Besides beautifying the surroundings, murals are usually painted in public spaces and thus make art free and available to the entire community. Murals can be educational or informative and even break social, cultural or political barriers. The community is always involved in the process, regardless people’s talent, skill or experience. A mural can help define the cultural identity of a community and create community ownership. It can even become a landmark in the community, inspiring and attracting more artists or visitors.
Although Guatemala counts with many ancient constructions dating from the Pre-Columbian Maya era and Colonial times, much more common are the recently cheaply built cinder-block walls that stand in strong contrast to the colourful and intricate designs of the traditional Maya clothing. But while many people still dress traditionally, the younger generation more and more prefers skinny jeans and caps over their ancestors’ tradition and hand-woven clothing. Even in a country where national pride is so strong, cultural identity is fading quickly.
Already a tradition in the time of the ancient Maya, a mural is a shared creation that unifies people, not to speak of the message a mural often communicates, being it an expression of cultural identity or a more explicit message about human rights or the protection of the environment. Murals are relatively cheap and easy to create but have a widespread and long-lasting effect on the community. Murals don’t make peoples less hungry or sick, but they do feed a sense of community and cure in a certain way the low self-esteem so many people in poor rural areas suffer from.
|Mural and its artists in Ostua, Cobán (Guatemala)|