ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
no ocean between us
Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & the Caribbean,
1945 – Present
The fusion of different ethnicities is extremely important and gives rise to new cultural phenomena, migrants contribute recognizable elements despite the passage of time, in aspects of daily life, language, arts, ideas, values, and beliefs.
— Mario Margulis and Birgitta Leander
The richly and multifaceted cultural fabric of Latin America and the Caribbean cannot be fully understood without considering the great variety of threads woven by migratory processes from East, South, and Southeast Asia. Cultural Encounters: Art of Asian Diasporas in Latin America & The Caribbean, 1945–Present, offers a fascinating glimpse of modern and contemporary art through an exploration of flows of migration from Japan, China, India, and Indonesia and the artistic impact in its host countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname. By framing artworks as active historical documents, artists in the exhibition reveal the multiple layers of complex and evolving cultural exchanges that have shaped the modern multiethnic societies of today.
Although the initial Asian migration to Latin America and the Caribbean dates from the sixteenth century, it was not until the mid-eighteen century when it actively began due to labor shortages after the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean colonies in the 1830s. The new Latin American Republics, Brazil, Panama, Peru, Argentina, and Mexico along with the Spanish, English, and Dutch empires imported Asian indentured servitude as a low wage force for agriculture in most cases.
The artists in the exhibition explore themes related to the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic crossings of their own or their ancestors underscoring the expansive cultural legacies and transcultural processes. Cultural Encounters departs from the Organization of American States | Art Museum of the Americas permanent art collection to map familial and personal journeys through which art shapes discourse, seeking to gain a greater understanding of processes of contact and exchange, colonization and decolonization, assimilation and preservation of culture.
The artworks shown here engage with many aspects of a quasi-system of slavery and more contemporary forms of globalization. They examine the difficult circumstances of arduous migratory journeys, exploitation and discrimination on sugar and tobacco plantations, and racial persecutions. While many of the thousands of workers who came to Latin America and the Caribbean in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century returned to their countries of origin, others settled down in their new homelands with cultural diasporas that attracted new Asian migratory flows after World War II.
The Visual Arts Department of the Organization of American States, predecessor to the AMA | Art Museum of the Americas, recognized the contribution of the Asian diaspora to Latin America and the Caribbean as early as 1961 with the exhibition Japanese Artists of the Americas. Holding periodic art shows of Japanese Brazilian, Peruvian, Mexican, and Argentine artists as well as actively collecting them, it expanded an evolving canon of modern Latin American art. Similarly, in 1972 the exhibition Contemporary Art from the Caribbean: Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the AMA addressed the importance of Indian and Chinese traditions within the fusion of elements that comprise Caribbean culture and society.