As a consequence of 500 years of colonialism and globalization, the tropics are paradoxical regions laden with abundance, scarcity and crisis. The Futura Trōpica project, initiated by artist and critical designer Juan Pablo García Sossa, seeks to rewrite our understanding of the tropics, not just as a region but also as a mentality.
Research by Diana Pizano, Sebastián Lema and Nada Tshibwabwa. Courtesy of Futura Trōpica.
C&AL: What is Futura Trōpica?
Juan Pablo García Sossa: Futura Trōpica is an intertropical and decentralized network composed of local structures that connects communities and territories in the tropical belt of the Earth, in order to exchange knowledge, technologies and endemic designs. On one hand, it is a research project aimed at strengthening and channeling conversations between communities in the tropical belt and to redefine our understanding of the tropics. On the other hand, it is an intersection of networks: local networks, networks of affection, and networks in a technical and infrastructural sense: internet, intranet, Wi-Fi, etc. The current nodes are Bogota, Kinshasa and Bengaluru, with 30 active contributors from different backgrounds and with different experiences.
C&AL: In what ways have the tropics been excluded from the global narrative and what strategies does Futura Trōpica propose to reclaim this?
JPGS: Historically, the tropical regions have been undervalued and exoticized. They have been considered solely for resource exploitation or as unmonitored fields of experimentation (as in the case of Cambridge Analytica in Kenya). The system of globalization and progress – within which the tropics are stigmatized as an “underdeveloped” region – has generated in the region an eagerness to “catch up” with the so-called “developed” world; importing external ideas of progress and preventing us from examining our own notions of progress. Rarely have the tropics been recognized as a place from which knowledge emerges. For example, since the idea of the “Technological Gap “, the notion is still widespread, that no technologies originate from the Global South or the tropics.
Diana Pizano, Endemic Foods / Biocultural Landscapes. Courtesy of Futura Trōpica.
Futura Trōpica attempts to break this structure, in which we are supposedly merely passive recipients of input from the Global North. At the same time, the project seeks to reinforce and channel conversations devoid of hierarchies between the African Continent, Abya Ayala, Hindustan or South Asia and Polynesia, and to recognize and develop technologies that have been commonly considered inferior or obsolete. Futura Trōpica proposes non-binary conceptions of the planet that go beyond the categories of West/East and North/South. At the same time, it wants to show that there are certain shared differences in the tropical belt that, at the end of the day, make us equal.
C&AL: Can you tell us a little more about the concept of “tropical mentality”?
JPGS: I begin from the idea that there are certain particularities in the way populations in the tropics respond to the vibrations of their environments; these cocktails of sun, diversity and crisis that make reality surpass fiction almost every day. The idea of the tropics as a mindset plays on the etymology of the word “tropics”: The Greek tropikos comes from the belief that the sun rotated on the solstices from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn and back.
Hence, tropic is the turning point, which is also the crisis, so that tropikos as a mindset involves turning these vibrations of the environments in a different direction, i.e., rejecting the impossible and using it as a means. Examples of these practices are the Brazilian “jeitinho” and “gambiarra”, the Indian “jugaad”, the Ghanaian “goorgorlou” or the Latin American “rebusque”: in other words, creative ways of improvising to find solutions.
Juan Pablo Garcia Sossa, Repair and memories in Bogota and Bengaluru. Courtesy of Futura Trōpica.
C&AL: How can people get in touch with Futura Trōpica?
JPGS: The Futura Trōpica network is semi-private and can be accessed only through connection to local WiFi networks in certain geographical locations with local WiFi access; currently in Bogota, Kinshasa and Bengaluru. The main interest of Futura Trōpica is that this knowledge flows freely within the tropical belt, without hierarchies while avoiding the outside gaze and maintaining a certain opacity, thereby defending it from total exposure to the exploitative and extortive digital systems in which we live (“surveillance capitalism”).
Periodically and temporarily we offer “Open Days”, in which we enable a public access point from anywhere on the planet. In order to generate alternative information dissemination channels, the content of Futura Trōpica also circulates on USB flash drives, similar to the “weekly package” in Cuba. We want to get in touch with other networks of people within the tropical belt. So feel free to get in touch and we can arrange an installation.
To learn more about the network: https://futura-tropica.network/
jpgs – Juan Pablo García Sossa
Estación Terrena Bogotá
Álvaro Rodríguez Badel
Eblis Álvarez – Meridian Brothers
Diana Pizano – Comiendo Cuento
Sebastián Lema x Organizmo
Paulo Cesar Acosta
Eliana Muchachasoy – Benach Galería Sibundoy
Kevin Angelus & Vedant Sharma – Indian Ephemera / Design Minus Design
Ishita Shah – Curating for Culture
Aastha Gupta & Prateek Shankar – The Urdu Project
Timbela Batimbela Yo (Collective)
Maman Adeline Boyube
Maman Iza & Papa Lofo
…and many more.
Daniela Medina Poch (Bogotá, Colombia, 1992) is a visual artist, writer and researcher interested in exploring the complex interrelations between the global South and the global North. She is part of The New Patrons network of mediators and is currently pursuing her MA in Art in Context at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK).
Translation from Spanish by Zarifa Mohamad Petersen