Puerto Maldonado, Oct 8 (EFE).- Through painting, Peruvian artist Yesica Patiachi has made it her mission to keep her people alive.
The Harakbut is an indigenous community from the Peruvian Amazon near the Brazilian border who were at risk of being extinct during the rubber boom in the 20th century.
“We are survivors of the rubber boom. We have been practically cornered away and if we do nothing we could be one of the people who disappear,” she tells Efe.
The artist wants to preserve her ancestors’ heritage and save her people by making her culture visible to the world.
Using acrylic paint and natural dyes, Patiachi depicts the Harakbut worldview and role of women in the community, deeply rooted in nature.
“My people have always used body paint as clothing to enter the forest, because it is synonymous with respect. It’s in their genes,” she says.
For the 34-year-old, art is a form of protest to demand recognition and protection of her people.
The rubber boom in Peru (1885-1915) was driven by the high demand in the European industry for the manufacture of tires, hoses and footwear among others.
The Amazonian indigenous populations in the region were dragged into the extraction of latex in conditions that bordered slavery and led to the death of thousands of people.
The ministry of culture estimated only some 1,740 people are left of the Harakbut people after some 90% of them were killed or died of disease during that period. EFE