Residency hosted by Mr. Harry Long


Hola, my name is Onajide Shabaka. I’m an visual artist, writer and curator. My art practice is taking a short journey by walking, predominantly in the rural environment. While walking, which is a performative, time-based art act, I may take one or several photographs. I may pick up a small object or a cluster of “weeds” that I also may photograph in the studio that may remain in photographic form, be transformed into a drawing or sculpture. These natural objects, and location are often the beginning point of further visual and academic research.

Since my interests are in the ethnobotanical, geological and the archeological, that means the study of human impact on the planet, socially and historically over time, being able to get away from the current built human environment is important to my art practice. Thankfully, I was able to travel to Cañada de la Virgen for a first hand experience and also put me into the prehispanic, precolombian environment.

My time in San Miguel de Allende has given me the opportunity to experience a sense of the colonial architecture and locale, although the rural walking had been very limited until my final few days with visits to the archeological site of Cañada de la Virgen and El Charco Ingenio (the local nature preserve, privately owned). I walked the streets far and wide and found visual clues from which to work both amongst the living people and the colonial past and its architecture.

While in residency I tried to bring some notion of San Miguel into my pieces without making clichéd art work. I do not do “native scenes” or “folkloric art,” both of which dominated the local galleries. I use a limited palette that raises the notion of indigenous color sources (which I found and used) that are similar in human cultures worldwide: black, red, yellow, white and once in a while some other color. As was also noted at Cañada de la Virgen, those colors related to both spiritual and political notions among the local ancients.

Over the past number of years I have been working within a  self prescribed set of symbols or icons as low relief cruciforms, and columns or tower like structures. These self prescribed “monuments” reflect an honoring of the past in the present and had focused on the two above mentioned forms: cruciform and column. I had not expected to continue working with those forms specifically in Mexico, but things happen unexpectedly. I spent a good deal of time in the library, just as I do at home, researching Guanajuato local history, and prehistory, reading what I could find on geology and archeology. I came across a indigenous “painting” of a ceremonial cruciform that was very much like the ones I had been doing and reconfirmed my commitment and direction of my art practice. In the end, I perchance developed a “locally derived” columnar form that I have folded into that set of structures (cruciforms and columns) that I call “Torres de Guanajuato,” “towers of Guanajuato”. Again, these new forms are ways to brings into the present conversation on notions of precolonial cultures, archeology, ethnobotany, geology, and how a walking based art practice intersects with those notions. I should also add that the experience at Cañada de la Virgen provided me with some very useful information in the area of archeoastronomy which I had already been researching for a 2015 artist residency in the Florida Everglades.

Thank you for allowing me a few minutes to offer some of the notions behind the art works presented here today.

(CLICK HERE FOR RESIDENCY ARTWORKS: “Torres de Guanajuato” then locate images at the top of the grid)

[Presentation: 29 October, 2014, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico]