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Socio-Political Context

Larissa Merzthal

I am an illustrator and infographics designer who is currently a master’s student at Sint Lucas School of Arts Antwerp. I've worked in several editorial studios in Lima and worked for Peruvian government institutions regarding communication, education and politics. I have also studied illustration and children’s books illustration in Barcelona during 2015 and 2017. During 2018, I started my own erotic illustration project called Pornosotras, which was focused on female sexuality and body image, I made exhibitions in Berlin, Barcelona, Malmo, Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Lima. My art practice nowadays (and master project) is focused on identity and memory following the visual logic of Andean textiles and it’s cosmovision and philosophy. I position myself as a Latin American mestiza woman within an artistic cultural environment mostly dominated by western white men. Giving a voice to decolonization, which is a subject not yet widely spoken in my country and showing it within art, which does not need words to be read, from an original voice and an andean vision; without having Western intermediaries who speak for my work and myself.

The Mestiza Memory

When I started this research, I focused on andean textiles, which are pieces that carry ancestral knowledge and traditions. These elements are an essential part of andean cosmovision, since alphabets and writing are a more eurocentric concept of keeping and transmitting information. Despite the lack of written sources, there’s another type of sources like oral tradition, collective subconscious, the religious and ritual symbolic universe and the efforts from indigenous people in the last years.

Quechua philosophy and cosmovision are the main topics that are represented in these pieces. Being the concept of Pacha the most shown. This concept is the main pillar and stands for time-space, both being the same total being in contrast with western conception as two different notions. Philosopher and theologian Josef Estermann defines this as “each one is not a unit but is something related to the everything”. Time in quechua philosophy is cyclical, in contrast of western concept of time which is linear, every end and start of the cycle is a cosmic cataclysm, everything is born in pacha and goes back to pacha (never dies). Therefore we all start and end in a cycle in time and space.

However, anyone would think that I am fully aware of this, this is not the case for me. I was born in Lima, a very modern city. While reading to Rolando Vázquez and the earthlessness concept, I felt fully identified and my main research question popped-up. Since modernity is the denial of nature and earth; therefore I was born in a state of earthlessness, how to go back to pacha? My own heart and research found the answer in memory and identity.

In the book Time Maps by Eviatar Zerubavel, he defines collective memory and history and a group of facts that a group or a community chooses to remember, no historical fact is 100% accurate in details to the real history. This translates to family and ancestors, as Carl Gustav Jung mentions, we carry genetic memory such as traumas, live experiences, etc as an emotional heritage through generations in our subconscious. There are facts that we would never know, they are not part of our memory but they are indeed part of your identity.

Zerubavel also defines that the way of remembering and writing history is part of a Sociomental Topography of the Past. I took this concept to inspire me and link my research. A topography is a very accurate study of the land, land in my research is also defined as Pachamama in Andean cosmovision and Pachamama is mostly represented as a female entity. Therefore, I am focusing this project on women in families. Women have not had the fair recognition due to patriarchal systems throughout history and it is fair to start now and be aware of their protagonism.

For this project I want to develop a Sociomental Topography of MY Past. I want to follow the visual logic of traditional andean textiles. The andean world is divided by Hanan Pacha and Urin Pacha which translates as the upper world and the lower world and is always divided by Kai Pacha which is where ends meet and life exists. All of the patterns and shapes in textiles have a meaning and a reason to be; they mostly represent the quechua philosophy and pacha.

This artistic project is the manifestation of her memory and is for her, for Grandma Nelly, for Grandma Rosa, for Mamita Santos, for my sister and for all the women whose history was never told and would remain in the melting memories of the ones that acknowledged them.

Also, this is the expression of my own personal cataclysm of my earthlesness, the healing of my ancestors memories, the recognition and register of the mestiza women that made my existence possible and the rediscovery of the andean cosmovision and philosophy for my everyday life. This is also a moment of gratitude to the pachamama, the spiritual beings that surround me and the generational effort of my ancestors to have made me achieve new levels of academic knowledge and get the education they could not have access to.