Latin America

Manuel Chavajay
Untitled [Saq Taq Achik’ series]

Untitled is the last addition to an on-going series titled Saq Taq Achik’ which translates to White Dream and refers to the first moments after waking up. In the Maya-Tz’utujil tradition it is believed that during this time, while our senses are still half asleep, we are most open to linking with the spiritual world as our rationality has not yet fully kicked in. It is thus, a moment in which a connection with the supernatural can be more easily established. White Dream is a collection of images, part dream, part imagination, that the artist has “received” from the elders of his community, especially his grandfather, a community leader himself––they are messages regarding his people and their culture, their traditions and their struggles. Like in the rest of the series, this work shows the artist –they are self-portraits during this transitional state– with symbolic elements from the spiritual or daily life of his community. In this case, a variety of corn cobs that secured the sustenance of the Tz’utujil community for centuries and are now in danger due to the homogenization of the crops by the industrialized agricultural industry.

Manuel Chavajay's work moves freely, though carefully, through various media including drawing and painting, installation and A/V formats. As a Maya-Tz'utujil artist, he seeks to construct images, actions and objects that render poetic forms of denunciation and vindication of his culture and his heritage. Like other indigenous artists of his generation, Chavajay conceives contemporary art as a space for healing but also as a means to reclaim a history and a visual culture that it has been largely stripped of. His work refers to the wisdom of spiritual and material practices linked to the Mayan cosmovision: a deep connection with nature and the intrinsic life and energy inherent to both living and non-living things. This reflects both a way of thinking and a way of life that have resisted despite the material and symbolic threats of a largely discriminating State as well as the colonial and globalized world. Chavajay is one of the most representative artists of his generation as well as an active social and cultural leader in his hometown of San Pedro la Lagubna.