Color Amazonia
September 21 - October 19, 2013.
Flora ars+natura
Bogotá, Colombia.
Mejía and an interdisciplinary team of friends, which includes biologists, anthropologists, photographers, videographers, engravers, and sound artists, have been working on this project for more than seven years.

Trained as a plastic artist, Mejía has been interested in color, but also in the social function of art. With this motivation, she worked in the women's prison of Medellín organizing weaving workshops, in which the repetitive act of weaving encouraged conversation, constituting a moment of catharsis. Mejía wove a great deal of fique in this work with the inmates, which she kept as a catalyst for the dialogue experience. At the same time, she made trips to the Amazon with no other intention than to know this last frontier of civilization. In one of her trips, she met a woman who was dyeing natural fibers by hand, and she thought that the fabric she had as a product of the workshops in the prison could be dyed with these pigments. But traditional knowledge has been lost, because even in these remote areas all kinds of industrial garments arrive and it is easier to buy clothes made or buy cheap chemical dyes than to extract pigments from plants. Mejía has been recovering and documenting this knowledge through many years of work with the community. Part of her long process consisted in identifying which were the most used plants in the Amazon. They chose eleven species on which they concentrated their ethnobotanical effort: Chontaduro, Bure, Huito, Huitillo, Achiote, Amacizo, Palo Brasil, Cudi, Chokanary y Llorón. They included a non-native plant, but found in many of the areas visited: Cúrcuma, native to Asia. The next stage of the process consisted of reproducing the plants in a field near Leticia, Amazonas, until having a small plantation of each species. This process was repeated later and with great difficulty in Medellín until the plants were acclimatized. The colors come in each case from a different part of the plant: leaves, bark, roots, seeds, fruit peel. Each requires a different extraction technique, and is used in very different ways as a tincture.

For the exhibition at FLORA, we decided to show various phases of the process: the herbaria, lovingly made by Clemencia Villa, the artist's mother, in collaboration with the anthropologist Jairo Upegui, are arranged in plan filers, accompanied by papers impregnated with the pigment so that the public can establish a relationship between the plant and the color it produces. A series of eleven monotypes made by Ángela María Restrepo from the contact impression of each plant, show the formal structure of the leaves and stems. A wall of papers stained with two of the plants shows the variety of shades that the same pigment gives (we chose green, as it is a color that does not adhere easily to the fique).

We cover a large wall with the aforementioned skeins of fique, creating a wide palette of material and color, which allows us to appreciate them in all their beauty.

Mejía, however, does not claim this work as art, nor does she consider what is presented here as her work or as an installation; it's about giving visibility to the experience, and aesthetic loading is an unavoidable by-product. The exhibition is accompanied by a video, made by Esteban Uribe, which shows the dye extraction process in the Amazon, and a sound piece, conceived by Nicolás Wills, who mixed different jungle sounds. The latter is presented in the Audible Archive, a space in FLORA especially suitable for the public to have an adequate experience of sound art. Mejía and her team conceived a book, edited by Mesa editores, that narrates the experience, with texts by different writers that give context to this work. The book is illustrated with photographs by Jorge Montoya and Carlos Tobón.


Installation process