In November 2021, I painted water in many of its facets on a 12-meter-long wall along the public wash basin in Vista Hermosa, a neighbourhood in the town of Jocotenango, Guatemala. The young people who set it up and helped paint, are members of Urban HeART, a grassroots initiative to make their neighbourhood more liveable through cultural activities. The transformation is clearly visible after two years and the area has become considerably nicer and safer, not only because the neighbourhood looks more cheerful, but also because people are more united, are now proud of their community and keep the streets much cleaner.Nevertheless, the living situation is still difficult and sometimes even dangerous. A second mural had to be postponed. First because of COVID, then because of serious death threats towards people in the community. Tragically, the brother of one of the Urban HeART leaders was killed and a week later another (ex) member. The night before we started painting, two brothers aged 14 and 18 were shot dead when leaving the local cinema. (These deaths are unrelated to the mural initiative. But unfortunately, this is the reality children and adolescents in this community have to face every day.)But the kids from Urban HeART don't give up and still believe in art as an alternative to a future full of drugs, gangs and violence. And that's why we just keep painting!
This time around, we painted the side wall of the pila or public washing area. Although not very big (4 x 5 meter), It was a tough wall to deal with, made of adobe, quite deteriorated and with lots of damage. It had to plastered first, then primed, to be followed by a base colour. I painted two giant water birds (egrets), based on ancient illustrations from ancient Maya codices. My colleagues painted the background, combining spray paint with brush work. I varnished the birds, but not the background, so the difference between shiny and matte background helps the optical solution of seeing reflection on the water. (Unfortunately, hard to see on the photos.)And while prepping the wall, I touched up the big mural there where it was somewhat damaged by moisture. Now everything looks like new again, just in time for the opening of the new soccer field right across the street. A little bit of colour can make a big difference!
This mural was made in collaboration with Urban HeART and sponsored by Dutch Foundation Colour4Kids.