This piece created by Mapa Teatro is based on the scientific dispute over the discovery of quinine between doctors Sebastián López Ruiz and José Celestino Mutis.
“The clearest example of how scientific knowledge, colonial power and the discourse of purity of blood were closely linked in New Granada is the famous dispute between doctors José Celestino Mutis and Sebastián López Ruiz over the paternity of the discovery of quinine”, explains philosopher Santiago Castro.
This reflection served as inspiration for the laboratory dedicated to transdisciplinary artistic creation, Mapa Teatro, when it began to create the play El arcano de la quina. Mapa Teatro was founded by the Colombian siblings and visual and performing artists Heidi, Elizabeth and Rolf Abderhalden in 1984. Ever since then, they have developed their own cartography in the field of the living arts in order to transgress frontiers - geographical, linguistic, artistic - and to bring to the stage local and global questions through different devices and formats such as scenic staging, actions, installations, urban interventions, opera, cabaret, sound works, radiophony and performative conferences. They have presented their creations at La Bâtie-Festival in Geneva, the Reina Sofía Museum or at the Teatro de las Artes in the National Center for the Arts of Mexico, among many other places of reference. In addition, in 2018 they received the Medal of the Goethe Institut in Germany for their artistic and cultural work.
Mapa Teatro explains that the theme of the research behind and the creation of El arcano de la quina is based on the scientific dispute over the discovery of quinine between doctors Sebastián López Ruiz and José Celestino Mutis. “Sebastián López Ruiz was a doctor and a naturalist; he was educated in the arts, medicine, jurisprudence, physics and philosophy, and he was a Panamanian Creole. He reports the discovery of quinine, from the bark of a tree that cures fever and malaria. At the same time, José Celestino Mutis, a botanical doctor and astronomer from Cádiz, who had travelled to the New Kingdom of Granada in order to study the healing powers of the different types of quinine and their economic potential, was also awarded the title of discoverer of quinine. The project consists of undertaking research into this plant and this dispute in the biopolitical context in which it was carried out. The investigation began with a search of the archives held in Madrid and Bogotá”.