We aim to raise 6000€ to fund art workshops in the Lacandon Maya village of Nahá, and a subsequent exhibition of their work at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares in Coyoacan, Mexico City, from July 14th to August 21st. 2016.
Through this project we aim to :
1 - Stimulate learning through art
2 - Build capacity and infrastructure for the future of education in the village
3 - Build confidence in the children to foster favorable learning conditions
4 - Raise the profile of the needs of the children of Nahá
MEET THE CHILDREN OF NAHÁ, a tiny Mayan village in the Lacandon rainforest of Chiapas, in the south of Mexico.
Meet the children of Nahá through their art, and help them show their art in a major museum in Mexico City, the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares in Coyoacan.
The village of Nahá and the children
One of 3 Lacandon Maya communities in Chiapas, Southern Mexico, with a population of 250, Nahá is a neglected community, largely ignored by central government and suffers from a lack of basic services.
Nahá lies hidden deep in the Lacandon tropical rainforest at an altitude of 500 meters – where their Mayan ancestors settled seeking refuge from the Spanish invasion. They call themselves Hach Winik, which translates to True People (just as Inuit, for example). They hold belief in gods that have been born of flowers and that mediate their relations with the nature around them and what they make of it – a light and sustainable agriculture based on the milpa, crafts making, their wooden and palm-covered houses. They have retained this religion from their ancestors.
Nahá is surrounded with a very dense rainforest, which hosts the enormous looming ceiba trees, many kinds of orchids, a very rich fauna and flora. The Laguna de Nahá provides fish, sometimes hunters bring back a wild pig. Boys and men wear white tunics, their hair black and long. Girls and women have embroidered white tunics with great collections of seed necklaces. Today most people in Nahá wear their traditional costume some days, and other days more contemporary dress.
The village of Nahá, large fresque on cloth, 5,56 x 1,50 m., acrylic, 2005
Schooling and health care in Nahá
Although this description might make Nahá seem paradisaical, it is extremely isolated. Schooling of the children is irregular and health services usually require long and costly travel. Nahá needs to maintain a healthy relationship with the outside world in order to adapt to the changes that we are all experiencing. The school comprises two rooms in a prefab steel building, with windows on one side and wire-mesh openings on the other. It is not very comfortable when the rain is strong, or the weather is very hot. The children are divided in two groups, a younger one and an older one. They attend school in turns – half a day two days a week if and when there is a teacher.
The teachers, who speak only Spanish, are at the beginning of their careers, having to take a post that they have not chosen. They come to Nahá for a two or three days stay per week. The teacher accommodation in Nahá is of poor quality, obviously not what they expect with their level of education and their social expectations. They are not motivated in teaching children who would rather speak Mayan. No funds are available to train teachers to teach in Mayan.
A few children who want to pursue their education after primary school go to a neighboring village for secondary education when transport is available.
The Nahá's Children Art Workshops
Meeting with the Lacandon thirteen years ago through Na Bolom, Gill Eatherley conducted yearly workshops with the children. She exposed them to brushes, paint, crayons, pens, paper, cloth and other materials, just as she had done with children and adults in France and other countries.
She found out that the Lacandon children were immediately keen to paint and draw scenes of their village and forest surroundings which they love and appreciate. The themes of Mayan pyramids are often present as they identify with this lost civilization and visit the ruins with their parents in Palenque, Yaxchilan, Bonampak, where there is also a tradition of selling crafts to visitors.
They have time on their hands for the workshops, due to the lack of schooling. They have produced over 30 meters of large frescoes on cloth and paper, individual paintings self portraits, the booklets Story of Corn, Mayan Alphabet and Arrow Making, and a film about saving the rain forest.
A few pages from the ABC Maya booklet (30 pages)
These documents provide a way to preserve for future generations their evolution and how the world of Nahá has changed. The exceptional quality of the works urge us to present it to the public in Mexico City.
Así es Nahá, an exhibition of the art of the Nahá children in Mexico City
New artworks from the 2016 Nahá Children Workshops and a selection of works from previous workshops will be exhibited at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares in Coyoacan, Mexico City, from July 14th to August 21st. 2016.
This dedicated exhibition, 'Así es Nahá', meaning 'Such is Nahá', will contribute to establish a communication link between the far away children of a village deep in the rain forest and those of the big city 1000 km away. Nahá's children will be thrilled to have their work exhibited in a major Museum for the first time. Hopefully some of them will be able to travel to Mexico City to represent their community. During the course of the exhibition in Mexico City there will be daily workshops for visiting children to reflect on their own culture, ecology, environment and what is important and vital to them in the city.
The Casa Cultura
In 2003 the first workshop took place on the forest floor. After the community took interest in what was taking place, the old school building with asbestos roofing was made available. The traditional ceremonies taking place in the old Ceremonial Hut had become more and more infrequent with the arrival of the Evangelicals, and in 2006 it became the Casa Cultura, where the workshops would now take place. The earthen floor was improved a few years later with a concrete slab. The palm leaf thatch roof hung very low over the sides making it quite dark inside. There are still no windows – in the rainy season floods happen frequently. Last year after many thatchings of the roof, finally it became a tin roof. Now all is needed are benches and tables and lockable cupboards to keep materials safe.
Erica Yaquelin Cana Paco painting the map of Chiapas
As every year for the last thirteen years, Gill Eatherley will travel again from France to Chiapas and organize workshops for the children of Nahá. Additionally this year, there will be the preparations for the Así es Nahá exhibition and organizing workshops for the children visitors in Mexico City.
Gill is appealing to you to help raise funds towards this project and allow her to undertake this project, joining your efforts to her and other helpers.
Inescapable is the cost of travel to and accommodation in Mexico, and from Mexico City to Chiapas. The other costs are for a local assistant during the workshops who will be in a position to continue the workshops after Gill's departure, and for the materials to be used in the workshops. In this we include the refurbishment of the Casa Cultura work space, which will provide for the first time a permanent space for future workshops – and also as an exhibition space to share the outcome of the workshops with the families and inhabitants of Nahá, as well as with outside visitors. A primary goal of the project is to constitute a new body of work to be exhibited in Mexico City.
The existing collections of art from the Nahá workshops
These works have been exhibited in Copenhagen, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Paris, Moulins, Mantes la Jolie, Samois-sur-Seine …
A few of the postcards designed by the children of Nahá (a set of 9)
Issues to be addressed in the forthcoming workshops
A meeting will take place with the children of Nahá to find out what they wish the workshops to focus on. Following is an example of themes that could be addressed, some that are new, some a continuation of previous work. The theme of climate change has been present for several years already, as the village is preoccupied with the fate of the forest that surrounds it and gives it its subsistence :
· Nahá today – how Nahá has changed and is changing, what the future holds for Nahá
· Food and "junk food" – the children, out of boredom but also in search of new tastes consume large quantities of crisps and sweets, and also enjoy artificial soft drinks very much. This poses a health problem all across Chiapas and Mexico as the rates of obesity and diabetes are growing rapidly. There is the issue of the “Coca-Colización” of Mexico.
· Changes in clothing. In 2003, no boys and almost no men wore anything else than the traditional white tunic. Today, most of the younger boys prefer to wear trousers. How have girls changed their costume? Why do these changes take place?
· Drawing the school and the out buildings, showing their condition.
· The new products reaching Nahá from the outside generate large quantities of garbage. Is it collected and treated? Or just left about to be taken care of by the wind? What are the consequences of incinerating it? Can it be recycled ?
· What is the situation with emergency services? Is there a place for the doctor and/or the nurse to stay when they come? In which conditions? Is the new ambulance in working order, that arrived after a young boy died due to lack of communications, medical care and transport ?
· What is the state of the road linking Nahá to the nearest town? Drawing how and by whom the road is used.
· Ecological awareness – how is the Forest evolving, what is happening to it?
Through the workshops and the art works that come out of them, there is the hope to influence decision-makers and incite them to provide Nahá with consistent education, decent health-care and improved road access. Motivated schoolteachers should be provided with better lodgings.
The workshops during the exhibition in Mexico City aim to encourage city children to express their interpretation of their own culture and what is important to them and their hopes for their own future.
And further ...
If your generosity exceeds our goal, one of our primary ideas for the continuation of the project is the publication of a comprehensive book of the children of Nahá's art works to this date. The sale proceeds from this book would go towards materials for future workshops and educative projects in Nahá
A Slideshow of the workshops and life in Nahá