Bajamar (Low Tide), the performance presented by Afro-Cuban artist Carlos Martiel at the Museo La Tertulia in Cali on August 9, 2018, condenses the metaphor: Spectators ascend a white staircase leading to a television set. There, 3D models of architectural renders from the port of Buenaventura are displayed. Only by looking down, you will see it; the floor of the last step is made of glass and, under it, Martiel’s black, naked body remains immobile, captured inside the staircase. The viewer climbs it almost without noticing that he lies there, and that the ascent is only possible by passing over his body, both violated and vulnerable: a black body that, nonetheless, does not succumb to containment or fatigue.
Martiel’s was one of the happenings with which Carretera al Mar, an event organized by the Goethe-Institute and the Museo La Tertulia within the framework of the regional project The Future of Memory, reflected on the forms of memory in the midst of racial, socioeconomic and territorial tensions in the Colombian Pacific. The region – and, above all, the territories that cross the road between Cali and Buenaventura – has been the epitome of the contradictions that have marked the development process of Western Colombia. Despite the fact that the port of Buenaventura and its surroundings mobilize 60% of the merchandise that enters the country, its inhabitants live under the consequences of severe governmental abandonment. It was this tension between the processes of exploitation and modernization of the area, where 25% of Colombia’s Afro-descendant population lives, that gave rise to the idea of the project. According to Wenzel Bilger, director of the Colombian Goethe-Institute, Carretera al Mar sought to “recognize the historical dimension of the Afro-Colombian population, make visible the violence and neglect that it has experienced and, at the same time, contribute to the empowerment of initiatives that fight for a more equitable and inclusive society”.