OD Photo Prize 2023 | Shortlisted Artist
Gloria Oyarzabal [b. 1971]. My energies have been focused on understanding the Machiavellian and harmful construction of Africa’s IDEA and its imaginary, the complex processes of colonization/colonization, the current tactics of neo-colonization and, almost as a consequence, the wide spectrum of voices in African feminisms, the effect of colonization and imperialism on the concept of “woman” in other societies and the way gender issues are handled thereafter, to conclude that feminist and gender discourses cannot be universalized. Processes of colonization of the mind: Ngugi wa Thiong’o or Chinua Achebe talk about how European civilization took over the African world and how Western influences such as language, religion and social structures changed African societies, not only geopolitically, but also psychologically, spiritually and mentally.
Artist Statement | “Property in Roman Law was defined as the absolute and full enjoyment of an object or corporeal entity.
Usus was the right of the owner to make use of the entity according to its destination or nature, fructus was the right to receive both real fruits (money) or fruits in general, and abusus was the right of disposition based on the power to modify, sell or destroy it, and property was perpetual, absolute and exclusive.
Starting from the concept of ownership a dialogue is raised addressing issues around the spoliation, race and gender. Return what has been plundered and looted, both in terms of objects and identity, is it an urgent, universal and feasible question for everyone?
Ownership, restitution, reparation, recontextualization, …. Who has agency to give, return, adjudicate, rename?
The concept of museum was born more than 300 years ago, when the collections of certain monarchs, kings or emperors were opened to the public, being since then institutions that give identity and define a nation. But if the origin of these spaces is colonialist, History, universal rights and ethics come into conflict.
The question of how to safeguard and exhibit works of art, artefacts and even humans remains that were acquired (or, more often, looted) by Europeans, mainly during the heyday of imperialism between the 18th and mid-20th centuries, is an extremely thorny ethical issue. Major institutions in France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Holland, Spain and England have, for the most part, a sordid history of dealing with these issues and, unfortunately, not always with the intention of reviewing and rectifying them in the face of an urgency to “decolonize” museums.
It is evident that the museum as an institution is not and has never been a mere container and neutral or beneficial exhibitor of objects and artefacts. To the dismay of museum boards around the world they have become a key battleground in the struggle for decolonization. It is time for a reckoning that addresses the myriad ways in which museums have been and often continue to be the beneficiaries of Europe’s violent expansion and exploitation, responsible for a stereotypical imaginary.
This project consists of several formal, narrative and discursive layers that have been developed since 2019.
Some of them have been produced thanks to the Ayudas a Creación y Desarrollo 2019 Grant from the Madrid City Council, and the Ayudas para la Investigación, Creación y Producción Artísticas en el Campo de las Artes Visuales Grant from the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Spain, both awarded in the 2020 and 2022 calls respectively.
Others are still in the development phase in the absence of economic facilitation for their production.” – Gloria Oyarzabal
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