By Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES — As part of the activities organized for the “Year of Photography”, Havana’s Casa de las Americas is treating us to a new and highly interesting temporary exhibition. Titled Los primeros padres: Imágenes de la America indígena en el siglo XX (“First Nations: Images of Indigenous America in the 20th Century”), it is composed of pieces belonging to the Haydee Santamaria Latin American Art Collection.
The photos (the majority of which are in black and white) show anonymous individuals (often ignored by the mass media) as well as peculiar and unfamiliar scenes in different corners of Latin America: Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru.
Here, we come across moving images like those captured by Frida Hartz, where women with their faces covered speak to us of the struggle of the Zapatistas, a piece by photo journalist Nereo Lopez, where we see a Colombian mother carrying her child questioning the camera, and a photograph by Graiela Iturbide, showing a little girl from Juchitan holding a puppy dog in her arms.
An important part of the exhibition is dedicated to Martin Chambi (1891-1973), considered by many to be the first indigenous (and pro-indigenous) photographer.
Chambi directed his lens towards people with features that differ from those that are commonly portrayed by painters and photographers, capturing everything from local musicians, through processions, Andean panoramas, festive days and the city of Machu Picchu to a derelict alley in Cusco, Peru.
In addition, Chambi did not leave his subjects in their natural surroundings. He opened the doors of his studio to them, a place traditionally reserved for the middle or upper classes.
His works are recognized as an unflinching social and ethnic chronicle, and Chambi is remembered as a man who gave indigenous people a voice through his photographs.
These works will be on display at the Casa de las Americas’ Galeria Latinoamericana (located on 3rd and G St., Vedado, Havana), until December, affording locals and visitors a magnificent opportunity to get to know part of our continent through captivating photographs.
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