Interview with Amazonian artist Miguel Vilca Vargas

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Can you briefly discuss your background? Where you were born and what your childhood was like? Where did you study art and learn about composition? What are your artistic inspirations?

Arequipa is my birth home and where I studied art at the ‘Carlos School of Fine Arts – Belles De Artes,’ which offered an academic education. My influences include so many artists, it’s really difficult for me to say specifically who or what artist has nourished me the most. The Amazon theme plays an important role in my work and career, as I live here. My work is personal from a social and realistic point of view. Although it may not seem so, they are opinions, criticisms, to show unrealistic realities.

The recurrence of the female figure in your meticulous drawings catches our attention. Can you tell us a little about what these Amazonian women represent and what are the stories behind them?

The feminine element in my work normally acts as an accomplice, a witness, a person who becomes part of a story, or just an observer of an act or a situation, that I try to narrate. The majority of my work talks about my interpretation of different religious and social aspects, also different aspects related to Amazon life.

Title – The temptation of Magdelena Cumapa

What is your opinion about the social and religious problems inside the indigenous communities?

I think the main problem is that we are not yet capable of understanding how we can respect these cultures. Many times we try to appropriate or try to impose certain criteria. The problem seems to me that we lack understanding and we also lack the answers for these communities, towards this type of situation. We are unable to understand completely their situation. That they have their own customs, their own way of doing things and live in their own world – this is the main problem.

Title – The vision of Magdelena Cumapa

How can we protect indigenous customs from change and outside influences?

Considering the traditional customs in indigenous communities of today – artisanal craft, way of life, especially the language; Which still exists in many of these communities, as they haven’t lost their language nor their traditional customs but let’s also say it’s not something pure anymore. You can see how everything is subject to the current environment. There are a lot of external influences, which have affected and become part of these kinds of cultural traditions. A new element is introduced and then something disappears, nothing is pure anymore, so the people have become open to change.

Title – In the wind

Tell us a little about your interaction with native communities?

I have lived in the city of Pucallpa for several years, interaction with indigenous people is inevitable. It is common to see artisans selling goods in the city due to the high income it can generate. So, I have a friendly relationship with certain artisans from the communities. At one moment I was really interested in the Shamanic question, which I see as part of the evolution to where I am now. The influence of these interactions is more about being able to see from a different perspective and try to understand their situation. I don’t have the desire to live as they do, be part of their culture, or involve myself directly. They have their own structure and at the same time, I have my own way of seeing things – which we can both access and share.

Can you talk a little about the concept behind the series of drawings ‘One Night Shaman?’ What do they signify for you and what are you trying to transmit through these images?

‘One Night Shaman’ evokes and talks about where we are at now, in the area of new-age Shamanism and how we interpret things in a modern-day scenario. I talked before about external influences. It’s my opinion that Amazonian Shamanism is filled with other ways to do Shamanism. Now, there are Amazonian Shamans that travel to other cities to work and are influenced by new ways of working. So you find Amazonian Shamans or Andean Shamans mixing customs. This work speaks of three types of Shaman and the irony that three types of healers all offer salvation.

Series – One-night Shaman

Inspired by the work of Spanish Realist ‘Francisco Zuberan’ and the painting ‘San Francisco de Asís’ and by the work of ceramicist ‘Francisco Lazo’ his piece ‘Indio Alfarero.’ Depicting a Shipibo naked life model. The composition of the hands and the position, express an idea. The work is also inspired by a song called ‘Flower of One Night,’ which talks about a flower that only appears for one night.

Series – one-night Shaman

The work expresses the irony of two different types of healing; One form is where the body heals through sweat and enjoyment, without the promise of any other thing; Another form could be a magic ceremony situated in the jungle, with a Shaman who heals in a traditional spiritual ceremony, opposed to the woman who evokes a more sensual ceremony of a different kind, which could also be a form of healing. So ‘One Night Shaman’ is an ironic piece about the contradictory types of healing.

Series – one-night shaman

Can you tell us about your drawing ‘Look Freedom?’

It’s a piece that I created during the quarantine, an opinion about what is happening in some of the communities, in the manner of self-confinement. Certain indigenous groups are returning to the rural jungle areas, the jungle has become a security guard. Then it’s an opinion that is always charged with double meanings. To say, what can be ‘Freedom?’

Title – Look Freedom

How do you see that the quarantine Covid 19 is effecting and changing your community, in the sense that the people are returning to the farm because of the pandemic?

There isn’t an alternative but to return to the origin, return to the house where we are more secure and we can live freely. Because of this situation, the city doesn’t offer this type of protection. So, it’s the only way to cope with this situation.

What are the problems most important and significant around the issue of the pandemic, have you noticed any positive effect of the fact the people are leaving the city?

The problems are yet again brought out in this situation. The lousy management of the authorities and the terrible corruption that we live in. There are very visible examples of these types of acts and the oblivion that most vulnerable areas especially here in the indigenous Amazon communities seem to be most affected. This is the reason why the people are returning to their place of origin, as the jungle provides solutions and is one of the safest routes. So, about what is positive – I’m not so romantic, to say that this return is a product of a kind of reunion because there has always been that. The jungle was never so far away. I think it’s more a forced immediate exit from a dangerous situation.

Do you think the people have realized, in a certain way that the rural areas and nature are a safer place to face this disease? At least they have nature to produce, get food and resources, now the city is closed.

Yes, of course, it’s certain the jungle provides everything that we need. The best way to protect ourselves is to return back. The majority of the people from the city are returning to natural plant remedies and medicine. So this is the positive aspect of the situation. It’s not so urgent at this time, the question of food and survival but it seems to me it’s just beginning. I hope it doesn’t get to the place, where the virus gets worse and becomes too dangerous in some areas.

Title Ear

Miguel, thank you so much for this interview and for sharing your vision and work with us, and for making such a powerful and beautiful interview that illuminates us and brings us a little closer to the imagery of the Amazon.

I just want to say thank you to Trina Brammah and Mathias Michelson for your time and patience, for this interview and conversation. Thank you for trying to help the artists so that people can know more about us. You can follow me on Facebook: Miguel Vilca Vargas

Title – Arkaneame

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