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The Zapatista’s CompArte Art Festival in Images

First published by New Internationalist.

More than a thousand artists gathered in Chiapas, Mexico for an art festival for humanity. Ryan Mallett-Outtrim reports, in this photo essay.

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Mexican artist David Arias Dijard creates wooden action figures depicting folk heroes, such as deceased EZLN fighter Comandanta Ramona (L), Mexican 20th Century revolutionary Emiliano Zapata (C) and EZLN spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos (R). © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Over a thousand artists gathered in San Cristobal, Chiapas in July to attend the alternative art festival, CompArte for Humanity. Supported by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), the festival drew 1,445 artists from 45 different countries and from every continent. The aim of the festival was to promote art as a way to create dialogue across social movements, and as a form of social and political expression. Over the course of the week long festival, from 23 to 30 July, dozens of artists spoke out about the political, social and cultural messages of their art.

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Mexican graphic artist and print engraver Mario Martinez with his favourite work. ‘I did this one six years ago. For me, it’s special because it was from a visit to a Zapatista community.’ ‘I didn’t use a camera (to capture the image),’ he said. ‘Just my eyes.’ © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

‘The difference between print engraving and other forms of art is that it’s social … it’s not individualist; it must be a collective effort,’ Martinez explained. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

‘This is a work in opposition to (capitalist) destruction,’ explained artist Nadia Mandiejano. ‘It’s naturally a work of life,’ she said. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Work entitled ‘Las Compas’ (The Comrades) by the Lobo de Mar collective. It depicts women insurgents from the Syrian Kurdish YPJ militia (L), Spanish civil war-era anarchist labour union CNT-FAI (M), and Mexico’s EZLN (R). © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Banner by a solidarity brigade from Trinidad and Tobago, with activists Johanna-Rae Reyes (L) and Levi Gahman (R). The text reads: ‘Many colours, many stories, a common fight.’ Reyes said Trinidad and Tobago could learn a lot from the experience of the Zapatistas and other Mexican social movements. ‘In Trinidad, many people believe the electoral process is enough … and wouldn’t necessarily march in the streets. We need that courage,’ she said. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Mexican artist David Arias Dijard explained that ‘This is an indigenous woman, facing the problem of plastics, and things like Coca-Cola bottles, tires.’ She is being crushed from the other side by a pillar of television sets. He said the piece represented how indigenous communities across Mexico are being threatened by environmental destruction on the one hand, and cultural destruction on the other. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Italian artist Graziano Barbaro creates comics with social and political messages. ‘For example, in Europe right now there’s so much racism, fear and problems like fascism,’ he said. ‘The comic creators of conscience should tackle these issues.’ © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

US artist Nancy Guevara’s work depicted a child reading from the sling of their mother. She explained her technique involved using scrap pieces of material. ‘This is about making use of what you have. You can make art anywhere,’ she said. Guevara added, ‘to me, that’s a very US/Mexico border sensibility.’ © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Ana Zoebisch from Mexico city creates art with distinct feminist themes. ‘(This) is a homage to Zapatista women,’ she said. ‘I think under the Zapatistas, women have become empowered, and equal to men.’ © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

‘This is my favourite piece,’ Zoebisch said. ‘It’s like an Italian Madonna, and it represents respect for women.’ © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Artists affiliated with Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) created art using seeds. ‘This is about the recuperation of seeds, and to support social movements opposing the use of transgenics,’ said artist Maritania Andretta Risso (L). © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

© Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

‘Each piece takes about three days, and three shifts (to complete),’ she said. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

The CompArte festival was the first of its kind organized by the EZLN. Many of the artists that attended praised the conference for its organization and respect for artist autonomy. The Zapatistas are set to hold their next major public event in October, when they will invite both national and international guests to observe a festival marking the 20th anniversary of Mexico’s indigenous conference. More details available here.

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