Until the Wolf is There
Location: Landgoed de Campagne Gijzelstraat 12, 9031 Ghent
July 20 2019, 3-6 p.m.
Carolina Rodríguez (COL) -¿Dónde están los niños?” (Where are the children?)
The works that I brought for this exhibition, and that I wanted to share with you, are part of the history of my work. We omitted some works that I no longer have available and others because of the difficulty of transporting them.
As this exhibition was determined to be retrospective, I asked myself: what do all the series I have done so far have in common? And what drives me to continue drawing children? I think it's fundamental for me to make childhood visible. When we name something, this starts to exist, but it seems, sometimes, that we live in a world where only the interests of adults matter.
However, precisely the problems of adults cause me a lot of intrigue. It is difficult for me to understand our behavior, the direction we take as humanity. In that coming and going, trying to understand, I have understood that the answers to all my questions are children.
The first series I did was called “Jugando Conmigo” (“Playing with Me”), when I was in the university. A teacher had discovered my drawings in my notebook and insisted that I should show them to all the other students, so she gave me the assignment to bring 30 drawings of children to the next class. I did not know where to get so many children from, so I remembered that during my childhood my mom had worked in the design and creation of children's clothes and that she had kept several fashion magazines for children.
From there I took my first drawings, but looking closely at the magazine I found suggestive images.
It is a suggestive image, I consulted with several people and the majority associated the image with a lolita; Why they didn’t see the girl? So I asked myself the following questions, I started thinking, what does the image contain to provoke desire in others? Clothes? The look of the girl? The legs crossed? Why is she lying down? ... I came to the conclusion that it is not any of the above. It is clear that there are two intentions, the one of the photographer and the one of the viewer. I thought: "well, if advertising and photography manage to transform our vision in this way, then I as an artist should be able to do something and I decided to leave the image the same, but take advantage of my strokes by trying to remind the viewer that what they were seeing was a girl (image 2). This series was called “Playing with Me”, as a play with words: who is really playing?
From that moment, I decided to take only images that I found in newspapers, fashion magazines and the internet. I select them according to what I need to express at the moment, in some cases it's just about drawing, as in the series Que bonito es dibujar. (“How beautiful it is to draw.”) However I always, no matter which child I draw, try to give back something to his childhood.
Every day we find visual information everywhere that in one way or another interferes with our way of seeing the world. Many sadly believe that only what the media presents is real or important.
In my work, I have two pillars that make me passionate about what I do. The first one is childhood. Given that at some point we were all children, our adult life is permanently linked to our first experiences in the world and in that sense it is childhood that gives many answers to the problems of the adult world.
I once read a phrase that said "Be the adult you needed when you were a child." I do not know who is the author of that phrase, but I think it is very important that as adults we empathize with children. In Colombia, the situation for children is not easy. A part of the population is exposed to the sexual exploitation of children, the recruitment of minors by illegal armed groups, malnutrition, lack of basic education, child labor, etc. In the developed world the problems of children are different, which are also present in higher income classes in Colombia: psychological abandonment of parents, attention deficit syndrome, depression and eating disorders, for example. I thus understand that it is not a local problem of my country: it is a humanitarian emergency worldwide. Children are paying for the mistakes of adults. Gilles Lipovetsky has pointed out that Western society suffers a process of individuation characterized by a personalized consumerism, the exacerbation of narcissism and the infantilization of the adult world that has led to increasingly atomized societies.
But at the same time, I observe that the space that had been recognized as childhood since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has been giving way. In our eagerness to end everything, we are skipping the fundamental stage of life and we are treating children, in many aspects, as adults and childhood as another consumer good. So where are the children? On the streets begging, locked up while their parents work, prostituting themselves, in war, on the borders, immersed in virtual realities and others trying to save the world ... Why?
The second pillar of my work is the language of art, drawing and how it should be expressed. I like to know how we read the images and what art is doing about it. If art did not have a transforming power, I think I would dedicate myself to something else. I suppose that I stayed within my inner being, in my inner child, that freedom to draw, and when I started to study in the academy (University) my interest in understanding what a good drawing was was with my way of drawing and with my theme of study in an unexpected and valuable coincidence, a serendipity.
Drawing like a child, I'm not embarrassed to say it, is more: I'm happy to do it. Children are the best artists and every day I learn from them or they remind me of the value of childhood.
The situation of children worldwide is in crisis, and children are very important. If we want to have a better society, we should pay more attention to them, and as long as things do not change, I will continue to do works about childhood. I have so many things to say ...
Marina Lauwers (BE) - “Stilte” (Silence)
Silence stands for powerlessness, like the stream of refugees who are called "fortune hunters" and "profiteers", as if seeking happiness, rest and peace is a crime. While we, with our lifestyles, consume a lot at the expense of many others. The climate crisis first hits the one who caused it the least. We want cheap chocolate, but we don't think that children are employed as slaves, ...
Silence stands for astonishment at man's stupidity because trees are cut worldwide on a massive scale, also here in Flanders where every reason, no matter how stupid, is a good reason to cut down, while we are heading for a disaster and forests and trees can make the difference.
Silence stands for closing the eyes and ears from extreme verbal abuse and psychological abuse towards children and adults. It leaves no physical marks, but they are touched deep in their souls.
Silence stands for the lonely struggle of people with psychological problems.
Silence stands for a crying child.
Laura Peña (COL), “Para No Olvidar a los Doce” ( To not Forget the Twelve)
“para no olvidar a los Doce” (“to not forget the twelve”) – Quote by a mother of a Matachin(1)
I am going to talk a bit about my country, since my work is closely related to it. It's funny, when I was a student I had to learn European history, U.S. history and something about my country. Although to be honest, that something was more a story of Spanish and American heroes who had discovered us and brought us great advances and inventions. I do not remember having learned much about what I consider today the history of Colombia. I believe that, until I began to become an "adult" - perhaps in a desperate attempt to understand the conflicts in my country - I began to look more closely at our history. In a sea of confusion and different versions, I found out about the raw realities, the wonderful populations that suffer, my possible participation and absence and my fortunate or unfortunate position in the country.
I want to clarify that I do not present this to look for or point out culprits, nor to traumatize us - although without a doubt, the more I have removed the veil from my eyes, the more difficult it has been to ignore. The truth changes one and well, the lie too ...
I just want to share it, the good and the bad. I want to honor, I want to give a hug with the ironic distance. In addition, I believe that knowledge sensitizes, expands and prevents. Art? I do not know ... What is art? What I have learned from art is that it is hard work, constant and possibly ungrateful but beloved. This talk is not about art.
I'm going to tell you a little about a region first: it's the Pacific region.
It is a beautiful place, which unfortunately I know very little directly (actually I think I've never been in my life ... I guess it's not for nothing: I know several places in the world and not so many in my country). It is a region with a variety of impressive fauna and ecosystems. In fact, it is considered one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet.(2) Recently, I was looking at texts about some endemic species and what I found only made me love the region more. There are so many beautiful things in the world, it's amazing. Not to forget to mention, it is a very rainy region, with plantations of banana, rice, coconut, corn and cocoa. There is also mining, among other forms of production.
It is a little sad, because besides being so beautiful, it can also be said that it has also been the poorest region abandoned by the state. It can be said that this region has the highest percentage rates in poverty.(3) It is a region whose history has also been marked by violence (although it has had stages in which it has been heavily militarized) and whose depredation of natural resources has worsened its situation.
The history of the Pacific region can be divided into several stages. To give context to my work, I will begin with the establishment of the colonial project in the sixteenth century that may explain its African heritage. This period was characterized by a strong cultural clash between the Iberian armies and the native population, leading to the slavery and near extermination of the native population. However, it can still be said that: more than 90% of the population of the region is Afro and indigenous! Then, we see a period of independence until the mid-nineteenth century (although political citizenship is not awarded to Afro and indigenous populations until the twentieth century).
In this region, there are two departments, one is the Chocó and another is the Valle del Cauca.
Chocó has as capital Quibdó. It has coasts in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Before the colonial period, it was inhabited by the Kuna or Tule(4), the Wounanan or Noanamaes and the Emberás. In 1510, the first European city was founded, Europeans discovered the Pacific Ocean (they gave it that name) and then in 1424 the city was abandoned due to disputes between natives and conquerors. The history of this department continues like this ... Many arriving slaves escaped and stayed there, as well as others who were released due to being "defective". Cases like Augustina's (a slave who was raped, forced to abort and who in response burns several houses of a town) lead to "independence" in 1813.
On the other hand, there is the department of Valle del Cauca.(5) Here Buenaventura(6) is located, a coastal city which is considered the main seaport of the country at the Pacific Ocean. The region was first inhabited by the Buscajás and then the city was founded in 1540 by the Spanish. In 1600 it was destroyed by natives. Later, it is rebuilt.
The mask and the palafitos:
I believe that my work arises from the context of Buenaventura, whose history is closely related to that of the entire region.
To summarize a little more, I will speak again very very generalized of the Pacific region. After what I already mentioned, this region is also invaded by guerrilla groups. Corruption ... Then arrived the paramilitaries and the region begins to be seriously affected by drug trafficking. The implications: strong practices of violence against the population for control of the territory.
This is why stories like the one of "Ramón"(7), a 22-year-old boy who was part of a house of pique, are also part of the context to which I refer.
The story of "Ramón" is the story of a boy who had a weapon in his hands for the first time when he was 17 years old. He did not use it and it was not his either. They gave it to him to keep, however he did not know that with what he was receiving he entered to the group of the Urabeños - one of the groups of demobilized paramilitaries in the region. However, I dare to say that this boy was with "lucky", because he had 17 years of a "normal" life (something that not all the boys of the place have).
Then come the problems with his mother. His previous life was totally different. He loses his family and to summarize: his life. With that, come the tasks of the group that he just entered – he said they had ample and express authorization from the authorities to collect vaccines (illegal "taxes" taken from the population by force) and finally : chopping.
According to him, the first time he "chopped" he had to use the same products for whose distribution these illegal groups exist and be as unconscious as possible to be able to perform the task. He comments in detail (like a horror movie), how difficult it was, emotionally and physically. Then he explains how a black garbage bag should be filled -in addition- with stones so that it does not come up that easily and so on ... He cries.
These tasks he did for 3 years, until he was finally able to escape. In an interview with him, he commented on how these facts were imprinted in his life - not only in the lives of those that affected him in carrying out the tasks he had to perform. The sadness, distrust, shame and fear, make the memory of his other 17 years something unreal. Even after having escaped.
These tasks are performed, unfortunately, in some of the palafito houses.
The palafito houses are a type of architecture that I admire a lot. Let's return to the good ...
The architecture of palafitos is architectural and ecological heritage in America. According to anthropological studies, the first palafitos were built between the period of 5000 and 1000 b.c. The indigenous Añú or Parajuanos tribes are known as the first architects specialized in this type of architecture.
The buildings consist of buildings built on the water, despite having land near the territory of the building. The stilt houses have a close relationship with the mangroves, the Red Mangrove provided its wide roots to serve as its first foundations.
By their origin, they were constructions designed to be self-sufficient and self-regulated. They are ecological, since they achieve optimal housing conditions with the lowest energy consumption and take into account the orientation of the construction, the land and the adjoining nature. They are closely related to the landscape and nature, whose protection and care is vital for the communities that developed this type of architecture, which is why the stilt house -among several characteristics- must be able to reuse rainwater.
These constructions are separated from the mainland to regulate the temperature, since the earth heats twice as fast as water. The water also has more capacity to absorb heat and its movement distributes it, preventing it from accumulating. The stilt houses are also built in water so that the inhabitants are protected from attacks by animals and because water - channels, rivers, and sea - is the main means of communication and support.
My small palafitos - and the mask, which you can see from the front but which are also see-through from behind, one can wear it- are an attempt to pay homage, understanding and dialogue with the architecture of the region and its history. Its strength, survival and resistance, its Afro and indigenous culture ...
But ... among all the possible stories, there is another story I want to tell.(8)
On April 19, 2005, twelve boys between 12 and 23 years old played soccer (there are sources that indicate a lower age range).
Many guys from Buenaventura want to be soccer players and they love that sport, maybe because
“The train” Valencia (a Colombian player who represented Colombia in 2 World Cups) comes from Buenaventura. It is a kind of hero and the representation of hope.
The boys who played that day were nicknamed the matachines because they made the masks for the Easter dance. Matachin in Spanish means something like “doodle”, like those drawings made by young children. The masks had some of that, in addition to the African and indigenous heritage.
A man arrived ... for them, he sounded like a promise: they could be the next “The train” Valencia. He told them that if they were coming to play against other boys from another town, they would be given uniforms and the winning team would receive a prize of 200,000 pesos (around 50 euro’s). He would drive them. There was nothing to lose.
In the afternoon the boys did not return and the mothers began to worry, so they went with some other members of the community to the police. There, they were told that they should wait 24 hours for the search to begin.
The community did not sleep that night. In the early hours of the morning they went to the police again, who replied: "At this time those boys are already dead, they have been killed."
Then, they began to find the garbage bags.
The community mourned for 3 years. They did not dance, did not celebrate, there was just silence. One day, they decided to go dancing with the masks on to remember them.
Twelve men appear amidst the dust. They have wooden masks and they punish those who do not dance when the drums sound by whipping them. Then there is singing, in the midst of singing weeping, protest and prayers.
"(...) I threw earth on you like a madwoman, to see if you would be erased. The more land I threw on you, the more present you became: Remember and never forget (...) "
Fragment of one of the dance songs of the matachines.
"(...) We remember the boys with the joy that helps us overcome fear (...) That's why we dance, to not forget the twelve (...)"
Quote by a mother of a Matachin.(9)(10)
From the sources I have studied, I think the names of the boys are the following:
Rubén Darío Valencia Aramburo
Pedro Luis Aramburo Canga
Pedro Paulo Valencia Aramburo
Víctor Alfonso Angulo
Carlos Javier Segura
Leonardo Salcedo García
Jhon Jairo Rodagellas
Manuel Concepción Rentería Valencia
Carlos Arbey Valencia
Finally, I want to mention something ... In 2004, there was an initiative by the Ministry of Culture which had a positive impact in the region: an artistic education program was carried out with the collaboration of the University of Buenaventura. That same year, the Universidad del Valle decided to open its dramatic arts degree course based in Buenaventura for the first time. 12 students entered. According to the source I studied, by 2010 there were only 3 left.
Juan Carlos Angulo,(11) student of the eighth semester and who lived in the Lleras neighborhood (one of the most violent in Buenaventura) commented on the impact of the theater on his life:
"To study this career has been very hard. I have to do magic every day to pay for the semester, the transport and learn the texts for the next day (...) But if I did not study theater, I would be dead or living illegally in Canada or the United States. "
These guys (the ramones, the matachines). They have been or are kids: like me. They play, they laugh, they cry, they pee ... They have a heart, a stomach, a brain ... Nature made me Laura, but it could easily have been someone else. For me: we are all one ...
1. UN PUEBLO SILENCIADO. Video produced and made by Álvaro Cardona. Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica. CNMH 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfswoSjiRAM&feature=youtu.be
3. Consulted DANE statistics on the IPM Multidimensional Poverty Index. National Planning Department. NATIONAL DATA ARCHIVE. 2019. http://microdatos.dane.gov.co/index.php/home
4. Meaning "People", whose language is Dulegaya (mouth of the people). "Dictionary of the Kuna Language". ERICE, Jesus. La Nacion. 1985
5. "Historia, geografía y puerto como determinantes de la situación social de Buenaventura". Carlos Javier Pérez. Bank of the Republic. Centro de estudios económicos regionales CEER. Cartagena 2007
6. "Historia de Buenaventura". Cámara de Comercio de Buenaventura. 02/12/2012.
7. “Confesiones de un asesino de las ‘casas de Pique’ de Buenaventura”, 14 September, 2015. Kienyke.com
8. “Los Matachines de Buenaventura”. Edición 1 Revista Conmemora. Centro de Memoria Histórica. centrodememoriahistorica.gov.co/micrositios/buenaventura/
9. UN PUEBLO SILENCIADO. Video produced and made by Álvaro Cardona. Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica. CNMH 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfswoSjiRAM&feature=youtu.be
10. Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica. Buenaventura: un puerto sin comunidad. Bogotá, CNMH, 2015.
11. “La otra cara de Buenaventura”, Sebastían Longhurst. Revista Arcadia. 23/09/2014.
Our exhibition and the art talk on 20 juli 2019 were part of the programme of the Gentse Feesten 2019.
The Gentse Feesten is one of the biggest cultural and popular festivals in Europe. The Gentse Feesten was called the third biggest city festival in Europe, preceded by the Fallas in Valencia and the Oktoberfest in Munich.