The Performing Identity of the Canary Islands: Amazigh Heritage Influences in the Artistic Production

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The Performing Identity of the Canary Islands: Amazigh Heritage Influences in the Artistic Production

Type: Master thesis
Title: The Performing Identity of the Canary Islands: Amazigh Heritage Influences in the Artistic Production
Author: García, Davinia
Issue Date: 2016-02-29
Keywords: The Canary Islands
Canarian identity
Canarian indigenous heritage
Amazigh heritage
Traditional pottery in the Canary Islands
Canarian nationalism
Imagined Community
Canarian pro-independence movement
Abstract: The presence of indigenous heritage elements in all the various domains is a hardly avoidable fact in the Canary Islands. The ideological discourses from moderated nationalism to pro-independence perspectives, justify the attention towards “the noble indigenous past”. These political discourses help preserve traditional customs and celebrations in a process referred to as “folklorization”. This is mainly accomplished by turning the indigenous past into museums and ethnographic parks. Similarly,the Canarian moderate nationalism has become the main political force in the archipelago in the recent history of the Spanish democracy. While being for over 20 years in power, the nationalistic party Coalición Canaria has been able to build an identity discourse based on what Estévez called the indigenous patrimonization. The government has been offering funds to support the scientific research, the patrimony management and the encyclopaedic volumes on “Canarian themes” with didactic purposes, all of which have elicited an emotional legitimacy of the above-mentioned concepts. The patrimony management could also be considered as an important political and economical tool used to the re-creation, regulation and conservation of certain patrimonial elements of a culture that often occurs to the detriment of others. The experts’ view serves mostly as a filter through which material items of cultural patrimony are interpreted and regarded as valuable, while others are not. From the perspective of globalization, the protection of the historical patrimony can be interpreted as a resistance against the homogenization of social behaviors and consumption. However, tourists rather than the locals are the biggest consumers of this historical cultural patrimony. Thus, one could argue that it could have been created with the intention to satisfy the tourists’ demands (Estévez, 2004:16). On the one hand, a large part of the scientific community takes a stance against the indigenous heritage commercialization and its consumption by tourists and locals, based on the idea that such processes could undermine the intrinsic value of the indigenous heritage. On the other hand, the artists and their audiences continue to appreciate the value that is to be found in the indigenous imagination, as expressed in social situations when the audiences enjoy music and pottery inspired by the primal cultures of the first inhabitants of the Canaries. The concept of “folklorization” is tightly related to the general social interest of giving to the past a decisive role in the population’s destiny. This tendency provides the Canarian citizens a sense of feeling members of the same community/family and helps sculpt personality. In regard to the past generations, one can only use their remains to draw assumptions about the way they lived, but it is impossible to know exactly how they were and felt. In that sense, the museums assist in re-constructing the history according to scientific, political and ideological assumptions depending on the given historical period (Estévez, 2004:13). A consensual concern seems to exist in regard to preserving the traditions and conserving the cultural patrimony of the Canaries. However, the patrimony is selected through today’s lens. Hence, its preservation is linked to the current demands and uses of such cultural patrimony. In many cases, Estévez argues, the measures applied to classify what could be defined as patrimony, correspond to cost related and opportunistic criteria rather than scientific ones. Indeed there are many instances in the Canary Islands where the archaeology and patrimony management were interrelated with political purposes. In the present, a museum is meant to play a social function based on grounds of cultural democratization. Therefore, while visiting a museum, one expects a reflective and interactive exchange of contrasted scientific information provided to the public to draw their personal conclusions. However, when the explanations provided are too simple, obsolete or ideologically manipulated, the visitors are left with a feeling of confusion. This leads us to the argumentation that the proliferation of archaeological and ethnographical sites across the archipelago has not always been based on historical and archaeological motives, aiming to acquire a better understanding of the indigenous heritage of the Canaries. On the contrary, in most cases such proliferation has been based on economic profits, with tourists and also locals consuming their own patrimony at the cost of falsifying the history.
Supervisor: Merolla, Daniela
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: African Studies (Master)
Specialisation: African Studies
ECTS Credits: 15

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