“Bëngbe Benacheng” (Our paths):
Collaborative Cultural Heritage Management with the Camëntsá People
The Sibundoy Museum is located in the Camilo Crous Cultural Center, in Sibundoy, Colombia. The museum is managed by the local government and is included in the National Network of Museums of Colombia. The collection is a mixture of objects acquired by missionaries and foreign settlers, as well as some from archaeological excavations or some as fortuitous finds. The museum does not currently have a curator and it has been inactive. It has functioned mainly as a repository of “old things” without context, information or public engagement.
This project collaborates with the Camëntsá community to critically address the museum’s administration by the local government, particularly the exhibition of human remains, and will co-curate a new exhibition based on their own interpretation of material culture, archaeological and sacred sites and their concept of territory. The inclusion of the latter is essential in our research since in the Camëntsá worldview the territory goes beyond geographically and materially defined boundaries which in turn is reflected in the way art is perceived. This process will represent the community in its contemporary context and will challenge colonial perceptions in art, archaeological and museological practices, generating an intercultural dialogue that is extremely necessary and urgent.
Through the loom, Luisa represents ‘the hope of a cultural fabric that we as young women and mothers will weave in the thoughts of our children; we also weave the words and customs of our mothers, despite the mistreatment, machismo and discrimination they have suffered’.
1- Photography workshop: We aim to decolonize the photographic equipment and the visual representation of the Camëntsá, given that until now the community hasn’t been in charge. In this phase, assisted photography workshops are being done where Camëntsá people learn to use photographic equipment to do self-representation.
The final product of the reading and photographic action will be compiled in the form of a photo album. It will be an alternative archive for the Camëntsá community, contextualizing the community as part of a contemporary state, which fights against the consequences of colonization, the non-recognition and state negligence. At the same time the realization and publication of this album alludes to the book “Siervos de Dios y Amos de Indios” (Servant of God and Owner of Indians) by Victor Daniel Bonilla which related the atrocities committed by the church and the state of the region and that it is still a taboo among the community, even prohibiting the reading of the book.
2- Ethnographic research: We will address the practices and policies of archeology, cultural heritage policies, art, Camëntsá concepts of heritage, conceptualization of territory and perceptions of time. In this investigation we use a variety of methods such as interviews, focus groups, participatory observation, ethnographic facilities, archaeological surveys and walks. All these practices are done in collaboration with the community, with the participation of several members and with their consent. A part of this research will also be available in the future through a documentary series.