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“Branches of an imaginary marimba”: The force of syncretism in contemporary art

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Join us for a screening and lecture on the force of syncretism, the practice of contemporary art, and the history of the marimba in Guatemala. This event will be followed by a wine reception.

At some point in the short-film Blue Bird – Obsidian Dream (2022), directed by Edgar Calel and Fernando Pereira dos Santos, a modern marimba piece can be heard. Composed by Joaquín Orellana, Ramajes de una Marimba Imaginaria (Branches of an Imaginary Marimba) musically evokes and alters the complex human, as well as material history of what is considered a national instrument in contemporary Guatemala. The marimba was introduced to Central America in early colonial times by slaves from Western Africa, under circumstances that can no longer be traced. It was adapted and transformed by Indigenous musicians, later by non-Indigenous elites and the state, who at times obscured the instrument’s African and Indigenous past. Sebastián Eduardo Dávila’s lecture circles around the marimba as a paradigmatic site of syncretism, a concept and a force encompassing loss and untraceability, but also transmission, inventiveness and transformation. Intrigued by the possibilities and limitations of a syncretic framework, he will connect the instrument back to Blue Bird – Obsidian Dream, that explores the relation between Indigenous and the more-than human bodies, their memories, and the spaces of modern architecture.

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