On a sunny Wednesday, late morning, I drove myself over Monash Caulfield campus for a roundtable panel on the long anticipated launch of the ‘Mapping South’ anthology. I had been a part of an editorial collective working on this anthology for the past two years under the direction of Dr Anthony Gardner. We had sifted through the history of the South Project, contacted artists who had been instrumental to the development of the South Project and those whose work talked to the concept of ‘south’ that we were most interested in.

A short sidetrack to say the South Project, established in the early 2000s out of Craft Victoria, began life as a wish to establish a biennale in Melbourne with a a focus on the global south. What resulted was an extraordinary organisation and set of networks, ideas and collaborations. I had been involved in the South Project since the first Gathering held in Melbourne in 2004 – nearly ten years ago. I had hosted a campfire dinner at the Wilin Centre (Victorian College of the Arts) an recall vividly the campfire conversations, kangaroo stew and salute to the moon we did that night with Indigenous guests in the Wilin Centre garden. In 2008 I joined the board of the South Project and so enjoyed working with and supporting the innovative and passionate work headed up by the inspirational Magdalena Moreno.

However, getting back to the roundtable – I wanted to use this blog to make a few of the points that the panel discussed as we explored the importance of southern cultures for reimagining the global. The panel was made up of:

Anthony Gardner – University of Oxford
Kevin Murray – Southern Perspectives and the Sangam Project
Nikos Papastergiadis – University of Melbourne
Lucreccia Quintanilla – Monash University

and me

Some of the resonate points from this conversation for me were:

– The South Project acted as a crucible for collaborations between artists, curators, producers, and writers from across the Global South. The South Project was really known at its best when it formed ‘Gatherings’ across the world – in Melbourne, Santiago, Johannesburg, in Aotearoa and Indonesia. The South Project was concerned with creating spaces for cultural production more than being focused on what was produced. That being said the exhibitions and the work between collaborators that resulted from the ‘Gatherings’, the artist exchanges, the South Kids work were always exciting and innovative.

– What is South? and Is the idea of the ‘Global South’ is a useful concept going forward? remain the hotly contested discussions by members of the panel. South is always oppositional yet hooked into the anglosphere and the continuing colonising project. South is the affirmation of Indigenous voices and world views . There was a debate about the role of ‘South’ to lift the cover of privilege and privilege Southerners. And yet the implied reference to the north and magnetisation of London and England explored through the work continues to cause disruption and contagion to the desired liberating discourse.

– One of the most curious ideas Lucreccia spoke of is the metaphor of mirage – perhaps the tensions inherent in the carving out of a dialogue for South and Indigenous world views projects images of utopia that can never be reached or they evaporate upon arrival with the reality of the historic power relations we live in.

I commend the anthology to you – and congratulate all the artists, authors and editors involved in creating this exciting book. To quote the overview of the book:

“Mapping South interweaves visual and textual reflections on the regions of the South by artists, theorists, curators, designers and other cultural facilitators to explore the question: What is the South? Is it a place, a voice or a perspective? A specific site or a mobile culture? At once a reflection on the histories of The South Project’s exchanges of cultural histories, knowledge and creativity across the region, and a launching pad for new initiatives, Mapping South is an ambitious exploration of what it means to think from, through and ultimately about the South.”

This is one of the many legacies of the South Project.http://mappingsouth.netmapping_south_cover

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