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The Week of Latin America: Murals by Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra) Brigades – ‘Non-Aligned’ Street Art

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Date: November 1977

Location: Student Cultural Center, Belgrade

Curator: Milo Petrović – the editor of SKC Tribune program

Artists: Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra) Brigade

In the words of its editor Milo Petrović, the Tribune program in Belgrade’s Student Cultural Center (SKC), “between mid-1970s and mid-1980s offered a site of free-minded public speech, intellectual debate and social activism, aiming to engage with primarily students, but also with a wider, general public.”[1] Developed in line with other, more art-oriented programs, the Tribune took the task of providing the support for social-critical theory and political theory produced and observed by young intellectuals and political activists from Yugoslavia and abroad.

From the perspective of almost three decades later, Petrović elaborates: “We wanted to be in touch and to hear about the problems of the world, the problems of our times—to discuss the development in intellectual thought, in artistic practice and socially engaged work. We wanted to host programs and people who reflected our epoch, people who reflect important social events of our time no matter if they are somewhere in the world or if they stem from the local Yugoslav context, no matter if they are in the ‘heart of West’ or in the less developed ‘Third World,’ where, as we learned in those days, some important things were happening—and we thought that it is good to present all this to Belgrade, to student public, that it is good if we live in tune with our times.”[2]

Between mid-1970s and mid-80s, the Tribune program presented several conferences and events: the Week of Spain in 1976, coinciding with the end of Franco’s dictatorship; The Week of Latin America in 1977, dealing with the anti-colonial struggle of different militant guerrilla movements in various parts of Latin America; the first “women’s questions” have been opened in 1978 through the conference Comrade Women, after which followed the event dedicated to militant revolutionary Chilean cinema – The Second Week of Latin America at the beginning of 1980s. New movements in psychiatry (or more precisely the positions and attitudes of anti-psychiatry) were discussed in 1983, while events in 1984 were dedicated to the critique of the Yugoslav society at the time.

As one of the largest events of the Tribune program Petrović describes The Week of Latin America, held in November 1977, which was a dedicated program of conferences, exhibitions, movie screenings, and public discussions: “I should remind you that the 1970s in general were the times of the worst military dictatorships in almost all Latin American countries. This was the time of the fall of the first democratic president in Latin America—Salvador Allende, and the time when the generals of Argentina started with their mission of extermination of their political enemies by throwing them alive from the airplanes into the Atlantic Ocean. This was the time where there were a lot of political refugees in Europe, and I went to Paris. There I contacted this critical intelligentsia, intellectual opposition from Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Mexico and other places. […] So it was really important to bring this 20 or so people, some of whom claimed that this was the most important event of that year worldwide in regard to discussing the Latin American issues. I remember the opening of the Week of Latin America—more then 500 people were in the auditorium and when the singer and author Chango Cejes was about to start singing the song Hasta Siempre, he said that he would like to sing it without a microphone and invited Roberto—the brother of Che Guevara—and other participants and the audience to join. […] And I remember this excitement of people that was being felt in that moment throughout the hall of SKC.”[3]

This alternative program of the SKC Tribune was partly in line with the official state politics of Non-Alignment Movement at the time, although organized independently and separately from state protocols and diplomatic normatives. The case of The Week of Latin America is interesting precisely because of this overlap with the issues and the interests of the state, but being organized in different, semiofficial manner and formally not aiming at any of the pragmatic goals set by governments of nonaligned countries. However, the very language of the internal institutional report uses the vocabulary of the state party bureaucracy in the similar way that, for example, the reports on contemporary projects funded by the EU today use the language of EU political bureaucracy.[4] Part of the official archived report states:

“We all found especially interesting the discussion about problems and perspectives of the politics of Non-Alignment in Latin America. Some participants expressed critical objections on Non-Alignment from the standpoint of the demands of revolutionary movements in struggle. The discussion was able, especially thanks to the contribution of the comrade Mates, to point to the proper place and role of the Non-Alignment politics in the process of positive transformation of international relations, and to the objective connectedness of such politics with the struggle of revolutionary movements on their respective national levels.” [5]

The artistic program of The Week of Latin America comprised a music section, film section, and a visual-arts section. According to the program organizers and SKC editors of the time, the program was framed under the notion of engaged art practice with a “tight connection between artistic and revolutionary act.” The music program featured the guitar player Chango Cejes from Argentina, the band Carcasu from Chile, and Julia Alfonso from Mexico. The film program put into the focus documentary and revolutionary propaganda films from Cuba, Chile, Germany, Mexico, and France, to deal with the various struggles in Latin American countries.[6] The visual art program included the participation of the artistic (muralist) brigade called Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra), who worked on the streets of Belgrade over the two weeks in collaboration with the students of Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts. They painted three large-scale murals: one was made on the wall of SKC building (overlooking the inner courtyard that was at the time understood as the place for informal gatherings and as meeting point of young people visiting SKC programs); another was painted on the plaster tiles placed in the interior of SKC; and the third was produced on the wall of the cafeteria in the Faculty of Political Sciences, Belgrade.

The programmatic concept of the murals and the artistic-political position of the members of the Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra) brigades are described in the TV reportage, broadcasted on the occasion of the week of Latin America.

Documentary video, part of the On Solidarity project by Darinka Pop-Mitic (2005 – ongoing)

As often is the case with street art projects, their existence is temporary and connected to the particular moment and actual situation. None of the murals were preserved—they grew pale and vanished over time, following the fading of the official ideology of socialism, Non-Alignment, and revolutionary struggle and its replacement by the currently prevailing combination of neoliberal economy and right-of-center ideology. The story of the Salvador Allende Brigade in Belgrade was revisited in the 2005 project On Solidarity, initiated by the artist Darinka Pop-Mitić. For the project she refreshed the colors on the remnants of the mural on the wall of SKC, expressing by this act a certain “solidarity in time” with this particular historical-political moment of people’s struggle for decolonization and liberation. Pop-Mitić states:

“The inside of this institution, the SKC, is a conceptual art scene, while its outside is a ‘third-world’ mural made in collaboration of an artistic brigade and the students of the FLU (Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade)—obvious propaganda art. The framework, the ‘frame,’ of the entire conceptual art scene in the SKC is in a way exactly this mural, but on the other hand it is exactly this mural that was both badly documented and left at the mercy of the ravages of time, which fragmented it until the only thing left were the giant heads that frightened me when I passed by the SKC building when I was a child. Chesterton has a following aphorism: ‘Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.’ The mural Solidarity is the ‘frame’ for our conceptual scene.”[7]

The project on Latin America and the works of the Salvador Allende Brigade are also interesting in this analysis of the exhibition history of SKC as examples of certain politics of art that were framed in a quite of a different manner in comparison to what was happening in the gallery program of SKC, which at the time assumed a variety of artistic and political positions but mainly dismissed such “explicit political activism” and “traditional pictorial expression.” This again points to the hybridity of SKC and the lamination of different positions of critical art and intellectual communities that coexisted in the same space.[8]


[1] Milo Petrović, quoted in the television program Trezor on RTS, April 10, 2007. The topic of the show was Alternativni univerzitet – istorija SKCa (Alternative university: The history of SKC).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] As I commented on in the introduction text to this chronology, the SKC was funded partly by the state and partly through proactive fundraising. Since it supported numerous international programs and insisted on international collaborations in contrast to the majority of bigger state institutions that presented local art and sometimes diplomatic, state-exchange exhibitions and programs that already had financial support, SKC editors often fundraised at the international embassies, cultural centers, or institutes whose funds were opened toward such initiatives. However, majority of the institutional reports catalogued in the SKC archive describe the Yugoslav state as the “main sponsor,” although the addressee is not mentioned directly, and all the reports are written in the fashion of a “summary” or notes from the event.

[5]             Note on translation: this report sources foreign names phonetically in Serbo-Croatian.

[6]             The exact names of the authors are absent in the reports on the Week of Latin America and difficult to find in the SKC archive, which is not yet systematized.

[7]             Quoted from Darinka Pop-Mitić’s artist statement.

[8]    See the introduction to this exhibition chronology, The Student Cultural Center (SKC) as the Art Scene.


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