Photo story: the Zapatista’s CompArte art festival

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Photo story: the Zapatista’s CompArte art festival

More than a thousand artists went to Chiapas in Mexico for an art festival for humanity. By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim.


Mexican artist David Arias Dijard makes wooden folk heroes eg.EZLN fighter Comandanta Ramona (L), Mexican 20th Century revolutionary Emiliano Zapata (C) and EZLN spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos (R). © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

1445 artists from 45 different countries went to San Cristobal, Chiapas in July for the alternative art festival, CompArte for Humanity. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) supported the festival. The festival was trying to get art to help people from different social movement to speak, and as a form of social and political expression. As part of the festival, 23 to 30 July, many artists talked about the political, social and cultural messages of their art.


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


‘Print engraving is different from other forms of art because it's social … people have to work together to create it,’ Martinez explained. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim


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


Work called ‘Las Compas’ (The Comrades) by the Lobo de Mar group. It shows women from the Syrian Kurdish YPJ militia (L), anarchist labour union CNT-FAI from the time of the Spanish civil war (M), and Mexico's EZLN (R). © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim


Banner by a solidarity group from Trinidad and Tobago, with activists Johanna-Rae Reyes (L) and Levi Gahman (R). It says: ‘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 elections are enough … and would probably not march in the streets. We need that courage,’ she said. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim


Mexican artist David Arias Dijard explained that ‘This is an indigenous woman, with the problem of plastics, and things like Coca-Cola bottles and tires.’ A pile of television sets is crushing her. He said this work shows how 2 things are threatening the indigenous communities in Mexico: environmental destruction, and cultural destruction. © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim


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


US artist Nancy Guevara's work shows a child reading from the sling of its mother. She uses scrap pieces of material. ‘This is about making use of what you have. You can make art anywhere,’ she said. Guevara added, ‘like on the US/Mexico border.’ © Ryan Mallett-Outtrim


Ana Zoebisch from Mexico city creates art with clear feminist themes. ‘(This) is for the Zapatista women,’ she said. ‘I think under the Zapatistas, women have become empowered, and equal to men.’ © 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


Artists working with Brazil's Landless Workers' Movement (MST) created art from seeds to support social movements that fight against the use of transgenics,’ said artist Maritania Andretta Risso (L). © 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 like this organized by the EZLN. Many of the artists there said the conference was organized well and respected artist autonomy. The Zapatistas will have their next big public event in October, when they will invite national and international guests to a festival for the 20th anniversary of Mexico’s indigenous conference.

Ryan Mallett-Outtrim is an Australian journalist working in Mexico. For more of his work

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