Since 2006, Professor Susan Kalt has spearheaded opportunities for students at Roxbury Community College to interact directly with Spanish-speaking descendants of indigenous and African people about their experiences in the Americas. Events have included performances of music, dance, poetry and theater; readings, film screenings, and gallery exhibits.
One example of such events was the exhibit entitled “Cargando la carga – Carrying the load” by Colombian artist José Alexander Caicedo Castaño.
Planting a banana tree to sustain your family isn’t part of daily life in Massachusetts. Using the banana to heal wounds and its leaves to wrap food is even less familiar – and yet it is a central fact of life for rural Colombians of African descent. Banana cultivation has recently become a touchpoint for race and class-based violence on the edge of the city of Medellín, and its cultivation on the outskirts has been forbidden. Visual artist and José Alexander Caicedo Castaño organized one Afro-Colombian community to create paintings and murals in celebration of the life-sustaining and poetic qualities of the banana tree. Through their efforts, they found a voice which reaches beyond the center of their city to our students located 2500 miles to the north.
More than 50 students of Spanish and English as a Second Language participated in gallery tours of Caicedo’s exhibit entitled “Cargando la carga – Carrying the load,” curated by Mirta Tocci at the Joan Resnikoff gallery on the RCC campus. After an introductory reflection on forbidden fruit in oral history and literature, students toured the gallery, viewed a burlap sack like the one on which Caicedo’s images were originally painted, and made sense of the complex images presented in the exhibit.
They brought their questions directly to the artist, who teleconferenced with them in Spanish from his home in Antioquia, Colombia over the course of two days of gallery talks.
Here are some of the reactions of RCC students to the exhibit:
“I can relate to the living conditions which seem to mirror many places in the South during the reconstruction era, as well … as recently as the 1980s.” – K.S., Spanish 1.
“¿Por qué está la segregación de personas colombianas basada en el color de la piel?” (Why is there segregation of Colombian people based on skin color?) – L.D., Spanish 2.
“Es muy emocionante ver a la gente hacer todo lo que pueda para defender a lo que quiere.” (It is moving to see all that people do to defend what they love.) – N.C., Spanish 3.
For more information contact Susan Kalt