2nd Floor Gallery
October 20 – November 18, 2016

Drought landscapes in the Colombian Alta Guajira region, built with water

«Arijuna, why are you taking pictures of these bones?” asked Antonio, my Wayuu guide, who spoke little Spanish and who I’d been traveling with for more than five hours by motorcycle in the deserts of Guajira from Punta Gallinas to Nazareth. “I’m not entirely sure, Antonio,” I replied, «…I guess because if we keep wasting water, we’ll be next after the animals”. The decision to build each of the photographs that make up this report from water was born from the need to educate the audience about the importance of preserving this vital resource, on which we depend directly to exist.

The Wüin («Water» in Wayuunaiki) project stems from a series of trips to the Colombian Alta Guajira region, in which I covered much of this province: Riohacha, Manaure, Uribia, Cabo de la Vela, Punta Gallinas, Taroa, Bahia Honda, Bahia Portete, Puerto Estrella and Nazareth, until the paradise known as the Macuira mountains. In some areas of the desert peninsula of La Guajira it has not rained for more than five years, mainly due to the “El Niño” phenomenon. The issue is heightened because of indiscriminate mining in the mountains and the high levels of corruption in the province and especially in the region of Uribia, where the theft of resources affects the most remote areas of the northern part of the province. The lack of roads, transportation, health centers, waste management facilities, sewerage, water supply, primary and secondary education, electricity and scarce renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power make the lack of drinking water just one more issue in a large chain of mistakes and failures affecting this area of the country.

The narrative of this report arises from certain representative elements of the ‘guajiro’ landscape, some of which are very explicit regarding the problem of the drought. The photographs show various elements like the desert, countless plastic bottles in the landscape, cracks, fissures, erosions, abandoned canoes, chichorros, carcasses of goats, donkeys, goats and turtles. The Wüin series does not feature people; I preferred to describe the problem without the human component, in order not to resort to the resource of subjects.

All photographs that make up the Wüin series are images manually built with the vital resource of water. The process involves transferring a digital photograph to an animal fat-based print on a metal foil. Later, landscapes or maps are constructed as a drawing with water. These images are the result of a visual report of my travels in the province of La Guajira.

Javier Vanegas



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