An exhibition by Ana Bravo Pérez
2 September–22 October 2023 / Casco HQ
Opening hours: Thursday–Sunday, 12:00–18:00
Otherwise by appointment (please email email@example.com)
Exhibition opening on Saturday, 2 September 2023, 15:00–19:00. The program includes opening words by Binna Choi, Aline Hernández, and Marianna Takou, followed by words from Ana Bravo Pérez, Joram Kraaijeveld, and Leana Boven, as well as an inauguration performance led by women featured in the exhibited films and accompanied by music. Food and drinks are served afterward.
Public Program on 17 September, 11 October, and 14 October 2023. More information below.
Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons presents the exhibition If we remain silent, a proposal by Ana Bravo Pérez for a feminist, decolonial anti-monument, commemorating women social leaders on the frontlines of the climate crisis in Abya Yala. The title of this project is taken from a quote by the late Cristina Bautista Taquinás, an indigenous social leader from Cauca (Colombia), during a demonstration in October 2019. She spoke these words days before she was assassinated: “Si nos quedamos callados nos matan. Y si hablamos también. Entonces, hablamos.” “If we remain silent, they kill us. And if we speak, the same thing. So we speak.” The exhibition forms a memorial to Cristina Bautista Taquinás and many indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and other women social leaders and environmentalists who lost their lives defending their lands. If we remain silent honors their vital work to oppose environmental destruction and to protect communities, territories, and life support systems.
This exhibition results from a long-term project by artist Ana Bravo Pérez and curator Joram Kraaijeveld researching the possibility of developing a feminist, decolonial anti-monument. If we remain silent is a delicate, generative memorial grown from co-creation by a diaspora working against the erasure of the memory of women who fought against the ongoing destruction of the earth. It is a bottom-up proposal that evokes the idea of a monument to contribute to a living, collective memory to counter elimination through colonial violence. The anti-monument is like an antidote, an attempt to avert the planet’s destruction by advocating for life and la Madre Tierra in a chronic colonial climate crisis. It is a careful memorial dedicated to land defenders to keep hope alive for justice to come.
By commemorating women social leaders, this project works alongside communities struggling to preserve their lands, rivers, mountains, dignity, and right to self-determination in a five-hundred-year struggle against colonial exploitation and dispossession of Abya Yala and its peoples. Keeping these memories alive is the result of a trans-local solidarity network that sustains feminist, pluriversal worlds as an alternative to global, patriarchal, colonial capitalism. Reaching out to diverse communities interdependently working together is an attempt at feminist coalition-building by creating a translocal network of people who recognize that the struggle in the different territories is a struggle for life and against the same forces.
The exhibition If we remain silent is the result of a multi-year process in which the project initiators developed various parts of the anti-monument in collaboration with fashion designer Johana Molina and other artists, women, and queer people from the diasporas from Abya Yala in the Netherlands, as along with textile and weaving cooperatives in Colombia. These components were developed through mingas, a Kichwa concept that stands for a solidarity gathering of friends, allies, and neighbors to work together for a common cause. The exhibition is the result of a weaving of different forms of collective work and collaboration.
The first minga in the series, held in the spring of 2023 at NeverNeverLand in Amsterdam, was Healing Colors. Natural coloring specialist Lucila Kenny joined this minga to guide the process of dyeing textiles. The properties of natural colors from endangered ecosystems such as the Amazon, were used to create a series of textile works to heal personal traumas and colonial wounds. The textiles were made by the weaving cooperative Lienzo de la Tierra in Charalá (Colombia) which grows, harvests, and processes organic cotton while maintaining artisanal and ancestral techniques.
The result of the first minga was used in the second and third mingas. These were organized under the title Embroidering for our Sisters at WORM in Rotterdam and Casco Art Institute in Utrecht. Artists, designers, friends, and other supporters participated to collectively embroider the names of sixteen social leaders into the naturally colored cotton textiles. By collectively embroidering, participants created a physical reminder of the women social leaders who have worked in different areas of Colombia against deforestation, mining, and other exploitative projects that severely damage natural habitats. The embroidered textiles were used in the mingas that followed.
For the last mingas, with the title Bodily Remembering, performance artist Flavia Pinheiro joined the collective work gatherings to guide the participants in developing performative movements. This project consisted of five gatherings at WORM in Rotterdam and NeverNeverLand in Amsterdam, in which the participants explored elements of ancestral embodied memories from Abya Yala and their latent manifestation in contemporary performances. It was a collective setting to prepare a public performance honoring the sixteen social leaders, whose names were embroidered in the textiles. Artists, feminists, activists, dancers, friends, and other supporters worked together to (re)connect their bodies to the territories under pressure while exploring bodily movements and group choreographies. The performance was enacted in a public square in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
In the same square, the Colombian diaspora in Europe has organized several demonstrations in recent years. By revisiting this location, If we remain silent pays tribute to and continues the work that has already been done by various women in Europe. With the demonstrations, the Colombian diaspora drew more attention to the impunity of the murder of social leaders. Colombia has been the world’s deadliest country for land defenders over the past decade. In 2022 alone, 186 environmental activists were killed in Colombia, about half (46%) of all land defenders worldwide. Not only are the murderers not prosecuted, but the many death threats received by social leaders go unprosecuted.
If we remain silent contributes to the call by the Colombian diaspora for international support for legal prosecution of the perpetrators who have been targeting land defenders. The human rights violations are systemic, and Colombian government officials of previous governments have been routinely delegitimizing the work of land defenders and publicly questioning their motivation. The international community can support social leaders and their communities by holding the perpetrators and multinational extraction companies accountable. In the struggle for climate justice, preventing vital ecological areas from deforestation and exploitation by international corporations in the mining and extractive industries is crucial. By organizing the performance in front of the International Criminal Court the international community is called upon to develop a legal framework for these acts of violence against land defenders that affect indigenous and Afro-Colombian women and their communities.
Moreover, the project links femicide with ecocide by stressing the connection between mining, oil extraction, and monoculture enterprises and violence against women. Among the sixteen women that If we remain silent commemorates are traditional healers who had an important role within their communities. These women were deeply connected to their territories, as they preserved ancestral knowledges on, amongst others, medicinal plants and ways of healing that have been passed down through generations using oral traditions. As these women had such a central role, their death affects their communities, territories, ancestral knowledges, and cosmovisions. Hence, their killings can also be seen as an epistemic threat.
This feminist, decolonial anti-monument is an invitation to publicly recognize the women social leaders’ vital work. It is an appeal to listen to the words of Cristina Bautista Taquinás and take these words as a call for action. For the violence to stop, we must speak out. We cannot remain silent.
Commemorating Social Leaders
Sunday, 17 September 2023, 15:00–17:00
Ritual reading in collaboration with Here We Draw The Line and La Pava Fundación, collectives of activists based in different countries around the world united by the urgency of raising international awareness of the human rights violations happening in Colombia. More information here.
Narratives and Territories
Wednesday, 11 October 2023, 19:30–21:30
Film program in collaboration with Cinema Colombiano featuring (short) films on various territories in Abya Yala that are under pressure and the environmentalists that protect them. Cinema Colombiano is an annual film festival bringing films from Colombia to the Netherlands. More information here.
Saturday, 14 October 2023, 14:00–19:00
With Noor Abed, Ana Bravo Pérez, Cristina Flores Pescorán, Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti, Rosalba Icaza (moderator), and Anguezomo Mba Bikoro.
Symposium in collaboration with Unsettling Rietveld Sandberg and MA Fine Art of the Sandberg Institute and in conversation with Rosalba Icaza and Judith Leysner that brings together artists who have developed feminist, decolonial art projects engaging with public or collective commemoration to make oppressed stories visible. The aim of the symposium is to share experiences and knowledges, and to think together about what decolonial anti-monuments might be and how they can be seen as a form of collective mourning and a first step in healing colonial wounds. More information here.
On the work
Elements from the three mingas are assembled in the exhibition in four immersive installations. More than four hundred meters of 16mm film move along the walls as a part of sculptural, analog film installations. While three projections each feature a film featuring footage of the performances at the ICC, the celluloid simultaneously forms a graph with information about the loss of biodiversity, loss of social leaders, and loss of tropical rainforest. Together with projection screens woven from toquilla straw in the shape of a tree and the textile works, the exhibition forms a living document as a growing collection of public memories of women social leaders created by a diasporic community. Because with each projection of 16mm the film degrades, the film represents in multiple ways the loss that persists and also the continuous collective power of resistance.