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Image re-enactions in the Arhuaco self-representation practices

LULKOWSKA, Agata (2018) Image re-enactions in the Arhuaco self-representation practices. In: Photography in Academic Research: Images in the Post-Truth Era, 6-8 Sept 2018, Birkbeck, University of London. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or description

When Gustaf Bolinder, a Swedish ethnographer, conducted his fieldwork in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the early 20th century, he thought he was documenting disappearing cultures inhabiting that picturesque part of Colombia. A century later, a group of prolific indigenous communicators from the region used Bolinder’s images as an inspiration to re-enact their traumatic history. The Zhigoneshi collective, led by the Arhuaco Amado Villafaña, became the voice of the region and role model spokespeople for many indigenous communities of Latin America. Taken out of the original contexts, Bolinder’s images acquired more flexible meaning than initially intended. To add to the complexity of the re-appropriation of meaning, Villafaña bases his filmmaking on the idea of creating a dialogue with more contemporary (mis-)representations of his culture. As a result, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta became a battleground for interpretation and meaning of the images taken in the Sierra by different authors. How far could we trust in the research value of images which are constantly taken out of the context and re-appropriated? The power struggle between the photographer and the photographed is only an interlude to the complexity of the situation when it is no longer guaranteed who can be the author and who is the target audience and meaning-making force. In the face of that, can a photograph be trusted as a social research tool to represent social reality? Finally, who wins the battle over the image meaning - does the internal point of view have more value than the trained eye of the outsider? And can a photograph serve a double role of art and social science? With all these questions in mind, perhaps Bolinder’s prophecy was not about disappearance but transcending the old meaning and gaining agency.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: School of Computing and Digital Technologies > Film, Media and Journalism
Event Title: Photography in Academic Research: Images in the Post-Truth Era
Event Location: Birkbeck, University of London
Event Dates: 6-8 Sept 2018
Depositing User: Agata LULKOWSKA
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2019 16:33
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:57

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