Latin America

Santiago Yahuarcani
Castigos del caucho

The series Castigos del caucho by Santiago Yahuarcani originates in the oral memory transmitted by the artist’s grandfather, who was a survivor of the Putumayo genocide where thousands of Indigenous people were annihilated and enslaved to extract rubber from the Amazon forest between 1879 and 1912. Yahuarcani’s complex narrative paintings on tree bark highlight a long history of colonial violence against the Uitoto and other Indigenous communities. They also show the destruction of the rainforest under Western models of extraction, privatization, and development. Yahuarcani’s images meticulously depict the immense cruelty and destruction inflicted on the bodies and territories for economic profit. The works remember a history of exploitation and reclaim respect for their ancestral knowledge, calling for urgent action to prevent the devastation of the Amazon.

Santiago Yahuarcani belongs to the Aimen+ (White Heron) clan of the Uitoto people of the northern Amazon. His mother, Martha López Pinedo, was a descendant of Gregorio López, the only member of the Aimen+ ? clan who migrated from La Chorrera (today part of the Colombian Amazon) to the Ampiyacu River region (now the northern Peruvian Amazon). Yahuarcani is a self-taught painter, sculptor, and leader of the Uitoto and Bora peoples of the Ampiyacu river. His life has been dedicated to the development of art and storytelling as a form of expression. Through his work he shares the rich and complex spiritual world of the Uitotos and other Indigenous Amazonian communities. His poignant works expose the violence perpetrated against the Uitoto during the Amazon’s rubber boom (ca. 1860–1920) and the current destruction of the rainforests. Yahuarcani also reclaims the presence and force of the spirits (guardians) of the plants, trees, and animals, who are largely ignored in the modern era.