In my blog of August 14, 2012 entitled Holy Families, I shared pictures of some artwork that I found in a shop in Antigua. For me these are powerful and descriptive images. Recently I visited two museums. I would like to share the experiences.
Brenda, Lucy and I visited Las Capuchins or the Convento de Capuchinas. This is located about two minutes from where I live. The Capuchin nuns arrived in Antigua in 1726 and this convent was built in 1736. It experienced massive damage in the earthquake of 1773. Restoration of the building began in 1943 and continues today. Part of the second floor has been rebuilt in a partnership between the Guatemalans and the Chinese and this space is a museum. Included along with the displays are words in three translations: Spanish, English and Chinese. I found this to be very interesting! The museum holds many large statues and paintings of Jesus, the Holy Family and the saints as do the many churches in Antigua. What struck me most was the statement that one of the main purposes of the statues and paintings was to catechize the masses of people. To see more of the ruins, watch this YouTube video which could have been taken today! It is 3.28 minutes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBpKMd-Vzfs The segment from 0-0.33 shows pictures of the Cathedral which is located in the Central Park of Antigua. This is a very short walk from where I live. (Groups of musicians often entertain in the park and many people gather there. Yesterday I wandered there at noon. I heard lovely music and made my way toward it. I found two men playing wooden flutes of various types to music from a boom box. Gathered around them were about 30 disabled men and women, young and old, many in wheelchairs. That the
music delighted their hearts was demonstrated by their dancing in their chairs or otherwise and the broad smiles. Incredible! Unfortunately, I did not have my camera.) The segment from 0.34 to 2:12 shows the Convento de Capuchinas. The segment from 2:13 to 3:28 shows the church and convent ruins of La Merced (Our Lady of Mercy). Again, this is located just down the street. I attend Mass at La Merced.
The second place is the Centro de Formacion de la Cooperacion Espanola, an indication of partnership with Spain. The sign outside the building states: AECID Embajada de Espana en Guatemala. This is a new space again built out of ruins. It holds many offices, a library, a children’s library and spaces for exhibits, movies and gatherings. It seems that the exhibits rotate on a monthly basis. So far I have seen two of these exhibits both of which dealt with social justice issues. Powerful exhibits.
The most recent exhibit at this building is entitled “La realidad y otras asuntos”. It is a display of at least 50 photos by photojournalist Rodrigo Abd. I have included a few photos below. At some point I realized that these were photos….that is the actual scene was taking place right there in front of Rodrigo as he took the picture. Many of the photos that were on display can be found at http://rodrigoabd.com. Click on Galleries and Guatemala. There is also a section called Palimpsestos at the bottom which is a series of double-exposed film. I am warning you that most of the photos are gruesome. I do not recommend this site for children. The Midwife Francisca section might be of special interest to some. Also, note the dates of Abd’s
The civil war of Guatemala ended in 1996. Open discussion about the events is just beginning to take place. Books are beginning to be written that tell the stories. Court cases are in process. The time of healing has just begun. I am motivated to continue to learn the Spanish language so that I will be able to read and listen to these stories and better understand.
The known “bad guys” are displayed in the photos of Abd. In my opinion, it is an act of extreme courage to display these faces and to tell the story through this media to the public while these men are still alive and in public office. There are stories daily in the newspaper regarding these past events as well. For example page two of the newspaper dated September 25, 2012, held the story of four women who stepped forward to testify about the violence done to them in the war during the years between 1982 and 1986.
The first photo in the exhibit is the first one below. Janet, my teacher and I spent time talking about this one and what it meant to her. I asked her to summarize her thoughts about this photo in one word. She said: Hypocrisy. I can never fully understand her experience of this double-exposure. Having learned about some of the Guatemalan customs is helping. Janet said, “When I saw the first photograph, I felt much fear because I know many persons in the photograph and I know that they are famous persons with a lot of money. Some are politicians recognized for their evil work in government.” Some background information might be helpful. It is difficult to see, but the men are carrying a platform used on Good Friday. It in some places such as San Filipe, it takes hundreds of men to carry this platform and it is a great and costly honor to participate in this way in the Good Friday procession. For an idea look at this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWCphBTf9cc. The flowers are known as cartuchos; we call them calla-lilies. Note that they are very much alive. Janet described the cartuchos as being very stong, resistant, abundant and cheap flowers in Guatemala. Each person viewing each photograph would have a different interpretation. The photos are genuine works of art and story. The double-exposure is a combination of the current reality: a blend of the past and the present intertwined. I find that Janet and those who work so diligently for their Guatemala, do not wish to look backwards but rather want to look forward. The word HOPE is
What if we used such displays in our churches and gathering places today to catechize about social justice? Perhaps we think that art such as this is way to horrifying. How different is it really from what is viewed on nightly television? Maybe it would take something like this to begin to help us to understand the reality of our One World and our personal and communal role in that world.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012