level, the 4-wheel machines, which juxtapose South American and European influences, figuratively addresses some of the migration issues that echoed through the project.