Reflections on Heritage vs. Culture from Mariona Marcet Blasi
Last year, our first capacity building workshop 'Heritage vs. Culture' took place at LAC, Portugal. From then, global events took an unexpected turn, and our worlds and projects were turned upside down by COVID-19. The summer that followed was equally full of unrest, the pandemic exacerbated inequalities across our society, and the effects of structural racism were brought to light by the Black Lives Matter protests. Reflecting on these issues in the context of CONTESTED DESIRES, Mariona Marcet from La Bonne, dissects what can be learnt from these events, and what we need to deconstruct and challenge within this project.
‘What we do is more important
than what we say,
or what we say we believe’
A project is an idea of something that is intended to be realised and which follows a certain approach. In this sense, European projects are guided by a eurocentric methodology that isn't innocuous at the core of the purpose, and which therefore shapes its impact on many levels.
CONTESTED DESIRES is no exception. Co-financed by the European Union's Creative Europe programme, the approach was developed through specific guidelines that led to be able to gather the necessary resources to manage the project's intention, linked precisely to the challenges of understanding of Europe's colonial heritage through artistic practice.
In this sense and at this point in the journey, waiting in a station that we had no reference to on the route imposed by the global crisis that is fuelling the Covid-19, from La Bonne we want and believe that is important to reflect on the concreteness of this evidence, taking into account the purpose of the project.
After the first meeting between partners and artists that took place in Lagos (Portugal), we start to understood that in order to understand our colonial past, it is our duty to immerse ourselves in a long process of deconstruction of which the first step, is to know from where we are doing what we are doing, with the intention of being honest, accepting our starting point and committing ourselves to repeatedly questioning our methodology and programme.
It was precisely in Lagos, and after looking into each other's eyes and sharing experiences, that the need to be consistent with ourselves and with our objective was articulated.
Contested Desires is a transnational project that involves six countries with a markedly colonial past and present, oppressors and oppressed, with very different realities between them, as is the case with all the people involved.
In this first meeting, we shared experiences from a knowledge that goes beyond academia through an epistemology born on de(s)colonial feminism, and that precisely contrasts with the activities carried out more related to it. In this way, if the first step is to know from where we act, we understand that perhaps the second is to determine how and to whom we listen to. The challenge, as a European project, lies precisely in knowing how to listen, knowing that most of the time we tend to feedback on our own academic discourse, and that our story takes over spaces that are not ours, to begin with.
The path of this process to which we want to highlight through these lines, has also given us the opportunity to ask ourselves about the language and the initial concept of the Contested Desires project.
The word heritage has its roots in the Latin patri "father" and monium "received". A word with a patriarchal connotation that is not innocent, just like its last lexeme, which means the word giving it a conception that is still valid in the classrooms, and which contributes to identifying the European legacy as something that Europe receives and which therefore is ours and belongs to us.
From La Bonne we believe that it is our responsibility to make this practice known, with the aim of resignifying the so-called "European heritage", which has a colonial past and present, and it is this we want to understand because we know that its spoliation and dispute are what define European culture and therefore the construction of different identities and complex communities crossed by a reality based on appropriation, of which it is fundamental to be aware.
With this intention and from the privilege of being able to investigate and understand how it challenges us, we want to continue invoking our consciences through dialogue and adding voices and opinions that help us to transform the purpose of both partners and artists, being able to discern and situate our minds with the desire to learn to decolonize them through art.
For this, we believe it's important to engage people who want to participate and interact with the project across activities in the Portugal, UK, Spain and Cyprus and online, which want to be a window to the world that helps us to take perspective and to feed the practice of the essay-error, the same one that moves us to write and rewrite our steps giving the project its own life.
La Bonne | Culture Center Women Francesca Bonnemaison (La Bonne), is a space for meeting, interchange and creation of feminist cultural projects. It is characterized by a multidisciplinary work that revolves around several areas: audiovisual, performing arts, live and performing arts, plastic arts, thinking and new technologies.