Intercreate & Guapamacataro: A dialogue on 'Residencies & Community'
started by Ilka Blue Nelson, 8 Jun 2014, 25 comments

Art residencies are often aimed at engaging the local community. However, because residencies are short bursts of focused energy from the 'outside' whereas communities are long, local, messy stories evolving from 'within' - it can be hard to marry the two with any lasting impact. Intercreate and Guapamacataro are two Arts organisations that run regular residencies in this 'space'. We join Ian Clothier the Director of Intercreate (New Zealand), and Alicia Marván the Director of Guapamacataro (Mexico) for a discussion on what has worked to connect and empower local community through the residencies, what definately doesn't work, and what their ultimate dream for these residencies are?

The value in this discussion is that both Intercreate and Guapamacataro have a strong Environment/Environmental focus and are located in very different parts of the world, so it will be interesting to see what similarities and differences there are.


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Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:01am

Thank you for the invitation! It is a pleasure to join PlaceStories, and to be in conversation about an indeed very relevant issue.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:06am

Some initial thoughts on what has worked to connect and empower local community through the residencies: for us, I'd say that foreigners are often extremely marveled about the landscape, biodiversity, community organizing, and overall Mexican culture, so it is very empowering for the locals...they are like "really? you like this place? you think our culture is amazing?"

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:19am

and that goes a long way, specially for the kids, because unfortunately, a lot of people in Mexico grew up being ashamed of their culture. They have been told by society and mainstream media that they are not worthy.

Ian Clothier Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:06am

Hola Alicia, Kia ora (Maori), wataweih yorlye (Pitkern-Norfik talk) and konnichi wa (my partner is Japanese),

It seems we both have a concern for locality and community. Do you have experiences and stories about engaging with local communities? Some insight, or perhaps somethijng unexpected you have found in working with local community?

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:12am

Thanks for the focused question Ian. Mexico is full of the unexpected! Since I started the center in 2006, there are -invariably- many unexpected events, specially dealing with the local community. For the most part, there have been good situations, where I realize how generous, open-minded and willing to help people are.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:20am

The key is to always have communication and positive growth in mind.


Ian Clothier Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:22am

Well, we have this engagement with environment that has hed us to tangata wehenua (people of the land as Maori call themselves). We do get a similar response to immersion components in Maori culture. But it has taken along time to build relationships to a deep point.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:26am

Very takes time and many occasions of good experiences for people to establish mutual trust. Even when the locals know you from a long time. In our case, my family has had a steady presence at the hacienda since 150-years ago. But I still had to introduce myself to the community, present them with the project of the art and ecology center, and year by year establish a good relationship with everyone.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:28am

Which means inviting them to workshops and events, asking their permission when artists in residency are interested in researching some aspect of their culture, make food with them and for them, etc.

Ian Clothier Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:22am

Sorry that is 'led us to tangata whenua'

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:31am

Interesting...What does that expression entail? What makes a person "people of the land"? descendant of indigenous culture, or can a foreigner acquire that title over time?

Ian Clothier Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:29am

Yes indeed, it's not really possible to come along solely within the context of when the project occurs. It is necessary to build those relationships prior, to follow the protocols and above all speak from the heart. Some people can find it fraught negotiating cultural boundaries but I think this can be fixed by speaking from the heart at all times.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:32am

Yes, two very important aspects of residencias: having cultural "ambassadors" (us, our team) to be intermediaries between locals and visitors; and speaking from the heart.

Ian Clothier Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:42am

Yes, we have these too, and also a person attached to our organsiation who has a role of kaitiaki - guardian. Also I have to acknowledge Te Urutahi Waikerepuru here, she is a leader of a local organisation Te Matahiapo Indigenous Research Organisation, and we work alot togehter. She plays this intermediary role.

Ian Clothier Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:32am

Yes we do the same. Permission I think is a really important issue. Asking first, not just stumbling in to the scenario. We try to let the local community we work with, know as soon as possible about upcoming projects. In fact when we have a new project that involves the environment our policy is to go to the tangata whenua before anyone else. Before the town council, the arts council, before anyone else.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:34am

Great! in that regard, seems like your local community is much more organized and responsible about the environment. We still have to do a lot of bringing together people, and educating about caring for the environment.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:38am

The agrarian reform in Mexico is still very recent (80 years), so our region is still working out some land ownership issues (leftover from the Spanish conquest). But indigenous populations in other areas of the country are very organized and have their own independent government and ways to collectively care for the land. 

Ian Clothier Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:37am

You asked about 'people of the land' and generally this means to be indigenous. Maori have a way of defining themselves that includes, river, mountain and waka (canoe). So there are aspects of the environment that is tied to a specific sense of place and self. It is not possible for non Maori to become tangata whenua strictly speaking, though there are people who are accepted into an iwi (tribe) on the strength of their engagement, such as fluently speaking Maori and presence at events. And when such a person introduces themselves, they might well mention their own river and mountain if they have one.

Alicia Marvan Fri, 18 Jul 2014 7:47am

Fascinating! Our river would be the Cachiví, and the mountain Chincua...yet is so sad that not all who share those landmarks get along...there is a lot of envy and mis-trust between certain ethnic groups, and also squatters that took some irrigation lands. One of my main goals at the center is to unite all people, because we all share these natural resources. Art has made it easier to get people together. Our projects encourage creativity, communication and collaboration.

Ian Clothier Mon, 21 Jul 2014 7:46am

Uniting communities is also something we see ourselves as doing. This is important I think, to where humanity is today. We have to start getting on, and moving forward on our relationship to the environment. 

It is interesting this issue of ethnic groups in disharmony. In 2012 I was in Albuquerque, and the Mayans and local indigenous peoples, particularly those of the Pueblo, were going through a process of cultural bridging, as there had been animosity in the past.

One aspect of bringing communities (ethnic, indigenous, scientific, technology etc) together is also a shift in knowledge. Cultural bridging requires knowledge sharing and seeking interconnections. Whereas the West in many situations holds the presumption of being right, this has to be set aside so that people can work together. That makes the process of cultural bridging exciting, as it brings about changes in human consciousness.

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