An encounter between two worlds.
Melanie Dizon
January 28, 2023

INKUNIAMU | a creative collaboration


Curatorial text by Josefa Nolte, anthropologist

Interculturality refers to the dialogue around conditions of equity and equality of two cultures, to the possibility of interacting and generating expressions that gather visions and elements of both without losing the identity of either of them. If we express ourselves from the concepts of chemistry, it is a mixture - not a combination - in which each one preserves its essence. Hence the name identified for this exhibition is Encounter because both cultures meet, touch each other, make a symphony of colors and shapes interpreting and reinterpreting their traditions. Just as when musicians play a piece with four hands, both are interpreters, seeking harmony and synergy in order to offer us a joint work.

Photo: Leslie Searles
Leslie Searles and Gerardo Petsaín met three years ago in Nieva, where Gerardo periodically lives. The idea of developing this project formed during visits to his workshop where they would speak about their vision of the world, the Awajún and Wampís myths, and their own work. From verbal dialogue they moved to a dialogue of images: sometimes one would draw and the other would paint or complete the graphic with one’s own rendition. Thus, the fantastic beings conceived in Leslie's imagination took on another dimension through Gerardo's interpretation, based on his myths. Also inversely, an initial drawing by Gerardo inspired by the Ajutap(spirits that give strength to men) was later completed by Leslie.

The body of the exhibition is made up of individual works by each of the authors and their co-created works. The latter have been made possible by a creative link that is given in the coexistence of their worldviews and the ability to transform their universes without seeking the prevalence of the other. The constructive dialogue that one can contemplate here is an encounter between people coming from such different cultures; a process that is so necessary in Peru today.  
Guerra contra el rey panki | Watercolor on Paper | Gerardo Petsaín, Leslie Searles ©2022

Mundo acuático | Watercolor on Paper | Gerardo Petsaín ©2022

Vision 2 | Watercolor on Paper | Gerardo Pestaín, Leslie Searles ©2020

INKUNIAMU is on exhibition through May 24

*The art from this exhibition is available for sale. To view the full series, please email us at for more information.

BIOGRAPHY | Leslies Searles

Leslie Searles (Arequipa, 1978) is a communicator from the University of Lima with a specialization in cinema. She later studied photography at The London College of Communication. Her work and interest have led her to frequently visit native and indigenous populations in rural areas to record images that document the reality of life in the rural contexts of the Amazon and the Andes. Her documentary work has been published in international media and specialized magazines, as well as exhibited in fairs and festivals around the world. She has also published books of her own, the latest of which, Quién Inicia Este Incendio (Who Starts This Fire), in which images alternate with poetry. Searles' lesser-known facet, on display here, is drawing and painting, with which she depicts fantastic beings inspired by nature and surrealism.

BIOGRAPHY | Gerardo Petsaín

Gerardo Petsaín (Amazonas, 1963) is of Wampís descent who built his identity from the myths of his people. He was trained as a bilingual teacher with the Bilingual Teacher Training Program of the Peruvian Amazon and actively participated in the recompilation and illustration of these myths between 1984 and 1995 for the book YaunchukUniverso mítico de los huambisas, published by CAAAP in 1996. His talent led him to self-teach the use of materials and tools for drawing and painting, and his knowledge allowed him to interpret the depictions of his countrymen and better illustrate this copious work. Subsequently, he has illustrated publications for the Ministry of Education and other institutions, and has held exhibitions in Lima, always showing us his culture and the Awajun culture, with whom he shares history and territory. He alternates his work as a bilingual elementary school teacher with art. 

A special thanks to Josefa Nolte for her curatorial text and invaluable work with the Awajún communities.