#Osvaldo_Pitoe, #Jorge_Carema, #Efacio_Álvarez, #Marcos_Ortiz and #Esteban_Klassen, a collective of indigenous artists from the Chaco, are part of the project ’Collection, Mission, Colonisation: Encounters and entangled Histories from the Chaco’. Find out more about their creative perspectives in this statement.
Photographs of the artefacts collected by missionaries Seymour Hawtrey and Wilfrid Barbrooke Grubb in the late 19th century inspired artists from the indigenous collective “Artes Vivas” to create new works. From the interaction with the collection emerged a series of drawings in which the artists recall the historical ways of being in the world of their people, and simultaneously speak of the contemporary life of Nivacle and Guaraní communities in the Chaco. Through reflections and observations they are creating a dialogue between historical artefacts and contemporary expressions. The drawings express and reflect processes of transformation caused by colonisation and evangelisation in the 20th century.
In a non-verbal way, the drawings communicate the dispossession of their territories and the loss of autonomy. They tell of the modification of their subsistence practices, of wage labour, and the re-settlement on mission stations, circumstances which determine their present precarious living conditions. They refer to processes of conversion and forced assimilation and to the continuous experience of discrimination and exclusion.
However, the drawings also witness the strength and resilience of indigenous ways of living. They show that relationships with the forest and the beings that inhabit it, as well as their ethics of coexistence and sharing, are still important for the Nivacle and Guaraní.
The artist collective was initiated and established through a close, long-term collaboration between indigenous artists and anthropologists Verena and Ursula Regehr. Following a proposal from the Nivacle community, they organised a drawing contest in 1998 where the drawings made with black pen on paper by Jorge Carema and Osvaldo Pitoe stood out. The black and white contrasts allude to that of women’s wool textiles in the region. Over the years Clemente Juliuz, Esteban Klassen, Marcos Ortiz, and Efacio Álvarez joined the collective and developed their own motifs and styles. All the artists are self-taught and have only had a few years of formal education. They belong to the Nivacle and Guaraní linguistic groups and live in the Cayin ô Clim and Yiclôcat missions on the periphery of the Neuland Mennonite colony in the Paraguayan Chaco.
They have participated in several exhibitions and publications, including “Bosques vivos”, Bienal Sur and Centro Cultural La Moneda, Santiago de Chile (2022); “Trees”, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (2019); “Reconfigurations: Chaco life in transition”, Museo del Barro, Asunción (2018); “symmetry/asymmetry: imagination and art in the Chaco”, Manzana de la Rivera Cultural Centre, Asunción and Colonia Neuland Cultural Centre (2011); “We, people of Cayin ô Clim”, Manzana de la Rivera Cultural Centre, Asunción and Colonia Neuland Cultural Centre (2004).