These works consist of an installation/sculpture of a mask (titled: Matachin) and an installation/sculpture of a stilt house on the... Read More
These works consist of an installation/sculpture of a mask (titled: Matachin) and an installation/sculpture of a stilt house on the water (titled: Stilt house on the water).
This project arose from researching the coastal region of El Choco and the community that lives there. This is one of the more deprived regions in Colombia, which is also heavily controlled by drug mafia and drug trafficking violence. The control of these groups is so strong that people are unable to leave their homes when they forbid them to do so.
During this investigation, I identified myself with the community. My work was born out of a concern: the struggle of those who are forced to live in the shadow of violence, but also admiration for a community that despite their conditions stands firmly and proud maintaining their own technology, culture and traditions. A community that deserves respect.
The mask work Matachin makes reference to a group of boys called "the Matachines." The group got that nickname because they use to make masks for themselves and the community, which were used in holiday celebrations and celebratory dances. This way, they brought joy to the community. One day, a man arrived and invited them to a soccer game in another village with the promise that they would be given uniforms and could win some money (200.000 COP, i.e. around 40 EUR). Excitedly, they informed their mothers. Some hesitated but finally caved.
The boys did not return in the afternoon and the mothers began to worry, so they went to the police. They were told that they should wait 24 hours for the search to begin. The community did not sleep that night, as the boys still did not return. In the early hours of the morning, they went to the police again, who replied: At this time those boys are already dead, they have been killed. A search started and indeed, the boys were found in trash bags, chopped and with traces of torture, even though they had nothing to do with the conflict. The violent practices against civilians are used by paramilitary groups, guerrillas and drug criminals to control the territory with fear and violence.
After a year of silent mourning, the mothers of the boys (and the community in general) decided to perform a masked dance with strong movements, which is a protest against those who force them to live in the shadow of violence. However, the dance also celebrates that victims of a conflict eventually become strong again.
The dance is a protest of happiness and memory that arose from pain. My work seeks to honor a community that stands: that despite the circumstances that affected them, as their territory was chosen strategically by illegal groups (and abusive groups that exist since colonial times), maintains their traditions, culture and architecture with strength. The mask work awaits you to see through it. It waits for your eyes and breath inside it to give it life again and for a new opportunity for the Matachines to see the world. That you feel them, that you see the world through them and think: What would you ask for? It aims to generate empathy and for your empathy to give them eyes to see. It is also an act of solidarity with the mothers remembering their children. They have requested not to forget them. I want to tell them: «We-I-care.» If they remain in the memory, they may receive justice one day. In addition, it’s a call for change for the Matachines that remain in the region.
The stilt house work Palafito en Agua, makes reference to the many "palafito" houses, typical for the region, which are wooden houses built on stilts in the water. The community has been building these for centuries (the first palafitos were built between 5000 and 1000 BC) as they are most resistant against the water, don't harm nature and are very convenient for those living of fishery. They also protect against predators, hostiles and exhalations of the soil. The constructions are separated from the mainland to regulate the temperature, as earth heats twice as fast as water and the water itself is also a prime means of communication and support.
This architectural and ecological heritage of the Americas is a technology that could be shared with the world and that could be developed as an alternative and solution for many places. It’s a technology that can mutate and generate hybrids with other architectural movements in order to increase the number of options and give new possibilities to places with different environmental conditions and needs. Unfortunately, the community has been impoverished and affected on various levels by the illegal practices. Therefore, many of these constructions, despite their efficient technology and ecological sustainability, are built often with limited resources and tend to be undervalued by Western thinking. Again, also the palafito work seeks to honor the community maintaining its traditions, culture and architecture with strength, despite their harsh circumstances.
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