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As part of an initiative of the Colombian Minister of Culture, Paula Marcela Moreno, aimed at lifting the indigenous people of Colombia out of the invisibility to which they feel they are subjected, I was invited to prepare an exhibition on an urban scale with 21 of the country’s indigenous peoples. Most of the groups were photographed in the cities, since in urban situations they are doubly invisible, because the general belief is that the native people live only in the countryside and not in the cities.

To highlight the fact that the essence of the indigenous cultures is being preserved, apart from the context of their lives, I used backdrops that make the portraits independent of their surroundings. But the force that preserves this essence is the community, so that the backdrops were held up by members of the community, who affirm and support its persistence.

My project consists of three types of portraits for each culture:

A family portrait of the most recent generations, those who will continue on the road. Since the family is the base of the community, the backdrops are of primary colors, the basic colors from which the spectrum is created.

A portrait of a leader, with his attributes, on a black backdrop, since it is in darkness that leaders are most needed.

A portrait of a wise man, healer, doctor, a reservoir of ancestral knowledge, of the link with nature and its infinite language. The backdrop is green like the vegetation they penetrate.

For each ethnic group the three photos are mounted in a structure with a triangular base that has an image on each face. The structures are placed in a big circle, representing the malocas or communal houses whose shape makes them symbols of the universe and of continuity. The photos of the families face toward the center of the circle, as a reference to the intimacy of the home, while the leaders and wise men face outward, toward the world, as happens at present. The exhibition was inaugurated for the first time in Bogotá on 20th May 2010, Day of Diversity, within the framework of the celebration of two hundred years of independence for some South American countries.

Antonio Briceño

May 2010

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