Americas

Abel Rodríguez
Terraza Alta IV

Terraza Alta IV is part of a series of drawings that function like botanical plates, articulating a system of knowledge and specialized understanding of botany, ecology, and agronomy. The illustrations represent someone who knows and manages plant species, including hundreds of tropical forest flora, their anatomical features, architecture, the distribution of branches and leaves, types of bark, flowers and fruits, and their ecological relations with different animal species. They also often include written information like the color and taste of the bark, the season when it blooms, where it grows and at what time of the year. Terraza Alta IV tracks the changing appearance and life of an area identified as Terraza Alta located in the Colombian Amazon. Three illustrations preceded it depicting the same location and show the development of the trees over time in which the variation of the trees and rhythm of nature is made visible through changing colors, the seasonal presence of flowers and fruits, and the different relationship of plants with animals and insects. While the work is pictorial, it does not seek a realistic representation of the site. It is based on the unique features of the landscape in question, unveiling itself as the observations of someone deeply connected to the land.

Abel Rodríguez or also known as “Guihu,” was born in Nonuya in 1941 near the headwaters of the Colombian Amazon and raised by the Muinane tribe, an American indigenous people located in Southeast Colombia. He is a Nonuya traditional knowledge-holder and a "namer of plants," a term that identifies someone who knows and manages plant species. In the 1990s, Guihu (who by then had adopted the Western name Abel Rodríguez) fled violence in the Amazon territory to a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital city of Bogotá. Yet despite this upheaval, his people’s particular knowledge and way of relating to the forest, its plants and animals have survived. He became the official guide for botany researchers in the Colombian Amazon and was awarded multiple scholarships to document his plant knowledge. Unable to use oral transmission, which is used in the traditional setting, Abel started drawing trees from memory to provide reference material for education and promote dialogue across the indigenous and scientific communities. For Abel, his artistic practice is a means of recovering and sharing his knowledge of plants of the Amazon gained through teachings from his predecessors, and nearly seventy years of observation. His work is an ancestral portal to an advanced understanding of tree architecture, landscape ecology, plant and animal ecological relationships, and even climate change. Above all, the drawings of Abel Rodríguez reflects a traditional knowledge that is opposite to scientific knowledge; it is not fragmented but rather is part of a complex integral world that can only be known from living on the inside as part of that world and not as an outside observer.