Sunday 30 May 2010

Hay Festival in Cartagena

We are delighted to share this article about the Hay Festival in Cartagena, written by Kevin Conroy Scott, a literary agent at Tibor Jones & Associates that also promotes and represents Latin American writers such as Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Oscar Guardiola Rivera in the UK . Kevin is also on the board of the Colombiage Arts Festvial. This article was published by the NewStatesman on 21 May 2010

Hay while the sun shines

Kevin Conroy Scott

Published 21 May 2010

Kevin Conroy Scott reports from a Latin outpost of a British literary festival

Ian McEwan is milling around the beautiful
courtyard of the Santa Clara Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. "The temperature here is wonderful," he says. "This must be the temperature of paradise." The British novelist is in town for the Hay Festival Cartagena, one of six international offshoots of the annual literary event in Hay on Wye. But what exactly is a festival like this doing in a place like Colombia?

Despite its many problems and its strict class system, Colombia is going through something of a renaissance. The country's president, Álvaro Uribe, has been in power since 2002 and has presided over a period of relative calm after 30 years of violence in which drug cartels funded paramilitaries in the jungle, who in turn protected the cartels' business interests (almost 80 per cent of the world's cocaine comes from Colombia). Uribe's solution was aggressively to tackle the narcotics trade in the jungle while providing more security in major cities.

It has been a controversial strategy, drawing criticism from human rights groups. Senior figures in the Uribe administration have themselves been linked to drug trafficking and right-wing death squads. But eight years on, Colombia is arguably a safer place. Or at least it feels that way.

In Cartagena, the "Venice of the Caribbean", time stands still as horse-drawn carriages pass down lantern-lit streets and the voices of street vendors float on the tropical breezes. I asked Peter Florence, Hay's founder, how he felt about the festival coming to Cartagena. "For most countries, security is taken for granted. But security is new for Colombia. And that security feels like an adventure."

Among the authors attracted to Hay Cartagena is Mario Vargas Llosa. His talk was dominated by the buzz phrase of the festival, "perpetual presidents". Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Colombia's feared neighbour, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, were mentioned as culprits. "Perpetual presidents have left their countries in disaster," Llosa said through a translator. "As a Peruvian I have a lot of experience with this." This was greeted with raucous laughter and applause. Later I met a business teacher from Cartagena, and asked her about the audience's reaction. "Uribe is trying to change the constitution to remain in power for a third term in the same way. But most Colombians don't want to change because we think things are good now."

In Cartagena there is a sense that there are now two Colombias. At one of the many lavish parties hosted by Bogotanos with second homes on the coast, a live salsa band played while empanadas and aguardiente were served by the pool. When I returned to my hotel in Getsemani, the working-class quarter just outside the old town, I met a French economics professor who had retired to Cartagena. He told me that "64 per cent of Colombia is owned by 0.04 per cent of the people. That's where all the problems stem from."

It is often said that periods of great instability produce great art. If this is true, I asked Juan Gabriel Vásquez, a Colombian author whom many tip as the heir apparent to Gabriel García Márquez, is Colombia going through a golden age during this time of relative quiet? "I don't think conflict leads invariably to great art," he said. "If it did, Colombia would have produced nothing but masterpieces since 1810."

But Colombia is full of masterpieces. And people's attitudes towards culture are changing as the country begins to export more of it. The pop singers Shakira and Juanes have both sold millions of albums in the US and Europe. But what is more surprising is the international success of the telenovela, the Colombian soap opera. On my way back to London, I stopped in Bogotá and met the king of the format, Fernando Gaitán, the screenwriter/producer who created the global hit Ugly Betty. "Colombia is well known by everyone for its violence. So I thought it was very interesting to counteract that image," he said, surrounded by his awards in his penthouse office. "Colombia is a country that consumes its own culture. This is very rare. My work focuses on everyday lives, the matters that are universal, like love stories. It's the universal stories that travel abroad, not the stories of violence."

So does Hay Cartagena, with all its gravitas and prestige, need to reflect the more complicated texture of Colombian culture? The
London-based Colombian academic Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, author of the forthcoming book What If Latin America Ruled the World?, just shrugged. "Given that there are so few scenarios for rational discussion in my country, that Hay Cartagena exists is an unqualified good for Colombia." And there's new hope for Colombians who think their country is stagnant. In March, the constitutional court rejected Uribe's attempt to change the constitution to get a third presidential term. And now Colombia is in the grip of election fever. The former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus, is gathering momentum as the candidate of choice for the left-leaning student population looking to challenge the long conservative rule. They go to the polls later this month, so Colombia won't have a perpetual president any time soon.

Kevin Conroy Scott is a literary agent at Tibor Jones & Associates and on the board of the Colombiage arts festival

Thursday 27 May 2010

Empanadas Paisas

This is one of our Collaboration with Perfiles Magazine, A Latin American London Base Magazine.

Monday 17 May 2010

ChocQuibTown at Jazz Cafe

As we are music lovers we are delighted to see the mighty Afro-Colombian group Choc Quib Town make a rare UK appearance. They have won critical acclaim for their enticing fusion of hip-hop, dub, electronica and rhythms from Colombia's Pacific coast, and they will be appearing at the Jazz Café on Monday 24th of May - we have tickets for sale at Sabor.

Their innovative sond fuses funk, North American hip-hop, jamaican ragga, and elements of electronic music in order to produce elaborate beats. They also incorporate traditional rhythms from Colombia's Pacific coast such as bunde, currulao, bambazu, and aguabajo as well as other Latin American and caribbean rhythms such as salsa songo and guajira. Choc Quib Town shows that there's much more to discover about is more to discover about Colombian Music.
They also have a new album out called Oro, which led to them being nominated for best new artist at the Latin Grammy's last year. said that "what makes "Oro" (which contains music from the band's first two Colombian releases) so interesting is that every track finds a new way to interpret the traditional sounds of the country's Pacific coast". It was also very enthusiastically reviewed (four stars!) by the Daily Telegraph last week - they described it as "a sound that feels at once timeless and euphorically current".

Friday 14 May 2010

Latinos at Tate Modern 10 Year Celebrations

Tate Modern is celebrating 10 years this weekend. They have a Free Festival with lots of activities Like 'No Soul For Sale" A Festival of Independents arts Spaces from all over the world .

There are three Latin American Art Collectives participating, including Casa Tres Patios from Medellin Colombia, a non-profit, independent artist run organization based in Medellín, Colombia. Their mission is to promote contemporary art and to serve as a meeting place or intersection for artists of various disciplines and cultures. Through a continuing program of activities coordinated by local, national and international artists and arts organizations, they aim to promote exhibitions, artist residencies, competitions, conferences, lectures and workshops that focus on artistic and intellectual and cultural exchange and development.

Lugar a Dudas, an independent
nonprofit space, is located in Cali, first city of the department of Valle del Cauca. The city has a population close to 2.400.000 inhabitants and it is located in the southwestern zone of the country. Its purpose is to promote and disseminate the contemporary artistic practices. As its name suggests, Lugar a dudas (Room for doubts) is a laboratory for research, confrontation, reflection and critic. Its programs, events, exhibitions and workshops, aim to make visible problems and discrepancies of the context we live in; to stimulate discussion and to propitiate experiences that accompany transformations of the cultural sectors of Cali and the region.

Capacete Entertainment. Research residency program for artists, curators and critics in the visul field.