The controversy over Dekmantel's 2019 lineup is a chance to take a "renewed step forward" in the discussion about equitable cultural exchange, writes Chilean-born, Brazil-based artist Valesuchi.
I had a deep-rooted fear to speak about this discontent because of the possible costs it could have for me and others. The repercussions of the post, with people referring to my "courage" and letting out their own views on the topic, prove that our current way of working needs to be debated, and hopefully redesigned.
In their post presenting the final timetable with 114 acts invited, it was particularly offensive to read concepts like "truly proud," "broadest" and "boldest," while they had left out the Latin American region completely. It's not about what was expected, it's about the change in perspective when you see a door that seemed open might actually still be closed, when respect and recognition are not shown through continuous action. And when some people asked, "Why have some kind of expectation?" It's because the only official edition of their festival outside of Amsterdam happens in Latin America, and the relationships developed and relevance of that fact should have been reflected in their 2019 lineup after two years of working here.
Even though they didn't invent many of the wrong practices foreign festivals have consistently shown when working here, Dekmantel has been actively writing themselves a global role as a multicultural festival and has tried to brand its franchises as being about cultural exchange. Their response to my post has a few indications that they might attempt to fix this, since they refer to the lineup as "initial," although it seemed final. But in 2019, it is important that we all know the meaning of cultural exchange, which entails a two-way, mutually beneficial and enhancing relationship, fighting structural asymmetry together as we go.
So, the response did little for our discomfort since it recognised that they only now, after two years, understood this. If we have excellent music that is being re-edited by Europeans, if we have top-notch artists that sometimes get to showcase talent over there, and if we have the "wildest" and "hottest" parties we welcomed them to play in, why aren't we always part of the timetable now? How come Latin America is absent when there are artists from all over the world?
For the majority of people I've worked with, not only in Brazil, Dekmantel's proposed role represents an opportunity to expand and enrich a musical experience for everyone involved, but that loses weight when they avoid our community in their main event of the year. They have the means to get to know our scene firsthand, visiting cities and mobilising collectives that even we can't reach sometimes, and I wonder if they recognise this as a privilege that many of us don't have yet. If Latin America can still be forgotten when the party is in Europe, it is hard for us to believe that the pervasive colonial logic has been truthfully left behind.
Nonetheless, we should take this situation as a renewed step forward. The call-out is not just about them. It's for ourselves and everyone who is interested in figuring out how we can face this problem together and determine what needs to be changed.