Issue 31: West
Jungle love song dedications
In Colombia there is a radio station that exists solely so that relatives of people being held hostage in the jungle can broadcast messages to their missing loved ones. This week FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army) and the Colombian government signed a ceasefire to end 50 years of conflict. An estimated seven million people have been displaced by this conflict.
Chola culture at its core is concerned with cultural duality and displacement; it is a subculture that is the product of migration and cultural colonisation. The origin of the world ‘Chola’ is rooted in California’s gold rush when Chola was a derogatory word used by white Americans to describe Mexican immigrants. Typically Cholas wear fake gold hoops, dark lip liner and carpenter pants. They also have nice nails.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, JLo rose to fame in the movie Selena, which was based on the real life assassination of Latin America’s much loved Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. I was given a bottle of JLo Glow for Christmas in 2001. Selena Gomez was probably named after Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.
La Llorona (the crying woman) and La Malinche (the traitor)
La llorona is the crying ghost of a woman who murdered her children out of jealousy to punish her boyfriend. She now regrets this decision and ghosts around at night wailing. She is known to steal kids wandering around after dark. Sometimes this folklore is conflated with La Malinche (Doña Marina) who was Hernán Cortéz’s Nahua lover, advisor and interpreter. She betrayed the Aztec empire in a battle that lead to the Spanish to capturing what is now known as Mexico. To be fair her father gifted her to Cortez so its no wonder she was pissed off.
Pink River Dolphins
Throughout the Amazon people believe that the pink river dolphins are shape shifters. The dolphins can turn themselves into fair-skinned men wearing white suits, a white hat (to cover their blow hole) and gold jewellery. They then seduce the women and disappear back into the river. This was to explain illegitimate births and probably because the babies started coming out pink when the Spaniards arrived. I like to think this is how I came into the world.
Conquering the new world
El Dorado is a land of gold or more specifically a lake where the Muisca people of Colombia threw gold offerings to appease the sun god. The lake is believed to have been created by the arrival of the sun god atop a meteorite. Lake Guatavita north of Bogota has been drained numerous times by treasure hunters who believe this is the location of mythical El Dorado. This folklore was possibly invented by the Muisca people to move the Spanish invaders on in promise of a place much richer in gold, just around the corner. Last time I was in Colombia I tried to visit the lake, but the roads were blocked by farmers protesting Colombia’s free trade agreements with the United States.
Gold is used throughout my work to index pre-Columbia, Spanish imperialism and Chola subculture, linking these three historical moments to form an idea of Latin-ness. It alludes to Spanish colonists usurping indigenous spiritualties and replacing them with their own, and in doing so refiguring the value attributed to gold. I seek out relics of the ‘original’ to build monuments for the new.
María, llena eres de gracia
Flowers are one of Colombia’s largest exports. Colombia is famous for its roses. The workforce is made up of predominantly women and working conditions are well below standard. Maria Full of Grace is set in a rose factory and was the first movie about Colombia that I ever watched. My sister’s birth parents met working in a rose factory. Valentines Day art is one of my favourite types of art.
B: 1987 Bogota Colombia
In 2014 Nicholson participated in the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Beijing studio residency with Shen Shaomin and was an artist in residence at Firstdraft Gallery and Throwdown Press. IN 2015 Nicholson was awarded the Freedman Foundation Travelling Art Scholarship and this year travelled to Guatemala and Los Angeles. Also this year she was part of safARI festival Sydney, a resident at Casula Power House’s Studio Switch program and produced work for MCA Art Bar and Dark Mofo MONA. Later this year she has been commissioned by C3West, Power House Youth Theatre and STARTTS to develop a work for the project ‘Women Of Fairfield’.
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