October, 2011, Sisid-Anejo, Ecuador
Hola One andean All!
Greetings from the southern highlands of Ecuador in the province of Cañar! I´m here doing an artist-in-residency in the community of Sisid-Anejo (elev. around 11,000 ft., 3500 m) from June 14th until Feb. 25th. Sisid-Anejo is only about 3.5 kilometres from the famous Incan ruins of Ingapirca.
I was invited to Sisid-Anejo by Marcos, the owner of Chimborazo Restaurant (29th and Central Ave. in NE Minneapolis, if you´re in the area, stop in, say ¨hello¨ and enjoy some of his wonderful Ecuadorian cuisine). His family has been helping me out, cooking me wonderful meals, and teaching me about Cañari culture. I have done farm work with them, cutting grass for the cows and cuyes (guinea pigs), spreading abono de pollo (chicken manure), feeding the pigs, moving the cows from pasture to pasture and giving them water, and even milking the cows (I´m still learning!). Now I can say I´ve had a café con leche squeezed with my own hands.
The community here are really hard-working farmers who grow papas (potatoes), maize (corn), fava beans, peas, wheat, barley, quinoa, garlic, carrots, onions, and various other vegetables and medicinal herbs. They often are working on steep mountain-sides and use bulls with a wooden plow, though tractors are used as well. Being of Irish ancestry, I probably owe my very existence to the potato, the sustenance of my forebears (and Guiness, of course!). As much as the potato is associated with Ireland, its origens are from the Andes mountains. The potato here is included in practically every delicious meal and I´ve had the pleasure of eating several classes. Here are just a few spuds that are in these parts (for you potato connoisseurs our there!): Papa Chaucha, Papa Super Chola, Oca, Melloco, Papa Juvaleña, Papa Violeta, Papa Pata de Venado, Papa Bolona, Papa Esperanza. And let´s not forget Salchipapas!, the Ecuadorian french fry, ¨Mishqui!¨(Kichwa for ¨delicious¨).
I am SLOWLY learning Spanish and also a few phrases and words of the indigenous language, Kichwa (Quichua). Kichwa is spoken by many of the adults here, but some schools are switching from teaching Kichwa to teaching only Spanish and English. Sadly, some of the children are losing their Kichwa language abilities. ¿Alli lla chu kangui? is How are you? and to say ¨I´m fine¨, ¨Alli lla kash kani¨.
After being here for four months, I´ve already developed an addiction that I´m unwilling to control. Although I walk a lot, which is a healthy activity, I find myself unable to stop from picking up eucalyptus leaves. Often I return to my house with a handful of the odiferous fellows and place them in various groupings and piles. Their burgandy-wine reds and leathery browns have captivated me and like all addictions, it´s led me to other habits such as buying large amounts of hairspray and glycerin. As the red-laterite dirt had me under its spell in Adugyama, Ghana, these enchanting eucalyptus leaves will play a major role in the art installation I am creating in honor of the community of Sisid. My neighbors here probably watch me intently picking up these ubiquitous, non-edible vegetations and see it as just another sign that the U.S. empire is on the wane.
I see a large part of my work here is being a witness– a witness to this new environment, to the people and culture here, to my own cultural indoctrinations, and to all the interactions that take place in between. Much as I did in Adugyama, Ghana, I am creating an installation that reflects these interactions and my own attractions. The installation is in honor of this community, Sisid, but hopefully it also honors the larger community we call Earth, in all of its diversity and complexity.
In a way, I consider my work in these communities as a form of Social Scupture which was put forth and developed by the artist, Joseph Beuys (1921-1986). Art reflects human consciousness and is becoming more expansive and democratic. Although I still do traditional drawing and painting, I now consider most of my activities in terms of being a form of art. I also see how much art everyone possesses in their activities which are a part of their being, that they do with attentiveness (mindfulness) and do well. I see art in the incredible skill and work the farmers do here. In many ways, the same way farmers have been working here for centuries. While they make their work look easy and graceful, I´m just trying to hang in there and abide.
On the 17th, 18th, and 19th of February, we will be having a three day art exhibit and festival at the church/community center/hostal here in Sisid-Anejo. The community leaders want to include typical Cañari food, area musicians will be playing, and they will invite the media, poiticians, and other dignitaries. The exhibit will include my art, the children´s and student´s art, photocopies and photos of children´s art from Adugyama, Ghana, and various art from Ecuador and other countries. They are developing tourism here and have converted the former convent into a hostal where people can stay and learn about Cañari culture (their e-mail: email@example.com, Tel. 092879898). It´ a cool space.
Anyone who would like to donate an art work for this community ¨weaving¨ project is invited to do so! The art work just needs to be sent to me before February 1st, the sooner the better. I encourage children and classrooms to participate as well. I will document the exhibit and people will be able to see their work being shown here in Ecuador on my website. You can send whatever inspires you to share with this community: photos, prints, collages, drawings, paintings, CDs, DVDs, photocopies. I will make portfolios for your work and they will be kept in the community room in Sisid-Anejo. This room will become a community sharing room. Here is the address where you can send your art work (it just needs to be under 8 lbs).
Daniel Kerkhoff (Tel. 087659877)
Ecuador, South America
In May, 2012, I will also be curating two exhibitions in north Minneapolis. The children´s art and photos from Sisid-Anejo will be shown at Homewood Studios (www.homewoodstudios.com) and my art installation will be shown at The Warren: An Artist Habitat (www.thewarrenhabitat.com). Hopefully, I´ll see some of you there!
Here in Sisid-Anejo, I have a room that is used as a drop-in art center and a library. I brought about 150 children´s books in Spanish and English donated by my aunt Michelle and uncle Bob and Capstone Press. Thank you! Many thanks also to all my family and friends for their support, to Marcos and his family, and to the community of Sisid!
You can see photos of the community of Sisid, Ecuador, and my art at my new website, www.danielkerkhoff.com ,still a work-in-progress. Many thanks to Aleta Johansen for building the site for me. Anyone wishing her web services can contact her at: www.aletaworks.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Many of the families here in Sisid also have family in the United States, mainly in the cities of Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York. They can see photos of their loved ones here and what´s happening in the community.
Wishing you all a good view on this journey. Blessings to you all!
Ecuadorially Yours (J.G.V PTH),
Daniel Kerkhoff and Jude Rockfish
P.S. Those of you in the Cuenca area, I´ll be in a group show at Dos Mundos. The inauguración/reception is Thurs, Oct. 27th at 7pm. Dos Mundos, Av. Remigio Crespo 4-72 (Frente a Jaher). The exhibit will be up for two weeks.
P.P.S. If you´re wishing to impress your neighbor on the bus or at the coffeshop or bar, just turn to them and let them know that The Panama Hat really isn´t from Panama. It´s actually made in Ecuador, mostly on the coast and in Cuenca and surrounds. It´s called the sombrero de paja toquilla or the Montecristi. The name ¨Panama Hat¨ came to be popular because the Montecristi was worn by many of the workers building the canal.