Event | Lecture
Colonizing Gestures and the Colonial Gaze in Images of Equatorial Guinea
Venue: KJCC Auditorium • 53 Washington Square South
Equatorial Guinea’s first published comics artist, Nzé Esono Ebalé, is internationally recognized for his art and activism. His latest graphic narrative collaboration with Spanish journalist Pere Ortín, Diez mil elefantes (2022), focuses on the memory of Spain’s equatorial African colony. It reimagines and remediates Alex Guimerá’s 2015 docufiction film, Un día vi 10.000 elefantes—itself a remediation of an unpublished novel by prolific Equatoguinean author Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. Diez mil elefantes portrays documentary filmmaker Manuel Hernández Sanjuán’s 1944 expedition to Spanish Guinea through the testimonio of Angono Mba, his (fictional) Guinean porter. The narrative interrogates colonial memory and denounces the physical, racial, and epistemic violence of the colonial project. Because Ávila Laurel’s creative involvement is not credited, however, the production of the comic unfortunately reproduces the very colonial logic it purports to criticize. I attend to this tension as I analyze the comic’s juxtaposition of the practices and technologies of the colonial gaze—specifically the impulse to possess and capture through written word and film—with oral storytelling, magical-real imagery, and Esono’s fantastical color palette. Esono’s mixed-media panels construct a redemptive decolonial archive that celebrates non-Western ways of seeing and knowing; nevertheless, the graphic novel is scaffolded by a harmful reenactment of extractive colonial practices. To grapple with this contradiction, I ask: does this instance of intellectual imperialism undermine the work’s message, or does it further underscore the importance of publishing, reading, and teaching decolonial works—in all their complexity—in hopes that future appropriative acts might be prevented?
Introduced by Kristen Joy Owens (Librarian for African American and Black Diaspora Studies, NYU)
Caroline Beard Colquhoun is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her research and teaching focus on contemporary literature, media, and culture from the Iberian Peninsula and sites of Spanish colonial contact in Africa--specifically, Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara. Her current book project traces how younger generations of Equatoguineans and Sahrawis respond, through art and activism, to the realities of life in postcolonial societies marked by lengthy dictatorships, neocolonial exploitation, and ongoing illegal annexation. Her research is published in Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies, La Revista de ALCESXXI, and Divergencias.
Kristen J. Owens is a curator and librarian whose research interests center on the study of Black visual and material culture. Kristen explores the intersections of Black cultural studies, fashion studies, and the visual arts. As the inaugural Black Lunch Table Wikimedia Fellow, she curated the exhibit [action=query]: Black Arts and Black Aesthetics in collaboration with Pace Gallery. Kristen holds an MA in visual culture: costume studies and an MS in library and information science from New York University’s dual degree program with Long Island University.
She received a BA in fashion studies from Montclair State University. Kristen is currently the Librarian for African American and Black Diaspora Studies at New York University Libraries.