Primitivism beckons

So far, we’ve ranged widely between north and south, from Canada to Mauritius, Colombia to Italy. The last two in particular reveal a South that is the scene of great violence, including FARC and mafia. This touches on the fears about the South as a primitive zone where life is cheap and rules of civilised behaviour no longer hold.

Of course, there’s another side to this. The next locations reflect the primitivist attitude to the South as a necessary antidote to the over-controlled life in the West. We start with the first Pacific destination, Tahiti, the original location of the noble savage, and which introduced the tattoo to the world.

After this, we visit our first country in the African mainland, Zimbabwe, which produced the internationally successful Shona Sculpture — a seemingly rare direct African contribution to the modernist oeuvre, but now the subject of critical review. Either side of this is the ancient empire of Great Zimbabwe and the contemporary spectre of Robert Mugabe. I’m waiting on the return of a colleague from Zimbabwe before posting this.

After this, we are due back in Latin America. My thought is to turn to Uruguay, the scene of Joaquín Torres García’s Le Escuela del Sur and the phenomenon of Mario Benedetti. Then it will be another turn to the north, such as Russia, which had a particular fascination for the South Seas.

Behind the scenes, the website at www.ideaofsouth.net is now complete and work has begun consolidating this journey in a wiki. Of course, I am working away at the book.

As you might tell, the logic at play here is to keep the journey open, to prevent the idea of South congealing to quickly. As the Chilean proverb goes, camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente (‘the shrimp that sleeps is carried away by the current’).

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