Change through art: Latin America’s other revolution

Source: Al Jazeera

Art is being used as a tool to overcome trauma and displacement and to forge a new Latin American identity.

There was once a Mexican woman whose spine was crushed by a tram. She learned how to walk again, and how to use a brush and paint to illustrate her world and overcome her pain. Today, we know Frida Kahlo through her work – paintings depicting a country where revolution remained a recent memory and self-portraits of her own damaged body that helped, in turn, to revolutionise her country further still.

But how many other Fridas are there in Latin America, hidden from view?

It is, after all, a region fertile with creativity; where the people live immersed in the “magical realism” of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, where social, economic and political upheavals inspire the work of artists such as the Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo and the Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamin, and where indigenous voices and faces are being heard and seen as never before.

When I was growing up in Latin America, our educational institutions adopted European models and our cities had been designed according to European esthetics. Italian and French architects were hired to build our monuments, museums and even our houses of parliament.

But the Cuban revolution of 1959 became an example for those yearning for change across the continent. And as other revolutions began to ferment during the 1960s and 1970s, a search for a new Latin American identity, expressed through art and architecture, accompanied them.

We looked back to what had been before Europeans ever set foot on our shores. I travelled from Uruguay to Mexico, and admired the murals by Diego Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros, telling their own version of the Mexican revolution that the illiterate peasants and agricultural workers could understand.

I wondered at the pyramids and Mayan codes and calendars their ancestors had constructed. I journeyed to Peru to admire the Inca ruins, and I visited Colombia to see the jewelry that had survived the Conquistadores’ greed.

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