La Rábida is a Franciscan monastery overlooking the mouth of the Rio Tinto near the small town of Palos de la Frontera on the Atlantic coast of Spain. Christopher Columbus set sail from this place in August 1492 confident he would find a new route to Asia. He landed instead on an island in the Caribbean Sea. The cultural confrontation that followed his landing is the inspiration and subject of this exhibition.
The development of La Rábida, Soul of Conquest: an Anishinaabe encounter began in 2015 and 2016, when artist Bonnie Devine visited Spain intending to examine the legacy of Columbus from an Indigenous perspective. Her research evolved into a broader investigation of the religious justification for the seizure of land and the subjugation of Indigenous populations in the Americas when she happened on the monastery at La Rábida. Using primary source material gathered from Europe and the Americas, including the 1493 Papal Bull Inter Caetera – the Doctrine of Discovery, the Nueva Corόnica y Buen Gobierno by Guáman Poma from 1615, and the current town seal of Whitesboro, New York, among others, Devine documents the enduring impact of the Columbus landing in painting, drawing, video, sculpture and an original commissioned choral work by David DeLeary.
This exhibition comes at a pivotal time when public and government attention is focused on the Truth and Reconciliation process. Devine’s work in La Rábida draws on a repository of historic documents, monuments, and texts that report the violence and injustice of colonialism. The practice of truth telling is not new - some of the accounts cited in Devine’s exhibition date from as early as the era of initial contact. That these accounts are publicly accessible, yet largely ignored in dominant historical narratives reveals how easily power structures are maintained. Devine presents these documents with a stark honesty that lays bare the ongoing insidious effects of colonization.
This exhibition is Organized and Circulated by the Art Gallery of Peterborough.