Friday, March 17, 2006

Kultural symbols in Venezuela: unification (and mediocrity?)

This week has been rather exhausting, from the near violent debate on the European Union electoral report to new attacks on journalists, passing by the very certain perspective that the new Electoral Board might be even worse than the previous one. I was wondering about what to write today when it occurred to me that I had a pending matter from early this week: the Ministry of Culture which is requesting all of its affiliated institutions to harbor the same logo. I happen to think that this is the perfect item to discuss as it illustrates the general drift of the country.

The said ministry, henceforth referred as Kultur thing, has come up with the not original idea of setting the same logo for any of its dependencies. Not original because it reflects with servility the decision already made that all ministries should reflect the same general logo.

This one is from the Ministry of Superior Education (Universities and Colleges and the fraudulent Mision Sucre). Such uniformity has the advantage, I suppose, of removing any individuality within the governmental web pages, leaving many of them with a strange clone-like feel, perfect for the colorless and lackluster ministers that keep rotating through the musical chair game tha tthe cabinet has become. What you can observe, on the left corner is that bolivariano, the only thing that matters, all must be Bolivarian, whatever this has come to mean. Then again this set up might change, the eight star of the flag has got to appear somewhere, and soon.

So the Kultur thing has decided to impose its own model, giving up old and respected signs, no matter how good or bad they might have been. For example the old logo (left) of the Museo de Bellas Artes will not be prominently displayed (and will certainly disappear from stationery , web pages and what not.

But why is this new logo so important? Apparently there is no reason. Yes, from the page of the Kultur thing we can read that this logo was drawn by the Panare native group, that supposedly it might represent a dog and a frog. Even better, and I quote, “Both figures might not be really the ones expressed by the author in this seal, but to all practical effect of our Institution we hill interpret them as the representation of said animals”. Voilà, they have no idea what that Panare signs stand for but they decided to give a meaning anyway. And to increase that Kafkaïn je ne sais quoi feel, the logo comes with full instructions as to PANTONE scheme, size, coordinates, rules of use, etc, etc…

This is already getting mind blowing, just to see what these people do with any symbol of the nation, rewriting them for their interpretation convenience. From the flag, to Bolivar genius, all transformed, cheapened, gutted of all meaning, even art.

But more troubling questions arise. Why chose as the symbol of the cultural (Kultural?) institutions of Venezuela a Panare seal? Why not a Wayuu tapestry? Or some Pemon carving? Why not an African drum? Or the Spanish guitar? Why represent the gorgeous multicultural diversity of Venezuela with such a limited, but so PC, amulet?

On this respect I must mention that the flag of Miranda state is about to change, according to El Nacional from which I got part of this material (subscription only). The new flag will look German like in its choice of colors except that the meaning will be different. These colors will be black, for the African component of our people, red, for the Native American, and yellow for "pardos", which is a catch phrase for all of those who do not belong to a clearly identifiable ethnic group (darker skinned?). Not only using red for Native American is rather offensive in my book, but what about the white folks? Did they not settle Miranda state too and sleep with blacks and Native American to create the "pardos"? But we should not be surprised as in his history rewriting process El Supremo no says that Bolivar was a Zambo (that is, he did not even have a drop of white blood!)

To end this already belief straining post, let me report that a careful perusing of the site of the Kultur thing allowed me to detect a significant personality Kult towards the present office holder, Francisco "farruco" Sesto. Not only he imitates his boss in that of "standardizing" logos and ideas, but also in his self promotion. We find the following pearls:
  • The page of the minister himself, for his words and declarations
  • An announcement to "consolidate" all the music and dance organizations so as to decentralize them after (huh?)
  • An anthology of verses by the minister and presented in Cuba to local acclaim (imagine that!)
  • An international competition which title is: "Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico" Prize Libertador to Critical Thinking (sorry for the lousy translation but I cannot figure the exact meaning of the title in Spanish as it supposeldly carries layers of triple meaning with Libertador, liberation, Bolivar, original thinking and what not). The jury is rather undistinguished, but then again when you read some of the titles of the 100+ opus selected as finalists, you do not need a particularly great jury. Some of the titles: Empire with Imperialism; the Coup Mongers and the sabotage of PDVSA; 1903 goodbye Panama; the concept of the other in liberation; Cuba, dawn of the third millennia; Iraq; Rogue state (note the singular, not the plural usually associated with that expression); Globovision, violator of human rights?; and more of the like. Truly, titles which will reassure anyone that critical thinking is progressing in Venezuela. And note that the prize is 150 000 dollars, not Euros, or even millions of bolivares, none but the nasty green back will do! Some "values" never change it seems.
  • And more, but words are failing me.

So there we have, a Kultur ministry which is homogenizing, canalizing, filling the space with banalities, creating a “revolutionary" Kultur that will leave little space to free expression, and even less to free thinking. But you see, it is nothing that has not been tried before, and with brighter wits than the Sesto combo. This inherent mediocrity and sycophancy, assorted to prejudice and mean spirits, is what one must keep in mind to understand Venezuelan news when you read them.

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You can already see two applications of the Panare logo here and here, in additions of the ones already appearing in the Kultur thing own pages.

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