New York

Color Amazonia
August 14 - September 25, 2014.
Luis Echavarría Villegas Library Cultural Center.
Eafit University
Medellín, Colombia.
The Amazon is reached by pursuing fortune, in search of oblivion or by the attraction that the richness of its fauna and flora awakens. Susana Mejía Villa's motivation was the discovery of the pigments that make this world reserve of biodiversity a colorful lung that must be valued and preserved.

And it is that during the last seven years, this artist from Antioquia, accompanied by a group of friends, including biologists, anthropologists, photographers, videographers and sound artists, has prowled the Amazon in search of colors, those who treasure plants of exotic names and appearance.

With the help of the ancestral knowledge of indigenous communities, the group identified 11 botanical species and the alchemical processes that make it possible to use, in a traditional way, their pigments on natural fibers such as fique, cotton and paper.

These fibers, a herbarium and a nursery that gathers the plants used will be exhibited, starting this Thursday, August 14 at 7:30 p.m., at the EAFIT Arts Center, located in the Luis Echavarría Villegas Library Cultural Center.

Also as part of the Color Amazonia exhibition there will be a sound and video installation, and a book that reflects this search for color, the result of which is a wonderful experience for the senses.

For Susana, the protagonists of this project are plants. "The important thing is not only the dyes or the images that can be painted with their pigment, but the amazing ability they have to provide color and the magnificent biodiversity of a forest that is being forgotten."

Part of the long process that made this exhibition possible was to identify which were the most used plants in the Amazon. The chosen ones were Chontaduro, Bure, Huito, Huitillo, Achiote, Amacizo, Palo Brasil, Cudi, Chokanary and Llorón. They also included a non-native plant, but found in many of the areas visited: Turmeric, native to Asia.

The next stage consisted of reproducing the plants in a field near the city of Leticia (Amazonas) until having a small plantation of each species. This step was repeated later and with great difficulty in Medellín, until they managed to acclimate the plants. The colors come, in each case, from a different part of the plant: leaves, bark, roots, seeds, fruit rind. Each requires a different extraction technique and is used in a very different way as a tincture.

In the exhibition, which will run until September 25, the garden with the 11 botanical species will be shown for the first time. "The plants do not withstand a cold climate and it is not possible to take them out of the country to show them elsewhere, so in this exhibition in Medellín we will have the joy of being able to share them with the attendees," says the artist.

According to Juan Antonio Agudelo Vásquez, coordinator of the EAFIT Cultural Extension Area, Color Amazonia represents, in some way, the mission of the University by highlighting the respect that people should have for nature. It is an exhibition that, according to him, is unprecedented in Colombia and is a wake-up call to remember an Amazon that is being lost.

Wealth and oblivion

Color Amazonia is the memory of an elemental search in which color is a pretext to exalt the immense value of a jungle that has been disappearing with the passage of time. It is also an encounter between the essentials of human nature, which knows how to transform, and botanical nature, which provides endless possibilities.

In short, it is a project that combines ecology, geography, color, beauty of forms and, above all, the desire of an artist to remember a region that suffers not only from deterioration, but from oblivion.

“We wanted to find the most beautiful thing there to make a very subtle complaint. We needed to remind people that the Amazon still exists ”, Susana explains.

Everything that will be seen in the exhibition was handcrafted in a rustic workshop near Leticia. The indigenous people of the area played an indispensable role in Color Amazonia, since they were not only in charge of extracting the pigment from the plants, but also of sharing with the artist the ancestral secrets that allow the extraction of the wealth of the territory..

According to Juan Luis Mejía Arango, rector of EAFIT, "this exhibition is an example of the visual richness that Susana and the women of the Amazon extract from a flora in danger of disappearing."

Finally, the artist states that part of the joy she feels with this exhibition has to do with the fact that this type of project allows indigenous people to have a livelihood that comes from their own origins.