Verena Melgarejo Weinandt is a German-Bolivian/Quechua artist, curator, educator and researcher. She studied Fine Art and Art and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Universidad Nacional de Bellas Artes Buenos Aires.
Before she started as Project Manager at the REPATRIATES Project she was a researcher at the University of Arts Berlin as part of the Research Group „Knowledge in the Arts”. In addition to numerous lectures and workshops, she has taught at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the *foundationClass at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin and in the Master’s program “Solo/Dance/Authorship” at the HZT of the Berlin University of the Arts.
In her artistic work she uses performances, textiles, photography, video and installations. In oftentimes ritualistic formats she uses her body and her (ancestral) history as tools to address colonial and patriarchal structures and search for ways of individual and collective healing for what she calls “arte-sana”. Her works have been exhibited at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Salta (Argentina), at the nGbK Berlin (Germany) and at the Biennial Sur Cúcuta (Colombia) and Buenos Aires (Argentina).
Focusing on decolonial art and education from Abya Yala (Latin America) she has curated several exhibitions. At the Weltmuseum Wien her exhibition focused on a geneology of historical and contemporary art works from Abya Yala that critique the colonial legacy of museum practice. Her practice as an educator translated into an exhibition which addressed Coloniality within Childhood within the internatinal art festival Wiener Festwochen.
An important focus of her practice is building bridges to the work and legacy of the »feminist visionary spiritual activist poet-philosopher-fiction writer« Gloria E. Anzaldúa through artistic, pedagogical, activist and theoretical approaches. From 2019 to 2021 she curated a transdisciplinary program with District*School Without Center in Berlin to collectively engage with the propositions and movements that Anzaldúa’s work and life continues to nurture. This program evolved around the process of translating Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands/La Frontera. The New Mestiza” into German. The German translation of “Borderlands” translated by Chaka Collective appears alongside a volume on Gloria Anzaldúa as a method in decolonial artistic and educational practice in fall 2023 with Archive Books.
Artistic Research Project
The Artistic Research Project of Verena Melgarejo Weinandt is based on her performance Alter Ego Pocahunter which exists since 2015. Pocahunter is a fictional hybrid based on imaginaries of indigenous women, which have a strong presence in the German speaking context. Historically there exists a strong link between Germans self- identifying with indigenous stereotypes, mostly through fictive characters of indigenous people from the now US- territory. Contemporary enactments and identifications through the fictional character Winnetou from the children’s book author Karl May (1842–1912) are currently highly debated in German culture, but there is little critical contextualization and a lack of awareness towards the role of those imagenaries as part of the construction of German culture and identity. As a child growing up in Berlin/Germany in the 1990s I have experienced directly how the appearance of the Disney figure Pocahontas at that time reinforced stereotypes. The Alter Ego Pocahunter addresses how the fictive stories based on the historical Matoaka who’s story and role was used under the name of Pocahontas served for mass culture entertainment over centuries, reproducing endless violent and sexualized representations, which have and continue to shape colonial stereotypes of indigenous women.
AS PART OF REPATRIATES Pocahunter is searching for the remnants of a history that is made invisible in the German- speaking culture: the circulation of visual stereotypes of indigenous people and the numerous concrete objects held and stored inside institutions, archives and museums who are testimonies of the manifold connections of Germany to a colonial history that is responsible for the repression and exploiting of indigenous people, their bodies, their knowledge, their territories until today. What do these images and imaginaries, objects and their stories tell us about the present we live in? How can we listen?