Gloria Oyarzabal – Usus Fructus Abusus

The title comes from the Latin terms for the Roman Empire’s legal definitions of property rights. Who had the right to use, benefit from or misuse an object? These issues would be further complicated centuries later as the Western museum system developed. Collections belonging to kings and emperors were opened to the public to instil respect and create an identity for the nation. Not infrequently, however, the collections were based on objects looted from other, weaker nations. Under nineteenth-century colonialism, the looting of culturally high-standing societies in Africa and Asia increased. 

Gloria Oyarzabal spent three years in Mali, where she researched the construction of the idea of Africa, processes of colonization/decolonization and African feminism. She arrived at some unequivocal conclusions. To return what has been plundered, both the objects and their inherent identity, is an urgent, universal and eminently feasible matter for everyone. 

She also pronounced a harsh judgement on the colonization of African women. The oppressive view of the African woman’s body, not least in the history of art, led to stereotypes, exoticization, appropriation, difference, etc. It is high time for key concepts in feminism – such as “home”, “sisterhood”, “experience” and “community” – to show the way towards a feminism without borders, a feminism fully committed to the reality of a transnational world. 

Gloria Oyarzabal

Gloria Oyarzabal, a Spanish photographer with an art degree, divides her professional life between photography, film and teaching. Among her awards are the Landskrona Foto & Breadfield Dummy Award 2017, the Vevey Photobook Award 2019 and Aperture Paris Photo’s award for the best photobook of 2020.