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COVID19 Reflections

Courtesy of Gloria Oyarzabal

Gloria Oyarzabal

Travelling to Africa can take a white European person to an uncomfortable spot: you can see the vestiges of colonial occupation, its consequences upon present-day African societies, the signs left in our imaginations, the implications of racism and Eurocentrism. The easiest reaction to all of this is guilt, which often only leads to temporary self-loathing and a feeling of impotence, or just to the cynical acceptance of a situation. Historical contingence is thus transformed into destiny, which amounts to a reaffirmation of existing prejudice and to ruinous strategies based on charity and the like. Another option is to assume that history and culture are living entities we can act upon: a feeling of responsibility seems a better starting point than white middle-class guilt. Part of this effort stands in deconstructing cultural stereotypes and working on our own narratives. After living in Mali for three years, doing research on what she refers to as “the idea of Africa that Europe has created for its own benefit”, Gloria Oyarzabal started working on a meditation on how Europe’s welfare was built on suffering and terror, how colonization of the mind is a subtle macabre tool of domination or we can’t universalize western mainstream feminist discourses. Through dialectic images that try to establish links between the past and the present, or that highlight the interplay between reality and its image, she uses archive images -sometimes manipulating them-, as well as her own photographs, creating multilayer projects on its narratives.


In 1845 Henry David Thoreau leaves the family home in Concord and settles in the cabin he has built next to the Walden Lagoon to "live life intensely from beginning to end". Walden, Thoreau said, "is a book written for that majority of men&women who are unhappy with their lives and the times they have had to live through, but who could improve them. And also for those who seem to be rich, but in reality have accumulated useless things and do not know very well what to do with them”; is a defence of free and wild life, as well as a fierce criticism of society and its impositions, -which have hardly changed since that date-; is a radical and direct questioning of the institution of work as indoctrination and of the market as the only god, as well as a lucid defence of the simplification of life and of the path that leads us to pursue its essence and its daily pleasures; is a reflection on the need to preserve both nature and the planet as well as the core of our own individual and irreducible existence; is a stimulating exploration of intimacy in its most concrete form: living conditions (in this time of confinement, needless to say that not everyone is housed in the same way). Is it enough to be alive to live?

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