In Your Presence, by Marisela Norte

Writer Marisela Norte (she’s been called “…one of the most important literary voices to come out of East Los Angeles”) visited LACMA while we were installing Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico; she was awed as she watched the colossal stone pieces enter the museum. We invited Marisela to contribute a poem inspired by the experience as part of ongoing series Artists Respond.

Marisela said this about the project:

I think the first thing that struck me was seeing the colossal head being taken out of its crate by the two cranes, with the Robert Irwin palm trees in the background. That was impressive—to look at the mass and the weight of that piece—and recognize that face as a face I see every day. It could have been the bus driver on the 770, or someone I saw at the library today—someone who has those same features, that same presence. It’s a very familiar face. It ties into all these descendents, here in Los Angeles, who are still kind of invisible.

I felt like I was carrying him on my shoulder almost. I wanted to do him justice, to put into words what it’s like to stand in front of him and have those eyes looking right back at you.

I shared the poem with Gronk and my friend Ramon Garcia, who teaches at Cal State Northridge, and my friend María Elena Gaitán (known as the “Chola con cello”) and they said it was worth waiting for, and told me not to be so stingy with my writing. It’s something you have to do every day.

Listen to a recording of Marisela reading the poem aloud.

In Your Presence
by Marisela Norte

You
Disappeared
Between rivers
The muddy low lands

A Technicolor jungle
Color formed
Against an obsidian glass sky

Where stars
Once connected
Begin to tell a story

Of the lonely
Impenetrable jungle
And the rains that
Did not stop

The jaguar emerges
The howling babies still cry

The ghosts of fingers
Trace the shape of
Your lips

Olmeca
Eres Mexico
Eres Africa

Those flame eyebrows mine

The memory of you
A bag of bones
Fragments
The small, polished stones
Laid out like petals

Red mirror sun
El rojo amanecer
Reflects your presence
Casting its light
On what is still here
And what is yet to be seen

Among the transplants
Like Los Angeles palm trees
Wilshire Boulevard commuters
Who will make the pilgrimage to stand before
Your stern gaze
Leave offerings of
Blue green translucent jade hearts

Foot printing
The advance
We take our place
Before the burial
Under a veil of vermillion dust

We disappeared
Between rivers
In your presence
We begin the eternal return home

 

Amy Heibel

34 Responses to In Your Presence, by Marisela Norte

  1. Very nice Marisela. Please keep writing!

  2. cisco george says:

    Soo moving. Gracias. Maricela.

    Let their presence inspired
    A new generation of transplants
    Let the roar of the jaguar call

    The fresh ones out of the cave
    Let them lead and fight
    To honor the spilled blood
    At the fence.
    the altar of death

  3. Naui Huitzilopochtli says:

    Olmecs are not from Africa it was already debunked . Please stop repeating lies .

  4. Manuel Alderete says:

    Eres Africa Indigena

    “Eres Africa”?
    Was this a general statement of Humanity, or implying that the Olmec were not Indigenous?

    “Eres Africa”?
    Based on what? Thick lips and nose?
    But thick lips and noses are found all over the world: Polynesians, Cambodians, Filipinos, and Indigenous People across the Western Hemisphere. And many East Africans have thin noses (thinner than the Swedes, on average) and thin lips, aquiline features.

    LACMA, please stop allowing this 1940’s pseudoscience to be passed off as “scholarship” or “poetic license”.

    C’mon LACMA, would you allow a poet to imply that Jews are Chinese?

    Let us have our heritage without defacing it with pseudoscience and long-debunked ignorance.

  5. Coyolxhauqui2010 says:

    Thanks for this exquisite piece Marisela. If you don’t see a ‘Brother’ in this Olmec head, you must be blind. The early presence of Africa in the Americas, particularly in Mexico, despite the amazing amount of research and scholarship on the early presence of Africa in Mexico, is still often denied by both Eurocentric racists and by profoundly ignorant nationalists (nacionalistas terroristas) who’d prefer to ignore the facts. Where’s the scholarship to support their theories? There is none.
    So the dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on. . .

    Please keep writing Mari. Loved it!!

  6. Naui Huitzilopochtli says:

    “Coyolxhauqui2010″ why don’t you write your real name .Show us your proof that Olmecs are from Africa .Your lies had been proven wrong by the top anthropologists and archeologists .

  7. david says:

    Africa… seriously. Even the lamest dog in the pack could smell the ignorance in that statment. It is most unfortunate that as the rightful inhabitants of this continent, and slaves to the oppression of our true identity, as a people, that we should have to let our own spread lies. We are indigenous, we are not latino, not hispanic, and african.

  8. Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac says:

    Sister,
    You write very eloquently and you capture our Olmec heritage well. Its nice to see that appreciation on a LACMA blog however, like Michael D Coe states, how did our people travel to India? and I add Africa. I appreciate that you share your poetry and are aware that you may not be too aware of the actual history behind this, but as someone who studies our history let me share with you a dark and racist view of our original civilization.

    Our people originated one of the 3 original civilizations of the world, Sumeria, China, and Anahuac, what is today known as Mexico, Central America, and North America. We did this with our own intelligence and ability to adapt to our environment and create a foodsource, Corn, that allowed for the growth of our cities that go further than 2500bce. You can read MEXICO by Michael D Coe for more details on how we developed the civilization based on CORN etc.,

    The claim made that the Olmec were African, was initiated by Van Sertima, who later, retracted his statements. I invite you to read more recent studies that support this truth like THEY DID NOT COME BEFORE COLUMBUS,

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/483368.

    It is important to keep in mind that the Afro-centric theft of our Olmec heritage, has nothing to do with disliking Black/African people, but rather disliking yet another attempt to discredit our rightful ownership of our cultural relevance and the importance of the Olmec civilization.

    We are always seen as the stagnant people who never traveled elsewhere and who were always the “recipients” of cultures and knowledge. The underlying tone to this mentality is that we are being denied our ingenuity and direct connection to our history. The argument that the Olmec were African, resonates the argument that our people had contact with Aliens, and that that was the sole reason why we were capable of creating such art and scientific genius. All of these interpretations are racist in that they rob us or anyone studying our culture, of the possible thought that maybe just maybe we were the ones that created this, and that maybe we were the ones who are to be given credit for such accomplishments.

    In closing, i want to invite you to read more on more stolen histories.

    Please read American Indian Contributions to the World, by Emory Dean Keoke.

    Peace.
    Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/483368

  9. Chuck Whitson says:

    While viewing the Olmec exhibit on October 3, 2010, a LACMA docent/guide/employee,when asked why there was no mention of Africa,stated,”there is no connection to Africa.” When asked how do we explain the African/Negroid features,she sincerely stated, “that is the way the people looked.”
    Beauty/Africaness is in the eye of the beholder. The major issue is needed evidence of preslavery travels to North America and/or other continents.

  10. TruthAndJustice says:

    What a great poem! In a world view that attempts to deny ancient, continuous contacts of peoples before 1492, and that encourages destruction over respect, shouting over dialogue, and a disregard for “Truth and Justice”. Your poem is about bringing balance again. For too long, it is being taught, that there is a hierarchy of worthiness, and those not considered on the top, attempt to destroy each other to maintain some perceived slot higher on the hierarchy, but never challenging the concept of hierarchies. It would be a shame if there was a self continuation of destruction, considering that at one time, others attempted to do this, to these same peoples and their records. It would be teaching much of the same, and proving the loss of our humanity. Crimes against Humanity, starts with the disconnecting of peoples from one another, and controlling the narrative, though continents, and islands between them, were already populated by people that shared with one another and look like us. Maybe we could have a conference in the name of the Native and African ancestors to speak to one another, and not at one another, and speak to the sources that have documented countless evidence of contact across the oceans on either side. Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, who was of Native and African ancestry, is a great source that counters colonized thinking and addresses so many of his critics unfounded views in his book Early America Revisited. Acknowledging ancient contacts is not meant to reinforce hierarchies of supremacy. Thank you for reminding us of the connections of mankind, and how not all encounters were destructive to the family, mind, and spirit but lead to even greater cultures. Marisela, the thought of positive encounters, frightens so many, since there exists too much pain in the communities of these ancient peoples descendants who still survive, though they are under physical and psychological attack. Thanks again. Paz y Amor.

  11. sesshu says:

    All people come out of Africa, and we’re in the community with Africans now.

  12. Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D. says:

    Olmec Exhibition Hoax

    By Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D.

    When word went out that an Olmec exhibition was coming to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, there was a quiet kind of excitement. The Olmecs were America’s first civilization; located in Mexico, with a strong Afrikan influence.

    For those unable to travel to Mexico, this was going to be a special occasion. Most had never heard of the Olmecs until Ivan Van Sertima’s book (They Came Before Columbus – The African Presence In Ancient America), was published by Random House in 1979. The book reached its 21st printing several few years ago. No telling where it is presently. The book is a literary legend.

    After Van Sertima lectured at Compton Community College’s “Afrikan Peoples Conference”, organized by Dr. Billie Jo Moore, the audience was sold on an Afrikan presence and influence on the Olmec civilization.

    Those who studied the Olmecs, but had never seen Olmec art, were ecstatic they would finally be able to see what they had been reading and researching. Seeing Olmec artifacts would only validate what had been researched over the years through literature, photographs and slides.

    Upon entering the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the first thing one sees is a colossal Olmec head, the exact same one on the cover of Van Sertima’s book.

    I was really anxious to read the written description, naively thinking Afrikan people would finally receive credit, grudgingly withheld over decades since this topic became public. As usual, not one mention was made of the Afrikan presence or influence in Olmec culture. I could not believe, or maybe I could, that they had done it again.

    Many remember this occurring during the King Tut Exhibition, at LACMA. National Geographic, along with Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Kemet (Egypt), meaning, you have to go through him to do research in Egypt, teamed up to describe Pharaoh Tutankhamen, a “North African Caucasian.” National Geographic and Dr. Hawass placed a photo on its cover, with ‘their’ white King Tut. When walking through the exhibition, all of the figures of King Tut were either black or brown.

    Dr. Hawass brushed this off on the National Geographic website in an interview titled, “Color, Symbolism, and Race (EGYPT)”. He stated the dark color represented the “fertility of the land,” and had nothing to do with the color of his skin. Of even greater note, is his statement from a BBC interview, where he said, “Blacks had nothing to do with Egypt.”

    That battle is still being waged in the denial that Afrikans (Black people) in Kemet (Egypt) created: civilization, science, medicine, philosophy, education, law, engineering, art, music, spiritual thought, writing, architecture, agriculture, and so many other human gifts for the world. This war is being fought right here, right now.

    The written description of the mentioned Olmec head in the museum would lead one to believe, if there was no figure to look at, that a person of Afrikan descent was being described. “The furrowed brow, almond-shaped eyes, flaccid cheeks, flat nose, and thick mouth on this head convey great realism and suggest an individual of mature age in a leadership role.” One description stated that the figure might look the way it does due to it being “re-carved”, rather than just looking Afrikan.

    It also stated, “The helmet [also on other Olmec colossal heads] displays some features typical of other San Lorenzo portrait heads, such as the horizontal band topped by a woven motif with circular elements.”

    I remember Van Sertima stating in one of his lectures, the only other place those particular helmets were seen, were wore by Afrikan soldiers in the Egypto/Nubian area (southern Egypt/northern Sudan).

    One telling point is the Olmec head, not in the exhibition, but readily accessible on the Internet, with seven corn roll braids on the side of the head. That was only seen on Afrikan men in the Egypto/Nubian area.

    In 1964, the Congress of Americanists stated, “There cannot be any doubt that there were visits from the Old World to America long before Columbus.” We know of the Vikings visit to America, around 1000 A.D., but that was long after the Afrikans, around 1200 B.C.E.

    It is really difficult to comprehend the denial of the presence of Afrikans in the Olmec culture, who sailed back and forth to the Americas almost two thousand years before Columbus. Due to Van Sertima’s presentation before a United States Congressional Committee, 7 July 1987, in charge of the quincentennial (500 years) celebration of America, declared that Columbus’ visits to the Western world “could no longer be considered discoveries, but simply as voyages.” The sad note regarding this, our children are still being taught that Columbus discovered America.

    There are such stellar scholars as Van Sertima, Legrand Clegg II, Rafique Jairazbhoy, Jan Carew, Alexander Von Wuthenau, Cheikh Anta Diop, Michael Coe, among several others, who have demonstrated an absolute presence of Afrikans in the Olmec culture. When the number of pyramids, especially those in Teotihuacán: Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon, with the same shape and functions as the pyramids in Egypt are included in the mix (temple, tomb, observatory), where is the basis for denial?

    When evidence is presented regarding American fruits and vegetables found in Afrika, and Afrikan fruits and vegetables found in America, indicates somebody had to travel to transport those items during the time of Olmec civilization, where is the basis for denial?

    It is unfortunate that such a fine institution as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is so derelict in their duty in providing accurate information to the public. How can one trust such a place when they have deliberately omitted or distorted information I’m sure the public would love to see?

  13. Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D. says:

    Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac stated in his/her response regarding the Afrikan presence and influence in the Olmec culture, which Dr. Ivan Van Sertima presented volumes of evidence in his book, stated, “The claim made that the Olmec were African, was initiated by Van Sertima, who later, retracted his statements.” This is absolutely false and untrue. Even the website referred in his comment, Van Sertima convincingly refuted every argument in the article. This is just another example of spreading false information.

  14. Inspired writing Ms. Norte.

  15. Manuel Alderete says:

    The burden of proof is on the Afrocentrists:

    1) Prove that ONLY Africans can possess thick lips/noses on Planet Earth. Explain why Polynesians, Cambodians, Filipinos, and Indigenous People across the Western Hemisphere also have those traits, but are not claimed as Africans.

    2) Explain how East Africans (often with thin noses and thin lips) are not disqualified as Africans when they do not meet the “African traits criteria”.

    3) Provide one verified Olmec artifact excavated in Africa.

    4) Provide one example of a statue of Isis, Horus, or any other Egyptian object that would surely have been taken and placed in a pyramid.

    5) Explain why Africans did not bring iron-ore metallurgy with them, why there are no findings of it in excavations.

    6) Explain why no African wheat has been found in Olmec excavations.

    Emotional tantrums are proof. An absence of proof is not proof.
    Only proof is proof.

    Calling us “terrorists” (as was done by “Coyolxauhqui2010″ above) is no way to make a case. As it stands, even Michael Coe at LACMA could not entertain the “Africa” idea without evidence. Coe simply asked the questioner, “Where is the evidence?”.

    Silence followed.

    It is a disgraceful embarrassment that we even have to deal with this fringe theory in 2010. The unwillingness to acknowledge that Indigenous People possess a variety of physical traits is a racist refusal to acknowledge our humanity.

  16. Naui Huitzilopochtli says:

    Kwaku Person-Lynn you focus on teaching the history on West Africa instead of trying to steal other peoples accomoplishments .What are you saying Indigenous people from this continent were to stupid to make our own civilazations ?

  17. Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D. says:

    To Manuel Alderete:

    If you had been at the LACMA discussion where very capable Afrikan world scholars appeared, you would have heard the evidence. If you are familiar with Michael Cole’s work, then you would know he is one of the scholars that verifies an Afrikan presence in Olmec culture. Read the above article to get a taste of the evidence. The congressional committee Van Sertima appeared before, presenting his evidence, admitted an Afrikan presence.

    It is understood that those from a proud Mexican culture would never admit an Afrikan presence and influence in Olmec culture, but one has to realize that their ancestors, which crossed the Bering Straights, and were originally Asian, evolved from Afrikan people. The Inuits, who we call Eskimos, in a book written by an Inuit author, admits their Afrikan heritage.

    In fact, there is some evolving evidence showing that the original Olmecs were Afrikans themselves. This has not been verified as yet, but the available evidence leads in that direction.

    Lastly, though Manuel throws the issue of other populations having thick lips, etc., an evasive tactic, no one can explain the corn rolls on the Olmec heads, and no person of Mexican descent wears that hair style unless they have Afrikan hair, or are mixed with Afrikan, because Mestizos, the majority of present day Mexicans, have European straight hair.

    The Afrikan Olmec issue has been resolved, and the denial is understood, but pure science settles the discussion, no matter who presents it.

  18. Manuel Alderete says:

    Once again to Mr. Person-Lynn,

    I reiterate: the Burden of Proof is on you, sir. Not via anecdotes and heresay, nor your emotional experiences walking through LACMA, nor by ad homenim attacks on our community. If you have artifacts in Africa, SHOW THEM. Time to put all your cars on the table.

    Enough anecdotes and isolated quotations from the 1970s. Enough citations of obscure committees operating on outdated archaeology. The Burden of Proof is on you, not us. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    I noticed you evaded answering any of the challenges in my previous post. You would not/could not answer any questions regarding: distribution of thick lips/noses; absence of African metallurgy; absence of wheat (what did Africans EAT in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?; etc.

    And to what authority did you appeal? Sadly, a racist presumption that *only Africans* are capable of, have knowledge of, and/or are inclined to braid their hair around 900 B.C. (around the time of the Olmec Colossal Heads). Nevermind that during this time the You are assuming of course, that those are braids and not feathers, stylized representations, etc.

    Sorry, Mr. Person-Lynn. I, along with the rest of non-racist community reject your “African Exclusivity” thesis. No, Africans do not have exclusive, proprietary knowledge of braiding their hair. Nor do Africans have exclusive domain over thick lips and broad noses. These traits can be found scattered across the world, in spite of your avoidance to admit so.

    Michael Coe agrees with you? You don’t say? Dr. Coe had ample opportunity at LACMA recently to expand on your discredited theory, but his response was:

    “Where is the evidence?”

    Maybe you might want to follow up with him on that next time you put words into his mouth and serve it half-baked.

    I again challenge you to answer the questions I asked in my previous post. We caught your Fred Astaire tap dancing act the first time. All well and good. You can dance. That much is established.

    Now we want answers to hard questions. Show us artifacts in Africa. Hard evidence that has withstood the scrutiny of the scholastic community…and not just the committee of your prejudice against Mexicans.

  19. grant says:

    who cares, it is a great poem by a class act

  20. Kwaku Person-Lynn, Ph.D. says:

    To Naul:

    No, I am not saying anything of the kind. What I am saying is Olmec culture had a very heavy Afrikan influence, of which there are various categories of evidence to support that.

  21. Rathko says:

    Who knew that Norte could stir up such a hot bed of bitter racial politics? Is the poem even saying that Olmecs were African, or simply making a metaphorical connection between two historically subjugated peoples?

  22. Manuel Alderete says:

    Mr. Person-Lynn and the Afrocentrists need to be more specific:

    What specific “influence” did Africans have on the Olmec Civilization?

    Was it the non-existent African iron-ore metallurgy?
    Was it the non-existent African wheat?
    Was it the non-existent Egyptian artifacts?
    Was it the non-existent Egyptian hieroglyphs?
    Was it the non-existent African crops?
    Was it the non-existent African variety of cotton?
    Was it the non-existent DNA as seen in subsequent sculptures?

    The grand sum of this “African influence” seems to be a big fat ZERO…NOTHING.

    Oh, but wait.
    Supposedly, Africans taught the Olmecs how to braid hair in 900 B.C., and for this Person-Lynn and other Afrocentrists want Olmec civilization to be credited to Africans. Supposedly, Africans held a “technological monopoly” on braiding hair in 900 B.C. And out of generosity, they sailed across the ocean to teach us here that “technology”…and also to be worshipped in stone for said generosity (of course).

    Fascinating thesis. Also a racist thesis. We have seen this “racist template” before with Eurocentric/racist claims that the Olmecs were: Lost Tribes of Israel, Atlantis, Aliens from Mars, etc.

    Mr. Person-Lynn also performs a wholesale disregard to the newly-confirmed dates for the ancient Supe Valley Pyramids of (Peru) which began construction around 3500 B.C. He ignores the fact that civilization in the Western Hemisphere is older than Ancient Egypt (or at least as old).

    It seems the Egyptians were quite busy globe-trotting the earth back in the day. Too bad they couldn’t be bothered to make a pit stop anywhere else on their own continent and share “the blessings of civilization”.

    And it’s a shame that for so much “African influence” in the Olmec Heartland, Africans seemed not to build their own equivalent civilization across Africa: No Olmec Heads, no circular pyramids, no Jade Olmec celts, etc anywhere in Africa.

    That’s because there is no evidence of “African influence” in ancient times… only evidence of Afrocentric racism in modern times.

  23. Manuel Alderete says:

    Let’s also address the “West Africa origins” claim:

    If West Africans were so great to have taught us civilization, where in west or central or south Africa did they do such great things as our civilizations in B.C. times? For us we had Supe/Caral (3500 B.C.), Olmec (2300 B.C.), Zapotec (660 B.C.), Maya (600 B.C.), Teotihuacan (100 B.C).

    There is ZERO evidence of anything even remotely resembling our civilizations in Africa in B.C times. There were NO CIVILIZATIONS in west-central-south Africa in B.C times.

    So Egyptians didn’t think West Africans were intelligent enough to bestow their influence in B.C. times on that part of Africa? Nothing to interest them in the much closer West Africa, South Africa, or Central Africa?

    But they came all the way to us, to share with us, knowing that we were intelligent enough to start civilizations, with the start up kits they gave us (they must have brought us corn, calendar systems, writing, mathematics, concept zero, theology, and other things that didn’t exist anywhere in Africa, but they brought it to us anyway).

    Must be true that Egyptians didn’t think much of the intelligence of West-Central-South Africans, since not one civilization before B.C. came out of West, Central, or South Africa. This is where the ancestors of the people who are trying to steal our Olmec Heritage came from.

    Too bad they can’t point to ANYTHING B.C. in their ancestor’s lands (West-Central-South Africa), that’s why they are trying to steal our lands, our heritage, our pride, our humanity.

  24. Rathko,

    Nothing metaphorical that could say anything different than what we are all outraged about, I’lll translate it for you:

    Olmeca you are Mexico
    Olmeca you are Africa

    No allusion, no follow up explanation, just following the ignorance of the racist Afrocentric insults on our people and our heritage.

  25. TruthAndJustice says:

    The elephant in the room is how theories of white supremacy have distorted the fact that connections exist between people all over the world before 1492, and how theories of supremacy clouds the fact of peaceful cultural interactions. Those looking for excuses to hate won’t dare discuss this. It appears that the seeds of hate are deep, and this should probably be addressed by many within Latin based cultures that have thrived on divisions of hierarchy, that can be seen in their media let alone the pain felt by family members that look more Indigenous or African within these communities. How convenient to attack those that attempt to destroy distortions founded by white supremacy archeology and theories.

  26. Juan Pueblo says:

    Do not waste your words arguing to a poet,
    everybody has the right to express his/her poetry.
    Our comments should be supportive from the perspective
    of POETRY nothing about politics of racism in disguize.

    Thanks for the oportunity, for giving a chance of reading your words and, for sharing your thoughts

  27. Juan Pueblo says:

    Thank You Maricela Norte

  28. Manuel Alderete says:

    To Juan Pueblo,

    It is the poet herself who made this political by stating a historical FICTION: that the Olmecs were African. Totally debunked. Not valid except as FICTION.

    This FICTION has been debunked by the academic community already. It is considered a joke. Recently at LACMA, Dr. Michael Coe wouldn’t even entertain the idea without evidence.

    Writing a poem does not grant someone the right to make FICTIONAL claims that are academically debunked (and racist for their implication that Indigenous People were “too stupid to create their own civilization”.)

    Will you confront the poet for introducing this POLITICAL idea that is dismissed by any serious scholar? You should. You should confront her ignorance and racist refusal to grant credit for the Olmec Civilization to Indigenous People. For ignoring the massive piles of academic evidence showing the Olmecs were Indigenous.

    Writing a poem that says “the Olmecs rode on unicorns” is a FICTION. So is saying they are Africans. That FICTION belongs in on the shelf with Lord of The Rings and other FICTION.

    You may not care that our heritage is looted like this so casually, but many of us do. And it’s because of us who do care that you are even able to have the opportunity to know about this in the first place.

    Your “I don’t care attitude” is why you are NOT looked to for leadership in our community. That attitude is a slippery slope that delivers us right back into the days of massive injustice and racism.

    We do care, and if that hurts your feelings, we do not apologize. Just entertain yourself with more fiction (calling it “poetry”).

  29. Rathko says:

    Nothing like old-fashioned racism masquerading as cultural pride. I’ve never seen so many people so disgusted to the core by the mere hint of a suggestion that they may share something in common with those of a darker shade. Everyone on the planet is descended from Africa. Only a few seem to have a problem with the fact.

  30. Manuel Alderete says:

    To Rathko,

    So, the Greeks were Africans, too?
    The Romans were Africans, too?
    The Celts were Africans, too?
    After all, Europeans were right next door to Africa. They must be Africans, right?

    If you say “no”, doesn’t this make you a “masquerading racist”? (your logic)
    and you are “disgusted by the mere hint that they may share something with a darker shade”? (your quote)

    Insulting, isn’t it?

    All the evidence points to Humanity beginning in Africa. And all evidence points to the Celts being from Europe and the Olmecs being Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere.

    I agree with all three statements. You seem to agree with only two.

    Who’s the real racist here?

  31. Rathko says:

    I’ve tied to take your arguments seriously, Manuel. As an Englishman, I try to imagine going to an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum – that bastion to Imperialist Expansion – and seeing an exhibition on Pre-Celtic British culture. I imagine reading a poem there that includes the lines

    Stone Henge
    You are Briton
    You are Africa

    And I try to imagine my response. I can say with all sincerity that I would read it as a metaphorical acknowledgment that Stone Henge, and the British culture that created it, is merely an artifact in a million year timeline of humanity’s march out of East Africa. I would interpret it as a call for racial tolerance, as a reminder that we ultimately share the same core DNA, as a spit in the eye to the racist nationalist who would use such artifacts to further their own hatred.

    One thing I know for sure is that I wouldn’t be offended.

  32. Chuck Whitson says:

    LACMA current advertisement of Olmec further reveals their position of Olmec having no African connection.
    The sideview Olmec head picture/banners on some (i.e. Crenshaw) Los Angeles street lampposts emphasize and promote European(non African)features.
    Perhaps,this is subtle marketing of LACMA view/opinion.

  33. lacma says:

    Hello to any of you who may be subscribed to this comments thread – we appreciate the vigorous debate that has happened here on Unframed and in other forums in response to this exhibition. We hope you’ll come to the museum this Sunday, January 9, on the exhibition’s closing day, for a free roundtable discussion on the topic of Olmec ancestry. More information can be found here: http://www.lacma.org/programs/Lectures.aspx#1283969081715

  34. More about the author

    In Your Presence, by Marisela Norte | Unframed The LACMA Blog

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