From January 2006 I am spending 9 months working on a voluntary art project for the Artcorps in Guatemala. I am working for Fundación Riecken, an NGO who are constructing libraries in Honduras and Guatemala. I will be artist-in-residence at libraries in Chiché and Zacualpa, in the Quiché region of Guatemala. I also plan to do a little travelling along the way...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Leaving Chichè

Like all good things, my residency in Chiché had to come to an end. My final month was by far the most rewarding, both in terms of work and socially. Ironically after being away for so long, I got back and everything just fell into place. I never felt happier in Chiché than all throughout September. Originally I had decided to extend my residency until Christmas in order to see my main project, the sculpture garden, through to the end. What a delusion! The town council has still not decided on the final budget, let alone started construction! I clung on to the hope in naïve faith that somehow it would still happen and even found myself planning many variants on staying longer and/or coming back to realize it. It wasn`t until one month before I was due to terminate my post that the reality hit: this is Guatemala, where construction projects and workers are even less reliable than normal! Mix that with a local town council in a country where the authorities are famously corrupt and all too often finance destined for great things ends up lining the pockets of those in control. In short, a government funded project is never going to be a very sure thing. I graciously gave in, which meant that all of a sudden and all too soon the end was looming unexpectedly!

I crammed a lot into the last month; first the independence day parade and then a stained glass project with women in two libraries; Chichè and Zacualpa. Ever since marvelling at the abundance of stained glass made with papier maché in Aaculuux, a beautiful arty hotel on the lake of Atitlan (see pics under blog entry “the most beautiful lake in the world” in Feb), I had been collecting glass to try the technique out. I am not convinced that stained glass windows held together with paper would last in rainy Britain, but here miraculously it seems to. So we had fun although the difference in attitude between the two groups was interesting. In Chiché they were ready to try anything, attempting to cut glass with very substandard tools, whereas in Zacualpa the women were almost afraid of the glass, and I was kept busy cutting. The women in Zacualpa were so lovely and I left with several offers to come and stay and also with the complete Zacualpa traje; ceremonial headdress and all!

Leaving Chiché happened in rather a frenzy, as I had received a proposal from the library committee to come back in December to create the set for the Christmas show. Every year the council pays handsomely for this job and the library wanted the funds to give grants to children who cannot afford to go to school. With such a worthy cause, of course I accepted gladly, and had been planning to return in October to kick-start the project, and then again in December to construct it. So I did not feel as if was really leaving, knowing that I would be back so soon. One hour before I was due to leave, Alba revealed that the council had cut the budget and it was no longer worth their while taking the job on as it would not provide the funds they need. In an instant I realised how much being in Chiché has meant to me, as all of a sudden I was really leaving, with almost no warning! Luckily, I had had a leaving party in my house the previous weekend, when I ordered a crate full of tamales (potato and corn patties wrapped in leaves – delicious!) and a huge cake and surprised everyone by dressing up in my Sacapulas traje (which is pretty flamboyant).

My last night, I was determined to learn how to put on the Nebaj headdress, having bought several components of the traje when I was there. So I went to visit a woman from Nebaj who lives in Chiché and she, with her four daughters milling around, dressed me in the complete costume, which is very elegant. She insisted I kept it on, so I walked around Chiché by night, saying goodbye to several families, dressed like a Nebajense, which was a laugh and certainly caused a stir!
In any case, I plan to spend Christmas in Chichè and perhaps do some Christmas workshops in the Quichè libraries. Chichè`s fiesta is directly after Christmas, and as I have been assured countless times by everyone in the village that it is unmissable, I feel I should be there, so I will be back…


At 7:43 pm, Blogger Martin said...

So, where are the pics of you all dressed up in yer traje? And will you be sporting the same in London any time?


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