We all knew Carlos Mejia Godoy as a singer and poet through the lyrics of his songs. Now he has introduced a new facet to his artistic life: painting. He says that he survives with painting more than with music in this his second exile, in “lean times.”
HAVANA TIMES – Carlos Mejia Godoy discovered painting in his life as a game. When signing autographs, he used to add a dove, sometimes a fish, moons, or volcanoes. They were traditional strokes without any defined technique. The last push for Mejia Godoy to become completely interested in painting was motivated by his wife, Xochilt Jimenez. “She encouraged me to learn while she was also practicing fantasy makeup.”
However, Godoy did not know that during the forced confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic he would be able to survive with this new passion. Although he has been only painting for a short time, he said that due to the environment in which artists live, which he described as “supportive,” he was able to place his first artisan works at affordable prices or used the strategy of raffling his works to be able to get a remuneration more in line with the effort, dedication, and love with which he paints.
Income from his songs is insufficient to live in California, USA, where he settled two years ago in his second exile. Platforms like Spotify, iTunes and YouTube generate about 500 dollars, although it is not much, he says that “it is better than nothing” and hopes that in the future this will increase.
He has not had an official school to learn this art in which he has become involved, but this has not been a hindrance to the artist. Thanks to a variety of information that exists on the web, the audiovisual YouTube platform has become his teacher.
“I didn’t know there were tutorials, even free ones, where they explain how to draw, how to make a face, a hand, different angles and so on,” he said. Mejia compares these virtual classes as being with an expert in the same physical space and accompanying you during your development as an apprentice.
The singer-songwriter’s first sketches were in black and white, because he asserted to have great respect for colors and did not want to experiment without knowledge about them.
“I started to get into colors when my family gave me a complete kit so that I started to loosen up. I started combining primitivism with some modern elements similar to impressionism. I also have experience with pointillism,” he added.
As a peculiarity, Godoy still keeps his most elaborate paintings because he cannot put a price on either the time or the feeling with which he makes them. During the last two years he was in a period of forced silence that he compensated with painting, but that was not an impediment for him to stop composing because, he says, “music is what keeps me alive.”
Around the age of six or seven, Godoy recalls having traced his firsts “sketches.” Due to the musical environment in which he was raised, he put aside his interest in drawing and painting at an early age to concentrate on music.
“I remember that once I was in school and I drew all the people of a family that lived in front of my house. It was a family with a diversity of faces. I did it in a very naïve way. A classmate snatched it and mocked me showing it to everyone and took it to the teacher. But it backfired on him. The teacher liked it and showed it publicly to the whole classroom asking for applause for me.” This is the first recollection of the artist’s paintings.
The main influence that this renowned singer-songwriter had were his brothers, Armando Mejia Godoy, a distinguished Nicaraguan painter who died in October 2021. He was an advisor of the Archeology and Plastic Arts and Popular Art of the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture.
Carlos was also influenced by his older brother, Chico Luis Mejia Godoy. He describes him as a born sketch artist characterized by clean and precise lines. His distinctive technique is the drawing-pen. Subsequently, the singer-songwriter recalls that his brother Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy started drawing approximately 12 years ago.
Carlos Mejia can be defined as a “three-in-one” artist, where the poet, the singer and recently painter cohabit. “Since I am a storyteller, I transitioned to the musical Carlos where poetry is integrated with the songwriter, and this Carlos painter is a compliment to the others because I sing, tell fables, and tell stories in my painting,” he recounts.
Art in exile
“With the pain of exile and having my Nicaragua so far away, and with my beloved little town so distant, I have chosen to fight this homesickness writing songs, but also painting about Somoto,” he stated.
This composer who has musicalized songs for the Sandinista Revolution was born in the municipality of Somoto some 80 years ago. This city is the departmental capital of Madriz. “Now that I am in exile, painting has served to feed my insatiable hunger for my homeland,” Godoy said.
It is impossible for Mejia Godoy to get rid of the umbilical cord that his hometown and Nicaragua represent, although in exile this has been a criticism of his art because he does not include other themes in his works.
“The beauty of it all is that I have focused on Nicaragua, which has always been my obsession and you see it in my musical works. I was never concerned about transcending borders, it was never my purpose, it was a fluke,” the artist related.
He makes a comparison between his two exiles, the first one during the Somoza dictatorship that lasted almost a year and a half. The international success of this a singer-songwriter came in 1978, so he had the opportunity to tour several countries in the world and it was a time of outpouring artistic creativity, recalled the singer-songwriter.
“We went everywhere, with a lot of success and reviews. We managed to make three international records: “El son de cada dia” (Our everyday son), “La nueva milpa” (The new corn harvest) and Monimbo, which included songs linked to the revolutionary struggle,” he narrated.
His second exile has become more complex because Carlos Mejia’s artistic activity has diminished. “It is another period, the lean season in terms of discography. I am not selling the number of records that I sold at that time from which I could live comfortably and due to the pandemic issue, and if it had not been for painting this exile would have been much harder, because this art has opened a world that I did not know and that complements my vocation as singer and storyteller,” he stated.
Carlos Mejia Godoy left Nicaragua on July 31, 2018, for San Jose, Costa Rica, because his life was in danger, and also stated that he would only return to the country when there were safe conditions.
During the first months of the 2018 sociopolitical crisis, Mejia Godoy had dedicated himself to composing songs and perform concerts at cultural events attended massively by thousands of demonstrators who raised their voice against the brutal repression of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship. This earned him a new exile.
Mejia Godoy believes it is important to be thankful for his long life. In six months, he will be 80 years old, being a lucid person who enjoys stable health. “I thank the Nicaraguan people for being so creative and dignified because the work of Nicaraguans is appreciated around the world,” asserted the Nicaraguan artist proudly.