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awaman – manawa nicarawa

October 27, 2010

Jonathan Harker – a friend and erstwhile colleague of mine – has struck again. Here’s his latest project, in collaboration with Rodrigo Sánchez and Iñaki Iriberri of Señor Loop.

Harker’s work – in any medium – is almost always appealing and/or provocative at a gut level. Unlike much contemporary art, you don’t need to know the hermeneutic back story in order to “get it”. You’re not expected to. But that’s not to say that there isn’t one:

Managua, Nicaragua is a song by Irving Fields and Albert Gamse released in 1946, during the golden age of modern Nicaragua, the period to which it makes reference. Its racist and condescending lyrics reveal the profoundly unequal relationship between the United States and Nicaragua, a situation that continues to repeat itself in our day, there and throughout Latin America. Even so, the song speaks of better days, of a now neglected city, and of the privileges that a country might provide to whoever  was shrewd enough to take advantage of them.

For Habitat, an exhibit of projects about the city of Managua produced by the Cultural Center of Spain in Nicaragua, Jonathan Harker, in collaboration with Iñaki Iriberri and Rodrigo Sánchez – two Panamanian musicians – re-make the song altering its lyrics and modernizing the music. Through subtle changes to a cultural element present in the imaginary of the managuas [sic], the artist engages themes related to the identity of the city, its current state as well as its relationship to foreigners. By flipping the discursive content of the song and appropriating its audio characteristics, Harker utilizes culture in order to reflect on the city and its history.

[This is my own translation of the spanish language text accompanying this video on YouTube.]

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