On May 4th, 2023, the Observatory on Latin America hosted a conversation on “Andean Temporalities and Ancestral Futures” which brought together participants from diverse backgrounds to explore Andean understandings of time and its significance in shaping the present and the future. Over 100 people joined the online meeting. The webinar featured Carmen Ibañez, a Bolivian scholar working at the Freie Universität in Berlin, and Julieth Morales, a Misak artist from Cauca, Colombia. Juan Pablo Aschner (Universidad el Rosario, Colombia) provided insightful comments and Juan Manuel Gonzalez (The New School) facilitated audience engagement and moderated the event.

Carmen Ibáñez opened the conversation by delving into the Andean perspective on time, emphasizing its nature and interconnectedness with the spiritual, natural, and social realms. She described the Andean concept of time as a non-linear and cyclical phenomenon, “time is in movement, in a spiral,” challenging conventional Western notions of linear progress. In the Andes, the future is a burden, a charge that one carries that shouldn’t turn into an obstacle. She quoted the Andean aphorism, “We walk in the present with the future on our backs.”

Ibáñez raised important questions such as “How are these different ways of thinking about time impact the way these societies think about time?” In particular when it comes to colonized societies, how do societies where ideas of time collide can create a future together? She reminded us that the colonization of America wasn’t just a cultural encounter but also a temporal one, and that local time ended up being domesticated. She concluded her presentation reminding us that, in the Foucauldian sense, temporality is a dispositif of power, and that in the Andes, and other parts of the world, there are different versions of history that belong to the indigenous.

Julieth Morales, as a woman, mestiza, and a member of the Misak community, then shared her personal experiences and artistic journey, focusing on the intersectionality of identity, time, and indigenous heritage. She highlighted the struggles faced by indigenous women, in particular her grandmother and aunts, and their resilience in navigating societal challenges while maintaining a strong connection to their ancestral traditions. Morales’s artwork served as a medium to reclaim indigenous narratives, challenge power dynamics, and envision alternative futures rooted in indigenous wisdom and values.

For Morales, art is a tool that reveals what is hidden, occluded in our past. For instance, for Morales, going to university represented an option to not go back, but art helped her reflect on what returning,or not, meant. Morales and her family’s story is a history of displacement and violence, but it is also a process for the Misak to get their land back. Returning to the land implies a return to everything, to the textiles, to understanding traditions such as the Baile de las Mojigangas. This return, for the Misak, is a reactivation of the land.

Juan Pablo Aschner offered thought-provoking comments, enriching the discussions and encouraging further exploration of the topics. Indeed, as he points out, both presentations show how time is subjective and cultural, how it becomes an artifact of power and an artifact of culture through the way time becomes domesticated. “Performative arts are arts of time”, says Aschner, something which we can see in Morales’ work. In particular, Aschner notes that there are different temporalities co-existing in the same place: What does this coexistence in the present look like? And what can we imagine could happen in the future?

Aschner also encouraged dialogue around the ways in which indigenous communities resist and challenge dominant temporal frameworks, asserting their own notions of time and reclaiming their ancestral futures. Can art help blur these time impositions? Morales uses the body to create poetry about feminine’s strength, producing a communitarian textile. From the making of art we may find ways to go past the impositions set by these forced temporalities or, Aschner asks, if it is even relevant for art to do that? He is also compelled by the image of the spiral and the elasticity of time. Finally, he drew attention to the relationship between time, body, and power, prompting participants to reflect on how power structures influence temporal experiences and perceptions.

The webinar concluded with a vibrant Q&A session, where participants engaged in insightful conversations with the speakers. Questions for Ibañez revolved around strategies for decolonizing time, in particular the synchronization of time and how this could be achieved in colonized societies, especially considering that the idea was to erase indigenous conceptions of time. What new sorts of relations could emerge from this synchronization? For Morales, the questions touched on how memories of sounds could be integrated in her work, and who are her artistic inspirations.

The discussion ended on an open question: How do these temporal encounters translate into political terms? What politics could be conceptualized to address these issues? The final question touched on the future as a weight, and if it is something predetermined, or if it can still be changed? The session fostered a deep appreciation for Andean temporalities, inspiring participants to further explore and embrace diverse temporal perspectives.

The video of the event (in Spanish) will be published further on in our videos page.

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