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OAS AMA / Art Museum of the Americas celebrates Belize's 35-year Independence anniversary
Santiago Cal (Belize), Untitled, 2016. Mixed media. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.


WASHINGTON, DC.- The OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Belize to the OAS presents an exhibition celebrating the 35th anniversary of the nation’s independence. For this exhibition, sculptor Santiago Cal and photojournalist Karl Villanueva commemorate the 35th anniversary of Belize’s independence. Belize 35 is exemplary of AMA’s mission of highlighting artwork promoting human rights, democracy, and peace as core values of the Organization of American States, in support of the autonomy of nations as well as the global cooperation under which each nation may thrive.

Cal’s “Untitled” is one of two installations that the artist is contributing to Belize 35. It includes as its subject matter Belize’s first Prime Minister, George Cadle Price along with symbolic national elements such as the tapir, the national animal. According to the artist, the tapir’s mannerisms and dignity are consistent with Belizean identity as a peaceful nation. Belizean curator Yasser Musa describes “Untitled” as “imagination at full throttle, casting a sculptural illustration specifically for an Art Museum of the Americas exhibition commemorating Belize’s 35th Independence...George Price, the father of Belizean Independence, deep in prayerful contemplation, guides his bands of Tapirs travelling the meandering green line that is the international southern border between Belize and Guatemala – River Sarstoon. The river is a current flashpoint electrified political fence. Cal’s metaphor is sharp and precise and speaks both to the aspirations of the Belizean people at the moment of Independence and the haphazard realities of Belize today thirty- five years on.”

“Some Kind” is another Cal installation of meticulously handcrafted wood hammers that evoke manual labor, but are utterly non-functional. Not only are they designed to break, but they are carved to fit just one hand: Cal’s. The painstakingly fabricated hammers, placed adjacent to one another, are simultaneously nostalgic and cynical towards labor in a globalized economy.

Santiago Cal was born in Belize, spending his childhood years in the capital city Belmopan. He earned his fine arts M.F.A. at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. Cal has held solo exhibitions at Te Tuhi. Manukau, New Zealand; RARE Gallery. New York, NY; Capella de Los Remedios. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Image Factory Art Foundation. Belize City, Belize; among others; and has held numerous solo exhibitions. He has previously exhibited at the OAS AMA as part of the Landings 5 exhibition in 2007. Cal has been an active collaborator with Belize’s contemporary art community. He participated in two key movements ZERO- new Belizean art (2000 -2004) and landings (2004-2010) where over 70 artists from the sub-regions of the Caribbean and Central America worked in a process of self-determination for social and cultural development.

Karl Villanueva is a Chicago-based Belizean who is a contributing writer for the Gleaner/Star newspapers. Villanueva is also the president of Viavision Publishing, a video and publication company and special events consultant agency. He also produces video footage of the African Caribbean International Festival of Life, the Chicago Music Awards, and the International Reggae and World Music Awards. He is a former staff writer for the suburban-Chicago weekly Pioneer Press Newspapers, and is the former news editor of the Belize Sun Times. Prior to his move to Chicago, Villanueva also served as Executive Director of the Belize Chamber of Commerce.

On September 21, 1981, when Villanueva was a 24-year-old photojournalist, he chronicled Belize’s day of independence. Belize had been the last vestige of colonialism on the Central American mainland. For the first time, Villanueva uncorks a rare time capsule of that historic day captured through the lens of his 35mm camera. It is a visual journey of British pageantry, faces of new citizens embracing the promise of a new beginning and old colonial architecture awash in multi-colored lights. Villanueva shares with us the colorful photography of that time period exuding panoramic relief but also gets us close enough to introduce us to a diverse people.

“As the OAS’ cultural component, AMA is responsible for publicizing and promoting the mission of the Organization in the Washington, DC area through high profile cultural events and milestones such as this anniversary of Belize’s independence. We are keen on supporting artistic expressions that advance democratic values, peace, diversity, tolerance, justice and human rights in a way that transcends through craftsmanship, ingenuity and content,” says museum director Andrés Navia.





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