– Spring/Summer 2018

Thinking and Engaging with the Decolonial: A Conversation Between Walter D. Mignolo and Wanda Nanibush

Wanda Nanibush, Walter D. Mignolo


Benvenuto Chavajay, Doroteo Guamuche, 2012, photograph, tattoo. Courtesy the artist

This conversation is part of an evolving discussion that has unfolded via a series of public events and seminars held in Toronto over the past two years and following the reflections that Walter D. Mignolo offered in his 2016 essay ‘Coloniality is Far from Over, and So Must Be Decoloniality’.1 The Afterall editorial team invited Mignolo for a second time to continue to discuss these issues with another thinker deeply engaged in the questions and politics of decolonisation: Anishinaabe curator, image and word warrior, and community organiser from Beausoleil First Nation Wanda Nanibush, who is also co-editor of this edition of Afterall.The intention is to offer a kaleidoscopic reading and thinking of the decolonial that, we hope, is captured in what follows. Animated by their own histories, backgrounds and scholarships, both thinkers offer their views on topics that include diverse modes of subjugation, distinct colonial wounds and the meaning and practices of sovereignty and ‘delinking’.

Benvenuto Chavajay, 4’33 (John Cage), 2015, installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist. Walter D. Mignolo notes: ‘Benvenuto Chavajay is a Mayan/Guatemalan visual artist or “artisto Mayo” (he said, because Mayan speakers have difficulties in

  1. Public events included the symposium ‘Kinship, Communitas, Comunidad’, organised by contributing editors Wanda Nanibush and Charles Stankievech, and the 2016 panel discussion ‘Global Indigenous?’, both of which were supported by Afterall, the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, and the Art Gallery of Ontario where Nanibush is the inaugural Assistant Curator of Canadian and Indigenous Art. See also Walter D. Mignolo, ‘Coloniality is Far from Over, and So Must Be Decoloniality’, Afterall, no.43, Spring/Summer 2017, pp.39–45.

  2. I was born in Argentina, from two Italian families and in a region (La Pampa Gringa Chica) where Italian immigrants landed.

  3. By body, I mean the water and the minerals in our cells, the air, the food and the light it needs to survive from birth to death. Our body also needs to co-exist with other bodies, not only to collaborate in our biological survival, but in coordinating our behaviour to achieve our preservation.

  4. Colonial wounds are not of the same scale and therefore felt in the same way. But all are inflicted by the same devise: the CMP.

  5. Walter D. Mignolo, ‘Coloniality is Far from Over, and So Must Be Decoloniality’, op. cit., p.39.

  6. Ontologically, First Nations are not ‘indigenous’ but Aymara, Quechua, Ossage, Nishnaabeg, Iroquois, Haisla, etc. ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Indians’ in South America were nouns to homogenise a vastly diverse population in order to dehumanise and manage. Reminding us that Europeans are ‘indigenous’ according to their own definition is an invitation to look at themselves in the mirror. Indigenous (adj.) from Late Latin indigenus (born in a country, native), from Latin indigena (sprung from the land, native; as a noun, ‘a native', literally ‘in-born’ or ‘born in a place’) from Old Latin indu (prep.) (in, within) + gignere (perfective genui) (to beget, produce), from PIE root *gene- (give birth, beget) with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups. See ‘Indigenous’, Online Etymology Dictionary [website], available at https://www.etymonline.com/search?page=1&q=indigenous (last accessed on 16 Jan 2018).

  7. Someone who works for people who own the land.

  8. He did not grow up in indigenous ayllus or African gran comarca.

  9. Quijano is also indebted to José María Arguedas, an anthropologist and writer of European descent who was nurtured by an Indian woman and who spent his infancy speaking Quechua with his indigenous friends.

  10. When I moved from France to the US, I stopped being a sudaka (a racist nickname referring to immigrants from South America). I was an immigrant for the second time, the first as a son of an immigrant, the second as an immigrant myself. Sure, I had a fellowship and went to Paris to work on my doctorat de troisième cycle. Nonetheless, I was neither French, nor German, nor British, nor even Spanish or Italian. I was seen as a sudaka. In the US I am Hispanic or Latino.

  11. That is, theology in the Renaissance and science, philosophy and economy since the eighteenth century. Additionally institutional actors (social roles) and languages (Greek-Latin and modern European (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French and English).