Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nicaragua: In the Solentinames, a Photo Project Captures Children's Views

A selfie from "Miradas de Solentiname." 
  In 2012 I visited the Solentiname Islands in Lake Nicaragua, the body of water that is part of a just-announced plan for a Chinese-built Atlantic-to-Pacific canal across Nicaragua.  I wrote an article for The New York Times about the islands that you can read by clicking HERE.
         Much of my article dealt with the islands’ artistic output – balsa-wood carvings and primitivist paintings – which began in the 1960s under the direction Ernesto Cardenal, a poet and Roman Catholic priest whose landmark book, “The Gospel in Solentiname,” reveals an approach to the scriptures similar to that of the current compassionate pope (and a world away from that of most American bishops).
        Now Cardenal, who lives in retirement in Managua, is helping to promote a new art form on the islands, photography, by writing a prologue  to the book “Miradas de Solentiname” (“Solentiname Reflected”), produced by Tiago Genoveze.   Tiago, a Brazilian, moved to the Solentinames in 2010 to teach digital photography to island children and teens. They took more than 60,000 photos, some of which are in the book.  The book and a website (click HERE for the website) were made possible by a grant from Hivos’ Actors for Change Program (click HERE for its website).
A Lake Nicaragua water taxi, from "Miradas de Solentiname." 

       Tiago is looking for help in publicizing this project – which depicts the way the islands are now, before a Chinese company starts construction on a needless canal to compete with the one in Panama (click HERE for my posting on the Panama Canal).  The proposed canal would undoubtedly change, in a bad way, the ecology of these islands and the lives of islanders. Click HERE for some of the reasons this canal is a very bad idea.
      Ernesto Cardenal writes in the book’s prologue: “These pictures … compose a collective panorama of the archipelago as seen from within. The children with cameras in hand were like mirrors of their own reality, in which reality there are surely few mirrors, often small and stowed away, within the poor houses. The kids were itinerant mirrors, says Tiago. They took pictures everywhere they went and showed them to everyone who happened to be nearby.”
        The book, in Spanish or English, can be downloaded for free as a PDF file directly from the website (click HERE).  A thousand copies were printed in Nicaragua, all of which are being distributed for free among workshop participants in Solentiname as well as artists, educators, social activists, and NGOs that work with children across Central America. Tiago hopes that the free distribution will encourage artists and educators to use the book as a teaching tool.  Everything has been published with a common license that allows anyone to share the work as long as it is not being sold commercially. 
              Please pass along information about this project to anyone interested in Central America and Nicaragua in particular.