Peruvian artist Decertor was recently invited by El Quetzal to paint a series of murals at their cultural centre in Palermo, Buenos Aires. Decertor spoke with BA Street Art about the project and influences on his art.
Decertor, real name Daniel Cortez, created a stunning sequence of murals at El Quetzal over 10 days that is entitled ‘Con-sequencias’. The artworks include portraits of women from distinct areas in Latin America including Peru and Bolivia and the theme relates to the plight of indigenous tribes, ancestry and the important role of women in rural communities. “The idea first of all was to talk about the decadence of the world in relation to the need to recognise indigenous peoples and the identity of the places they inhabit, their roots and the reasons they feel undervalued and displaced,” says Daniel. “This is a little bit about what the search in my work is about that touches the allegorical themes and ancestral people.”
The central figure in the mural is a portrait of an indigenous woman from a community called Rumicallpa, located about half an hour from the city of Castillo de Lamas in the region of San Martín in the north of Perú. It’s a village where Decertor has painted a series of murals and has also started a street art project inviting artists to stay and paint there.
“She’s an indigenous woman and speaks Quechua and she’s from the jungle,” said Daniel. “It’s an interesting topic because in the jungle there are people who speak other languages and other dialects. Many of these peoples were displaced from the Andes and then moved to the jungle and settled there as communities with their own traditions and culture. So the idea was to bring a bit of this project that I am working on with the people there to this cultural space.”
Daniel explained that many indigenous people in rural communities are under threat: “The idea is also to recognise that there are ethnic groups that all the time find their lands more reduced while mankind is falling into an abyss of consumerism forgetting about things that are of much more value.” He explained that the community Castillo de Lamas is matriarchal, with women occupying the most important role in the community in educating and passing on information about their traditions to their children and grandchildren.
Daniel designed the mural so that the woman from Rumicallpa, would occupy a similar place on the walls of El Quetzal as she does in her own community. He said: “In this case, it was necessary to highlight and respect the important role this person plays and see their image changing from the start (of the painting process) to create a sequence of faces until finally she is the protagonist in the centre of the space.”
On the wall at the end of the courtyard in El Quetzal is the central figure of the Peruvian woman who is flanked on her left by a man floating upside down. The same image is also reflected in the eyes of the Bolivian woman. The floating man painted in her eyes, Daniel says represents the decadence of man. “The intention is that the woman is observing the scene of decadence and the idea is that all of the images form one is just to raise the question of unity, that many can also be one,” he says. “There is also an element in relation to a common search some kind of meeting of memory.”
The background in the mural is composed of forms and colour with some details of plants, leaves and animals representing the close connection these women and communities have with the natural environment. “The relationship is constant from their diet, the food that they eat to the air that they breathe,” says Daniel who has nothing but admiration for indigenous people in Lamas. “In this community they know the importance of their habitat in educating their children, maintaining their traditions and continuing their legacy. For new generations it’s maybe easier to move to the city than stay but they are strong and have the will to look after themselves, continue teaching their traditions, their way of life, and also welcoming visitors. I think it’s a difficult and responsible job knowing that maybe you can be better off economically doing other activities but you decide to stay within your community and survive based on the things you can make with your hands.”
As a muralist, Daniel is more accustomed to painting in the street and public spaces. He said the project at El Quetzal presented a different challenge: “The work was complicated as the space is enclosed and though the artworks appear like murals, they are more like giant paintings and you have to think about a sequence of canvases that face one another and make use of a space that doesn’t have open access.” He added: “You have to think also about the visual journey in the way that your eye looks at the wall as there are many points to observe it from. The staircase also makes you think a bit more about how you treat it, and not only do you need to think just about the people who visit the space but also about the people who work there and how you combine the colours and forms.”
Mural at El Quetzal (Guatemala 4516, Palermo) painted by Decertor (with Sasha from Primo) and organised and curated by Mariano Viceconte.
Interview and photos by Matt Fox-Tucker/BA Street Art. Thanks to Mariano and all the guys from El Quetzal!