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The Book Column: Oleñka Carrasco : Patria


“On June 9, 2020, I received a call. On this side of the Atlantic it must have been 10 o’clock. “He’s dead,” she shouted to me.” This is how Oleñka Carrasco learned of her father’s death, 7,286 kilometers away.

The Venezuelan photographer, who had left her country for Europe in 2003 at the age of 23, had not returned since 2015. That same year, Nicolas Maduro authorized the use of firearms in the crackdown on demonstrations. Demonstrations were on the rise in a country ravaged by an interminable political and economic crisis.

In Patria, Oleñka Carrasco’s moving tale of mourning for a loved one resonates with the death of her country. For this project, which began as a book and was presented in an exhibition at the Rencontres d’Arles, the artist pursues a protean approach, mixing typed written thoughts, historical and personal archives, WhatsApp and videophone conversations, screenshots…

Starting with the death of her father, Oleñka Carrasco plunges us into her experience of mourning in the solitude of distance. How to photograph the distance? How to photograph the things left unsaid, the knot in the throat, your first name? She attended the funeral through the camera of a telephone, whose images hinted at the situation in the country, where impersonal cemeteries are improvised to accommodate the thousands of dead.

The questions of identity and belonging to a country raised by this mourning gradually met the history of Venezuela and its exiled population. Oleñka Carrasco recounts the situation of a family, her own, split between France, the United States and their native country. She recalls her last trip to Venezuela, when she found a deserted territory and a scattered homeland. The country is no longer hers; she is one of “those who have left”. In 2020, 5.9 million Venezuelans lived in exile. Those who remain have to walk for hours to find food. Her father would walk three kilometers to reach the dispensary where he could buy an inhaler to treat his asthma.

From “pater” to “patria”, Oleñka Carrasco delivers the poignant tale of a double disappearance, in which the intimate story becomes universal and political.


Oleñka Carrasco – Patria
The Eyes Publishing, 2023
21 x 30 cm, Paperback
ISBN: 9791092727555
Available in good bookshops and online

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