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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeLatest NewsVibrant memory of the Spanish colonial past in comics

Vibrant memory of the Spanish colonial past in comics

“Many years ago, the Spaniards also came and took pictures and filmed.” Or something like that was said to him. In the early 1990s, some elderly people from Equatorial Guinea piqued the traveler’s curiosity. Pere Ortin. Did they tease him? Back in Madrid, the Valencian journalist assured the National Film Library of the indisputable fact on which the comic “Ten Thousand Elephants” (Tank Books) is based, which he had just published with the Guinean cartoonist. Nze Esono Ebale. And the fact is that between 1944 and 1946 the young members of the small production company Hermic Flims were sent to Guinea head of the General Directorate of Morocco and the Colonies, Jose Diaz de Villegasto document the Spanish colonial universe of Black Africa with propaganda zeal. Just like the British, Germans or French did.

From this expedition, which consisted of about thirty films and 5,500 negatives, which were soon forgotten, Ortin managed to contact the Madrid director who led it. Retired at the age of 94 to a city in Almeria, Manuel Hernandez-Sanjuan It would fit in with the brotherly professional relationship they both developed with an old wooden suitcase full of negatives from that adventure: “Without that suitcase, this comic would not exist,” says Ortin.

Fiction or reality?

The comic is a story about determination, the shadows of desire, and the limits of obsession.

What else is true about ten thousand elephants? History intertwined Ngono Mba, the bearer of that expedition, thanks to which we get to know the local spiritual world, the laying of the cross and reproach, the endless longing of the settlers. And the impossible search for a herd of 10,000 elephants in a remote area. The comic is also a story about commitment, the shadows of desire, and the limits of obsession. But above all, it is a reflection on the fragility of truths. About true lies and the power of the imagination. “Our life is like a huge web in which each thread is connected to all the others to infinity,” says Mba. Memory, facts, impressions, beliefs, culture, creativity.

A page from Ten Thousand Elephants. Appointed

In Ten Thousand Elephants, the iceberg turns over: indisputable facts rise to the surface, decompose, and go with the flow. The following is what Pedro Ortin calls “unremembered memory”, a web in which everything is mixed up: “I don’t think it’s possible to access what happened, the only thing that concerns us from the present when we’re dealing with a complex problem memory is to analyze it sensitively. If we think about it critically, instead of talking about memory all the time as a conceptual, ideological and mental prison, we can talk about how we invent other possible futures from it . a big problem it was necessary to approach the debate with solidity, honesty and sternness, but also to play with the semblance of reality, to look for beauty. Factual facts are completely insufficient to explain the complex, paradoxical and contradictory reality of man.

On the pages of the book, the graphic interpretation of the Manuel Hernandez-Sanjuan expedition alternates with card set (real? fictional? neither?), collages, photographs, and maps that make up an extra layer of reading that invites us to ask ourselves about each story’s blind spots. To enter this swampy area, the combination of Mba’s low voice with poetic drawing and the abundance of bruises, greenery and fuchsia that he uses contributes. Esono Ebale. All this gives rise to a sense of alienation and distance, which at the same time allows the reader to approach the story from the other side: an open door for questions is open.

Esono interprets the script with BIC pens, the same ones he drew with when he was little.

Esono interprets the script with bicruchki, the ones he drew with when he was little and the only ones who were able to secretly get into the dreaded Black Beach Guinean Prison when he was imprisoned in September 2017 after the publication of Obi’s Nightmare. A comic in which the eternal dictator Teodoro Obiang wakes up to become a simple citizen, suffering from daily inequality, which he himself created.

“I wanted to draw with pens like a child to honor my grandparents who may have lived through the history of Hermic Films, as well as to remember all the cartoonists who helped me get out of prison. BIC and youth I met, gave me such strength that, as I left, I said to myself: “Whatever happens, I will do something crazy.” began to take shape in 2018.

Photos of the expedition (c) Manuel Hernandez-Sanjuan – Hermic FIlms -. Pere Ortin Archive

Faces without eyes, a common future

Ten Thousand Elephants contains clear echoes of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and a direct critique of the colonial outlook that Ortin says is still present in approaches to writing. African continent. “It was very important for me to understand, not so much to stand in front of Hernandez-Sanjuan and tell him that you are a racist, which was obvious. This experience changed the expedition’s view of what Africa is, which does not mean that they were racists and supremacists. What surprises me is that today an important part of journalism, academia and cinema approaching the continent continues to do the same thing that it did seventy or eighty years ago.”

Esono does not paint Guineans with a specific face.

Esono does not paint Guineans with a specific face. Sometimes they look like eyeless holograms or reverses of lost negatives. “Drawing a settler in his pith helmet is very easy, only Hernandez-Sanjuan should be recognizable. to highlight someone else because this is the history of the whole world. Both countries are better explained without having to look for a hero or anti-hero, a drawing will help everyone can defineAccording to Esono, who currently lives in Savior, the comic will also help many Guineans learn about their colonial past and know that their country’s cartoonists have a guide to the future. “The Guinea we know today will end when Obiang dies, young people will rise up and hopefully this graphic novel will help connect the new country with Spain from a cultural point of view.

Ten thousand elephants do not hide the same will. “The epistemological foundations of what we understand by Africa are fundamentally flawed, and we don’t want to admit it,” says Ortin. “The tree is rotten and a new seed must be planted if we are to build a healthy relationship on an equal footing with our African brothers. We must find traces of the distant in what is near, and offer a renewed vision of reality.”


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