Sunday, 6 September 2009

Peru: Edilberto Jiménez

I tend to write about photographers in preference to other types of artists. It's what I know. But I'm going to make an exception for Edilberto Jiménez, known principally as a retablista*, whose drawings of Ayacucho are some of the most moving I have ever seen [full disclaimer: I have met Jiménez, but only briefly].

His book Chungui: Violencia y trazos de memoria, which I have in the first edition, has now been reissued in a corrected and extended version. It's a combination of reproductions of his drawings and testimonies of local people from Chungui about their experiences at the hands of both Shining Path and the armed forces. Warning: it's strong stuff. In the region of Chungui, an estimated 1,300 people died in 1983-84 alone. Top academic on Sendero, Carlos Ivan Degregori, notes that if this proportion of the population was transferred to Lima, it would be the equivalent of wiping out the entire districts of La Molina, Miraflores, San Isidro, Surco, Surquillo, Villa María del Triunfo and Villa El Salvador (source of states and image above, this article).

Correspondingly, the book contains details of truly nightmarish proportions. The images shown here are by no means the most explicit. The simplicity of the black and white drawings only serves to highlight the horrors they depict, just as the direct, understated nature of the testimonies accentuates their contents. Photographs are fascinating documents, but for obvious reasons, there are no photographs of Sendero massacres actually taking place; this artwork is a different way of expressing memory, but one which can have a truly important connection to emotion.

More information on the book and images here.

* A retablo is a box with modelled figures inside, often of religious or everyday scenes. In recent years some examples have included scenes of the violence of past decades.

No comments: