Monday, May 28, 2012

Guatemalan Painter Manuel Reanda

Manuel Reanda is a self -taught Tzutujil painter who lives in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.  Manuel was born in 1948 and, though he was orphaned at six years of age, he had already begun drawing on the walls of his home with pieces of charcoal each day before going to school.

Manuel committed himself to a lifelong pursuit after finishing elementary school.  During this formative period of his life, he apprenticed for five years under the city's first "master" painter, Juan Sisay.  As an adult he studied mural painting in Mexico City with Juan O’Gorman, a student of the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.  In the years since, he has passed on his knowledge of painting to many students of various ages.

Manuel's artistic subjects include portraits, customs, reliefs, traditions, flowers, still lifes, landscapes (real or imaginary) and commissions.

Manuel states that his parents were "gospel pioneers in Santiago and I was blessed to be born in a Christian home."  Some of his paintings reflect his deep evangelical faith.  The Lord’s Supper or The Apostles of the Lake is typical of his style, depicting traditional Guatemalan dress and surroundings (a second version of this painting can be seen here).  Professor and author Dr. Edgar Cajas writes:

Every Indian village around Atitlan Lake bears the name of one of the apostles. When the Spaniards colonized Guatemala they added Christian names to Indian villages, for example, Santiago-Atitlan, San Lucas-Toliman, San Pedro-La Laguna, San Andres-Semetabaj, etc...  Jesus is painted as a local, wearing the native costume of Manuel’s native town: Santiago Atitlan. 
His purpose for this painting was to convey a visual message to his own people. He wanted to show that the apostles were ordinary people like the peasants from Santiago. 
Manuel describes this painting in the following terms: 
“..In the background we see a sunset at the lake, each apostle has a native costume of the 12 Indian villages around the lake. On the table there is a typical shawl worn by women from Santiago, and represents the feminine presence in the life of Jesus….” 
“…when Jesus came to this world, he was born from a woman, that’s why I think it is important to show the presence of the woman in the painting. The colors in the shawl represent the blood (red) and  death (black).According to the bible the apostles were humble men, without academic studies, they were plain workers, exactly like our Indian people. That was the reason I painted work tools used by our Indian peasants on the walls in the painting: azadon (grub hoe) machete, morral (a typical bag) and tecomates (gourds used by Indians to keep cool water).” 
The main message of the panting, according to Manuel is that Jesus loves the indigenous people of Guatemala and that’s why Christians love Jesus as well.

Another of Manuel's religious paintings is El Sacrificio del Atitlaneco (The sacrifice of the man from Atitlan).  Christ is shown wearing the traditional men’s costume of Santiago Atitlan.  Daily village scenes are depicted in the background on the cross.

Manuel has won a variety of art competitions, and has been published in UNESCO’s Arte Naive.  His work has exhibited work in Latin America, Europe and Australia.  Manuel has been interviewed by local and international TV channels.

Manuel hopes to disseminate the rich culture and traditions of his Tzutujil heritage and share his Christian faith through his paintings.  In the photo at the beginning of this post, Manuel poses with his wife Dolores Sapalu de Reanda in their garden.  Dolores Sapalu is one of Guatemala's finest living weavers and wove the clothing that each of them wear.

For more examples of paintings by other Tzutujil artists, click here.  And a special thanks to Dr. Edgar Cajas for the information that he provided for this post.

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