Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Interpreting the Gli-Gli

Never adrift, but perhaps beneath the horizon of popular awareness, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean archipelago are symbolically reunited by the sailing of the Gli-Gli, on a sea that once united more than it divided its inhabitants. If the resurgence of Caribbean indigenous peoples were to be compared to a voyage, the Gli-Gli would be singled out as one of its proudest vehicles. “Integration” is not just a matter for technocrats and politicians. The Kalinago, the artists, and the visionaries behind the Gli-Gli wrest cultural history from the hands of the wayward captains of the region. Ten years after its first momentous voyage through the Lesser Antilles and on to Guyana, the Gli-Gli sails again, reenacting history while reencountering the indigenous present. The resurgence of the identities, cultures and communities of the region's indigenous peoples is made up of many landmark events, but what is ever more apparent is that the resurgence of one community cannot proceed without the contact, exchange, and knowledge shared between communities in separate islands united by the sea. Whether it is looked at as art, or as the heightened media savvy of indigenous activists and their supporters, or as historical reinterpretation, this voyage of renewal leaves previously self-assured histories of the region foundering on the shoals of extinction.

The sailing of the Gli Gli is one of the more vivid and exciting vehicles that brings knowledge and awareness of the survival of the region's indigenous peoples to diverse shores in the Caribbean. It is through such acts that popular consciousness may be broadened to acknowledge the cultural complexity of the region, by bringing attention to a long ignored population. The project also exemplifies some of the key dimensions of the Caribbean indigenous resurgence: regional exchange and connections, a broad network of supporters, and the use of media technologies. How will the Gli Gli be received in these diverse territories? What questions will the hosts of the crew ask? What will be the impact of the voyage? We look forward to learning the answers to these questions.

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