Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a Shipibo muralist on a muraling project at the elementary school in the urban Shipibo community of Bena Jema. Together with the students, our idea was to create a series of murals depicting the four different worlds of the Shipibo cosmovision.
The four worlds are as follows: Non Nete, the extraordinary earth world we live in; Jene Nete, the water world; Jakon Nete, the world where souls go after death; and Panxin Nete, the yellow underworld of evil spirits.
One of our main goals was to involve the kids, which proved to be a challenge as they ranged from 5 to 12 years old and had little or no experience wielding brushes. Once they started, natural talent took over and the murals became a great success.
We began each mural by having a teacher or community elder describe one of the four worlds to a class. The students then had the opportunity to draw the worlds using their imaginations. We designed the murals based on these drawings, leaving room for the kids to improvise during the painting process.
Painting the mural took place over the course of several weeks and the kids and the volunteers had a blast, while learning a lot along the way.
One of the most successful moments in my view occurred towards the end of the muraling, when we were painting the world of evil spirits. I asked a local Shipibo boy what he knew about the world that we were painting and he said, “That is where the Yoshin lives.” I asked him if he’d like to paint the Yoshin, and if he knew what it looked like. He wanted to paint it, but he didn’t know what it looked like. I suggested that he ask his grandfather, who lives next door to the school, to describe it to him. Since many Shipibo cultural traditions are unknown to Shipibo children growing up in an urban environment, encouraging the dialogue is especially important. He ran over and posed the question to his grandfather, who told him just what the Yoshin looked like (three legs, wings, and horns) and then painted his personal version of the spirit into the mural.
This moment of facilitating the passage of cultural traditions from one generation to the next through artistic expression encompassed our vision for the muraling exercise, and will continue to manifest itself visually on the school walls long after the paint dries.
To see more photos of these murals visit us on Facebook.
Thursday, 09 April 2015