Join us for a screening and lecture on the force of syncretism, the practice of contemporary art, and the history of the marimba in Guatemala. This event will be followed by a wine reception.

At some point in the short-film Blue Bird – Obsidian Dream (2022), directed by Edgar Calel and Fernando Pereira dos Santos, a modern marimba piece can be heard. Composed by Joaquín Orellana, Ramajes de una Marimba Imaginaria (Branches of an Imaginary Marimba) musically evokes and alters the complex human, as well as material history of what is considered a national instrument in contemporary Guatemala. The marimba was introduced to Central America in early colonial times by slaves from Western Africa, under circumstances that can no longer be traced. It was adapted and transformed by Indigenous musicians, later by non-Indigenous elites and the state, who at times obscured the instrument’s African and Indigenous past. Sebastián Eduardo Dávila’s lecture circles around the marimba as a paradigmatic site of syncretism, a concept and a force encompassing loss and untraceability, but also transmission, inventiveness and transformation. Intrigued by the possibilities and limitations of a syncretic framework, he will connect the instrument back to Blue Bird – Obsidian Dream, that explores the relation between Indigenous and the more-than human bodies, their memories, and the spaces of modern architecture.


Sebastián Eduardo Dávila studied art history and film studies in Jena, Berlin, and Mexico City. His dissertation deals with materiality in art practices from postwar Guatemala. He formed part of the research training group “Cultures of Critique” at the Leuphana University (Lüneburg) and was a Visiting Student Researcher at Stanford University. He has published articles and reviews in exhibition catalogues, magazines and journals, as well as in the anthology Museums, Transculturality and the Nation State: Case Studies from a Global Context. Together with other colleagues from the training group, he edited the anthology On Withdrawal: Scenes of Refusal, Disappearance, and Resilience in Art and Cultural Practices. He has spoken at conferences and symposia such as “In-Between: Art and Cultural Practices From Here”, organized between Stanford and Berkley University and held at the SFMOMA in 2023, “Worldviews: Latin American Art and the Decolonial Turn”, organized between Cambridge University and the University of the Arts in London and held online in 2021, and “Seeing More Queerly in 21st Century”, organized by the University of Miami in 2020. In 2023, he co-curated the panel “Touching Land: Creative Practices for Planetary Be/Longings” at the Latin American Studies Association Congress in Vancouver. He is part of the political group “VOCES de Guatemala en Berlín”.

Image courtesy of Edgar Calel, Fernando Pereira and Proyectos Ultravioleta.