November 8, 2023
" In a place where there is a significant language barrier, it is important for us as a people to be able to show our way of life and our realities in order to make ourselves known and thus seek integration..." David Díaz Gonzales
INSTANTE | book launch and exhibition closing event
On the 13th of October we were pleased to announce the launch of Xapiri Ground’s first print publication INSTANTE, a project that involved a series of workshops focused on photography and self-documentation with the Indigenous youth from three different communities in the Peruvian Amazon. These workshops were led by photographers Davis Torres, Tui Anandi, and David Díaz Gonzales with Jack Wheeler and myself. Earlier this year in May, we opened the Instante exhibition in our gallery to share these instant photographs which tell the stories of the 37 youth participants and their communities. On the night of the book launch, we invited Shipibo-Konibo photographer David Díaz Gonzales to dialogue alongside Jack and myself about the process behind this project and the importance of self-documentation for the youth and their communities today.
“Through photography we can show the changes or the process of adaptation that our people and community are going through in this new social context, but from a new outlook, because it is done through the children’s gaze which reflects how they are seeing it and how they are growing up with this new vision that surrounds them. Photography helps us to reconstruct our memory and our identity.” David Díaz Gonzales
David also shared his personal experience with how he began his path into photography; inspired by Latin America’s first major Indigenous photographer Martin Chambi from Puno, Peru. He believes that in the present day, photography in Peru doesn't even begin to cover the Amazon in its entirety stating that more emphasis had been placed on photography coming from the rubber era in Iquitos. And so his photographic work focuses on the cultural investigation of his own people, the Shipibo-Konibo and their history throughout Pucallpa. In the future, David hopes to create a historical book about his people, a library of images that could be accessible to all Indigenous youth, and to deepen his photographic research into other Indigenous communities throughout the Amazon.
“Over the years and during many visits to indigenous lands, we [Xapiri Ground] have documented these artistic and cultural traditions through the lens of our own cameras, doing our best as outsiders to honor the communities in the most respectable way possible. In 2022, we were able to organize three photographic workshops in the Peruvian Amazon, collaborating with indigenous youth and 'instant' cameras, to sow the seed of the importance of self-documentation and photographic expression in the communities of Shipetiari, Chachibai and Bena Jema.” Jack Wheeler / Founder
Jack, in his presentation, sighted examples of present-day Indigenous photographers, film-makers, and activists whose work represents their culture’s identity and realities. As well as some of Xapiri Ground’s own media from the field to further illustrate the power of storytelling through visual documentation. We believe that photography is an effective tool to tell history, document cultural practices, to counteract environmental issues, and to help defend the territorial rights of the Indigenous people.
“Historically, ethnographic documentation has always been carried out by foreigners or cultures outside the documented people. The evolution of technology and the possibility of acquiring more accessible equipment in recent decades have been subverting this logic and making self-documentation more possible.” Tui Anandi / Photographer
In speaking about technology, our work as an arts organization is to bridge knowledge gaps through these creative workshops that expose the youth to simple tools that can help shape their perception of the world and most importantly their own. For this, we hope to further carry out workshops in other communities introducing different photographic mediums.
“The idea of being able to inspire the youth with the intention that in the future someone from their culture or community can self-portray themselves, to document their reality, to defend their rights and importance to the global society is key.” Davis Torres / Photographer
To conclude the evening, I shared a little bit about the creative process which went into the edition of our first print publication; a labor which, in the end, is a permanent record of our collective experience amongst one another in each of these communities, we believe that the learning comes from both sides. Creating this book for me brought together aspects of art, anthropology and design that attends to the power of the images, hence the design was kept simple with brief text and simple graphics. We hope that this book and project can inspire the youth to continue exploring their visual language.
We are grateful to all the families whose children participated in this important study of self-documentation and it is with their permission that we are able to publish “INSTANTE”. All participants received an original copy of the book to keep as a testimony to their work and we plan to take the physical exhibition of INSTANTE to their communities in 2024. From this we hope to continue these self-documentation workshops by sharing different visual mediums and tools with talented photographers and artists willing to share their knowledge with the youth.
We’d like to thank David Díaz Gonzales for his drive and inspiration as one of Peru’s first Shipibo-Konibo professional photographers who spearheaded the first workshop with us in the community of Bena Jema with the Bari Wesna Intercultural Association. A special thank you to all the youth participants from Bena Jema, Shipetiari, and Chachibai, to Patricio Zanabria of SePerú for being our partner in the field of this and other projects with the Matsigenka, and to the workshop leaders Davis Torres, Jack Wheeler, and Tui Anandi for all their dedication in engaging the youth through these creative initiatives; art is power.
INSTANTE is available for purchase at our gallery in San Blas, Cusco, Peru. A percentage of all sales goes directly to each participant community to help fund future projects. For further inquiries, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org