»No es arte.« Tayrona and Kogi Heritage
project, 2009–2016, Colombia, Germany, Netherlands, UK

„No es arte.“ is an interdisciplinary research group founded in 2009 by Christoph Balzar and Hanune Shalati. It revolves around the harsh critique of the world of Western museums and the capitalist art market by the Kogi people from Colombia. The Kogis are the descendants of the Tayrona. Anthropologists widely consider them the traditional owners of the famous Tayrona gold works, many of which are presented in European, North and South American museums. Dignitaries of the Kogis point out that archaeologists and tomb raiders took those alleged „museum objects“ from sacred sites against their ancestors’ will and that those objects are still part of their religious tradition.

In their language, they call them „sewa,“ which is a synonym for „my beloved“ on the one hand and „holy/sacred“ on the other. From the perspective of the dignitaries of the Kogi people, the so-called mamas, they are not merely artworks elaborately crafted out of gold but beings who desire freedom and obeisance in the form of offerings. In a museum, sewas are described as „locked up and spiritually malnourished…“ (Mama Shibulata in: Geo Magazin, 4/2007). The Kogis‘ criticism of their sewas being in museums can be summed up as follows: „No es arte.“

Left: Pre-Columbian Tayrona goldwork, depicting a symbol of the sun deity „Haté Sé,“ exhibited in the artificial lighting of an art gallery vitrine; circa 800 A.D.; crafted from tumbaga; dimensions: 12.0 cm x 8.0 cm x 3.5 cm.

Right: „Haté Sé,“ communicating with those who hold him.

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