Guanabí # 1 Pictures in Wooden Triangles + Shirt + Documents Pictures 100 x 80 cm, Triangles: several sizes Casa Proartes Cali, Colombia 2018
Under which conditions is it legitimate to speak about the identity of another?
What builds an ethnic group, is it cultural, biological or historical factors?
If there are transgender, can there be transracial?
At the beginning of 2017, after having lived seven years abroad, a series of hazard decisions brought me to the city of Cali, Colombia.
This exhibition is the result of an emotional space I built here. A space that stimulated many questions and some answers, and between spacious conversations, a new way of understanding my identity: the possibilities and limitations of my discourse in relation to this territory and its idiosyncrasies.
Taking as a reference the famous phrase of Kate Millet 'the personal is the political', here is a materialization of an unfinished process, which expects to be able to dialogue - empathize and / or conflict - with the experience of others. From a perspective that is situated on the margins of the local identity, a series of readings of Cali and caleñidad (that which is from Cali) is exhibited, a personal and at the same time collective catharsis, where my desire to adapt meets the impossibility to permeate the culture. I do not want to stop recognizing the creative fertility that comes from this frustration, and I do not want to talk about this alone.
Assuming the need to clarify my starting point, I hope to transcend excessive self-referentiality: I want to catalyze extra- quotidian processes and resignify them through the framework of art. I also intend to make use of relational practice by building quasi-horizontal relationships with others, blurring the line between art and life. I expose myself to the contradictions that these overlays suppose, this broth of personal and collective culture, which yearns to be socialized with the local spectator, perhaps under the possibility of sharing some of these frictions, and finally being able to belong to Cali and being less a Guanabi (Wannabe).
Wanting to learn about the African Diaspora in Colombia, I found limitations due to the conditions of my own identity. Through proposing a surgical exchange of a piece of black skin for one of white skin, I seek to investigate how identity policies change from context to context, and specially, how they work in Cali, Colombia, the city that receives the largest Afro diasporic migration of Colombia and the place where I was being part of the art residence - Lugar a Dudas (2017).
I spent six months researching on ethnic constraints, attending conferences and round tables, where I found that it was surely a present situation, but also quite mystified. Many did not even dare to address the subject. There was not a common agreement on the terminology to use when referring to the afro diasporic community, partly because not everyone feels keen to the african diaspora, and because the population of Colombia is a mix of ethnic groups. There is neither an agreement on who was entitled to talk about what and I felt the need to open this discussion.
Recognizing my subjectivity and my privileges which I made visible through the research, I started GUANABI, (Wannabe, pronounced in a tropical way) a project to collectively explore the politics of identity of Cali, Colombia, a project with many questions and almost no answers.
How do politics of identity change from context to context?
I contacted a plastic surgeon to know if the procedure was possible and the details of it. The procedure was possible under microsurgery, having matching blood and melanin types and though it was very expensive and complicated, it was possible. I took the medical exams and had another appointment to plan the spot where to make the skin exchange.
Next, I contacted a recognized Legal Firm (Mora Agudelo) in Colombia to make a legal contract which stated that the two parties were in equality of conditions, would receive the same credit for the art work and would assume the same responsibility for the medical risks.
Who is entitled to talk about what?
When I asked a friend of mine, Carmenza Banguera, who is an afro colombian artist, if she wanted to collaborate with me in this project through the exchange a piece of skin, she answered that despite the fact that she liked the project, she was not the right person, she was too nervous and besides “why do I want a piece of your skin?” she replied. Then Carmenza ended up advising me, “wouldn’t it be easier to have a kid with an afro diasporic man?” Her responses added very interesting layers to the research and with her permission I was able to make them visible at the exhibition. I have not done the surgery procedure yet, but I exhibited the whole process towards it, the medical, the legal procedure, some images and the questions that guided the research.