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Artists inspire us to protect and care for Amazonia

Paradise Burning by Sergio Vega

It is forecasted that only half of the Amazonian forest may remain in 2050.

This is a catastrophic and daunting thought not only in terms of environmental issue but also in terms of human life, species and knowledge that are threatened to be lost.

Amazonia exhibition CAAC in Sevilla, curated by Berta Sichel of Bureau Phi Art Projects, draws attention to these issues by showcasing the works of artists who are from there or have lived there. I loved the curatorial choice to host this exhibition in the 'religious' rooms of the museum, as a way to confront our cultural beliefs with the ones from the cultures represented in the artworks.

Some of my favourite artworks:

Sergio Vega has been working since 1995 on a large project with the main title El Paraíso en el Nuevo Mundo, based on a theory of Antonio de Leon Pinelo from the 17th century, according to which the Garden of Eden is to be found in South America. Using various media, Vega reinterprets Pinelo’s depiction of paradise with a great deal of subtle humour. For example, in this exhibition he presented Paradise Burning a video projected on a screen made of translucent curtains that creates an ethereal image of fire consuming the forest. It depicts a ghostly scene of the jungle burning.

Susana Mejia has been working for more than seven years with a multidisciplinary team of biologists, anthropologists, photographers, videographers and printmakers to develop her artworks.

Color Amazonia is the result of her frequent trips to the Amazon. She spent times with the communities there to help them recover and record their natural dyeing fibre process using different plants from the villages and forest. Each colour is obtained from a different part of the plant, which require a specific extraction method and is used as dye in a unique way. The outcomes are an array of beautiful earthy colours which reveal the importance of protecting local craftsmanship and the Amazonian forest.

Nela Ochoa is an award-winning painter, draftsman, and sculptor whose works have been exhibited in Venezuela, Colombia, the United States, and Spain. One of the main topics in her art is the human body. Ochoa's research examines the internal images of the body, which include X-rays, tomography, and MRIs. Her fascination with DNA and genetics is also translated through her diverse compositions.

The works she presents here come from her research revealing that certain genetic markers are still present amongst the tribes of the Amazonian forest, erasing time and space. The Beringia-Hoyano Maps are based on a pre-columbian sequence. To re-write it she used Yekuana ceremonial crowns that signify A-T-C-G (adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine). Thanks to this work we know that the Yekuana is one of the Venezuelan tribes that have survived in the Amazon. The first part of the title Beringia-Hoyano refers to the now underwater region of Beringia from which the first human settlers of the American continents came. Hoyano is a word used by the Yanomami, a Venezuelan Amazon tribe, to refer to the shabono (habitat) they left to never return.

Sheroanawe Hakiwihe is a Yonamami artist who lives in Port Port, a Yonamami community on the Upper Orinoco, near Mahekoto-Teri. Since the 1990's, his work has aimed to salvage the oral memories, cosmology and ancestral traditions of his people by making handcrafted paper, publishing books prepared with his community, and portraying them through drawings. Hakiwihe illustrates the imagery of his people by representing their unique references and composing broader narratives that document the past and present of his community while also evincing an artistic sensibility far removed from the Western values to which we are accustomed.


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