Domingo, 24 Mayo 2020 20:55

Cultural Extractivism is the subtraction of an ancestral knowledge or an art to destroying it.

Escrito por By Moira Millán, 24th February 2020 Translation: deepl and Caterina Mora

En Español - A modo de introducción por Caterina Mora

“Vean esta nota” decía el asunto del mail. Y en el cuerpo del mail, al final, esto: “algo parecido pasó con la coreografía XXX”. Ese mail era de Susana Tambutti. Me dije, algo hay que hacer. Así que con la ayuda de mi amigo deepl, volví a traducir. Urgencia y marcos de visibilidad. Me pregunto: ¿cómo hablar de colonialismo en artes escénicas hoy?, ¿cómo abordar la apropiación cultural? Considero fundamental que este texto se traduzca al inglés. No sólo como parte de mi investigación sino como una voz necesaria de escuchar en el marco de las artes escénicas. En primer lugar, agradezco la autorización para traducirlo de Moira Millán. En segundo lugar, aclaro que es una decisión no incorporar mi voz en su texto. No supe ni sé cómo interrumpirla. Por último, hacer de estas traducciones/publicaciones un proceso de discusión. Hacer de la traducción alternativas de soporte y alternativas que soporten. 

In English - As an introduction by Caterina Mora

"See this article" was the subject of the email. And in the body of the mail, at the end, was: "something similar happened with the choreography XXX." That email was from Susana Tambutti. I said to myself, something has to be done. So with the help of my friend deepl translator, I have translated again, but this time from my native language to English. Urgency and visibility. I asked myself: How do you talk about colonialism in the arts today? How do you tackle cultural appropriation? This text is fundamental. Not only as part of my research but also as a necessary voice to be heard within the framework of the performing arts. First of all, I am grateful for Moira Millán´s authorization to translate her text. Secondly, I clarify that it is a decision not to incorporate my voice into it. I did not know and do not know how to interrupt it. Finally, I am interested in making these translations/publications a process of discussion. Translations as alternative supports.


Link nota en español // Publication in Spanish 

 Link traducciones en francés e italiano // Publication in French and Italian


By Moira Millán, 24th February 2020

Translation: deepl and Caterina Mora

Revisión: Reneé Carmichael

Moira Millán: "Cultural Extractivism is the subtraction of an ancestral knowledge or an art to destroying it."

A few days ago I came across a video that filled me with anger and outrage. It was the presentation of a work by choreographer Eszter Salamon at the Kunsten Festival des Arts, which took place on May 5th, 2017, at the Wiels art center in Brussels, Belgium. This work was shown as a rescue of an extinct ancestral Mapuche dance. The video shows a group of young dancers with their faces painted in various colours, using a metallic blanket as a Poncho, commonly worn by rescuers who help refugees that arrive in Europe.

You could hear how Tahiel Mapuche was being sung. It was Kawel Tahiel: The sacred song of the horse. I recognized it. These young people danced in a circle. Everything seemed  to me  crude, vacuous, banal, filled with ignorance and  callousness.

As a Mapuche woman who believes and is respectful of the spirituality of my PUEBLO (people), it deeply concerned/affects me that a dance that is part of the ceremonies in which we rely upon a harmonious relationship with the land is represented out of context, is ridiculed and, worse still, is presented as an extinct dance.

With this text I do not only intend to denounce the cultural atrocity committed by this famous and well-known choreographer. Instead, basically through this example, my intention is also to declare war on these extractive practices, being aware that the state systems has not created punitive tools that penalize and criminalize cultural appropriation or cultural extractivism activities.

It is necessary to define the substantial difference that lies between both categories.(en esta oración hice cagadas con el corrector, puse una versión con el comentario) Cultural appropriation is the reification of a cultural expression of a PUEBLO (people) that, after, will be offered in the market by dominant cultures, regardless of whether it is a craft or a dance. Cultural extractivism is the subtraction of a knowledge, know-how or art from an oppressed people in order to destroy it. An example of this could be learning a language just to empty their words leaving them meaningless or distorting their conceptual origins and sometimes even replacing them for others.

In recent times, we often see the legitimization acquired by fashion companies, snobby artists, even high government officials, with practices of both cultural appropriation and extractive activities.

Immediately the supremacist European voice legitimizes these conducts by giving them an exotic, postmodern and cool look. The European tradition of stealing has different names and categories. Hypocritical capitalist Europe seeks to redeem itself. Making herself believe in the story of the messiah, the one who will liberate enslaved people even though she has been the greatest enslaver.

The cultural extractor assumes that he/she/they is/are the neo-pirate. The cultural extractor goes out on its adventurous quest, believing that he/she/they will be the discoverer of unknown treasures, which he/she/they will not only appropriate but also pluck to take back to his/her/their place of origin.

Neo-piracy arrives in many different ways; we can see it in the Benetton appropriation of an extensive part of Mapuches territories and the way he disguises his campaigns with publicity that vindicates racial diversity and integration, under the slogan "United colours of Benetton".  Meanwhile, he finances the repression against our people, he commands local politics and sets the war agenda presenting himself up as a fashion innovator for his pseudo anti-racism.

Eszter Salamon is another example of this, stealing from my people a sacred song and dance. But she couldn't do it alone, she did it thanks to another thief who preceded her, putting his extractivist camera in a Mapuche ceremony, filming the dances, filming the songs, and putting it on YouTube. 

How was this possible? Because of the abuse of hospitality and trust that we indigenous peoples tend to generate by not setting boundaries. Hospitality must have limits. Universities, artists, NGO's, governments, companies, articulate themselves as precise tentacles to plunder the spirit of the peoples and their territories.

The innocence demonstrated for 500 years against the plunderer must come to an end. Eszter Salamon is not only stealing a dance, a song, but also contributing to the destruction of our spiritual ecosystem. However, she presents herself as a redeemer who recovers a lost dance and who, as a great heroine, gives it to humanity, transformed by her western and white gaze.

The Eurocentric white messianism possesses the fantasy that being guilty of the greatest atrocities in the world, it can be granted redemption. They are convinced that they can be saviours. They do not question their privileges, they do not give in, they monopolize the discourse and establish the stratifying norms and their valorization.

Curiously, she has called this series Monuments. Meanwhile in these parts of the world we speak of “de-monumentalizing” genocide, which  represents a way of removing the civilizing model from its pedestal, this series pretends to place in the collective unconscious a museum language that is nothing more than a language of annihilation.

Monuments are the clear winning discourse of supremacist whiteness. We must replace them with memorials whose discourse will be collective and from the people. Someone should tell Eszter Salamon that this dance is not only not lost but that our people are stronger than ever in their knowledge and spirituality.

While Eszter Salamon was announcing the rescue of a disappeared dance, of an almost extinct people, in the Wallmapu, both Puel Mapu and Gulumapu territories were attacked by shots from repressive gendarmes and torturing police. This "almost extinct" First Nations people called the Mapuche Nation has just under four million people. They spread out in the South of South America as guardians of life, confronting extractive and polluting companies, latifundist mercenaries and corrupt functionaries.

At that very moment when the choreographer was putting in her pocket the significant payment in Euros, many of us were collecting coins to go to the nearby courts to denounce the hunt. Was Eszter Salamon aware of the reality of my people?  Did she want to pay homage to the fight of the Mapuche people? Did she believe that the only way to make people visible is to steal a dance from them?

Finally, Eszter Salamon says in her text accompanying the video presentation that “she will reject 'identity blackmail', "which I find funny and ironic. Since the first identity blackmailer is her. Cultural extractivism and appropriation are crimes that should be judged by the people who are victims of these acts. As long as we do not have legal weapons for the nation states to condemn with jails or fines, I call on the indigenous peoples to say: Enough to Europe! This must stop!


Here is the link to the video and the page of the work Monument by Eszter Salamon. (The link doesn´t work anymore)



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