Mural depicts Tribe, spreads awareness

Photo By: Kristi Camara

Photo By: Kristi Camara

Edwive Seme / Contributing Writer

Snakes, plants, conquistadors and Indians lurked along the walls of the Graham Center Art Gallery at the Modesto Maidique Campus in an effort to spread awareness about the Yagua tribe of the Amazon.

The students of the Art and Art History School and the Honors College created a visual timeline of the history of the Yagua tribe and included vivid details of their natural habitat in the mural.

“With this mural, we expect to spread awareness and bring in more people to join,” said Miguel Saludes, a junior and fine arts major. “We need to make the government recognize the Yagua Indians.”

“When people see this mural, they’ll stop and ask questions about it,” said Alvaro Labanino, a senior and fine arts major.

The students of the Honors College Amazon program, led by faculty fellow, Jim Riach of the Department of Environmental Studies and the Honors College and Dr. Devon Graham, an adjunct professor in the Honors College, go to the Peruvian Amazon every year to help out the Yagua people in any way they can, trying to keep their culture alive.

“The kids don’t really know their history because it’s not being taught as much as it should in the tribe,” said Riach, who fears that their history might be lost if something is not done to record it.

The annual project began in 2008, when Riach received approval to take a group of students to the Amazon to help the Yagua tribe.

“We do many different things for them every year,” said Riach. “The first year we built a water prototype filtration system, and helped in the education of music to the children.”

The group also recorded the wife of the tribe leader, who is now deceased, singing. With their contribution, they expect to keep the Yagua’s tradition and culture present so it does not fade away.

“One of the problems that they currently face is the increasing loss of their identity,” said Labanino.

Every year, the students have kept photo-documentaries of the habitat and the Yagua people.

However, this year they decided to do things different and instead of photos, the honor students who went on the trip discussed the idea for the mural idea with the art students on campus.

“The honors students shared what they experienced with the art students and in the process we all learned something new, even I learned something new,” said Gretchen Scharnagl, an adjunct professor at the School of Art and Art History.

The time line depicts the origin of the Yagua tribe, who believe that men originated from the Lupuna tree and take advantage of the medicinal properties of plants, from their mystical origins to the present, as well as their problems with the colonization of their homeland, lack of health care and lack of legal recognition.

Kaitlin Simmons, a senior and art major, also redrew the cartoon character Shamango which was created by Choclote Jaime.

Named after a medicinal plant, Shamango is a superhero that fights against the injustice of the Peruvian government. Since the subject of the comic is controversial, Jaime has had difficulties publishing it.

“Choclote Jaime gives the kids their own superhero that they can relate to,” said Simmons. “And he also brings hope that someday things will change for the best.”

The mural will remain on exhibit in the GC Art Gallery until Oct. 14.

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