Art by indigenous Paraguayans, including members of the Yshir community, was on display alongside works by British artists in an exhibition that opened at World Land Trust gallery, Halesworth, on 14 October 2013.
International conservation charity World Land Trust (WLT) has been carrying out urgent land purchase and protection work overseas since 1989. During that time, WLT Chief Executive, John Burton has amassed a wide collection of arts and crafts from many of the areas in which WLT has projects.
On a recent visit to Paraguay for a meeting with the Minister for the Environment, John acquired a number of eye catching drawings by indigenous artists. These drawing are created mostly with biro or felt pens.
The pictures are produced in the Chaco region by self-taught artists working within the Yshir culture, which has no written language. Naïve and often pictorial in style, some of the drawings are reminiscent of works produced by North American Indians in the 1860s, around the time of contact with the pioneer settlers. Others are highly stylised and decorative.
“The drawings are historically important,” explains John. “Until the last quarter of the 20th century, most of the communities had little contact with the rest of the world, and their art is largely uninfluenced by art teachers and methods. On my site visits to project areas over the years I have been captivated by local art and carvings and when I’m in Paraguay I always try to snatch a little time to visit communities and shops that sell direct.”
The works provide a wonderful visual expression of the landscape, flora and fauna of the region. With vast areas of grassland and lowland forest, thorn trees and impenetrable undergrowth, the Dry Chaco presents a hostile environment, but one that is home to an extraordinary range of species.
WLT has been supporting conservation in Paraguay for nearly a decade. During that time, the Trust has helped create three reserves covering very different habitats, one in the Dry Chaco, one in the Chaco-Pantanal, and one in the Atlantic Rainforest.
WLT also supports the management of three further protected areas covering more than 2.5 million acres in Northern Paraguay. WLT is currently working with Paraguay’s leading conservation organisation, Guyra Paraguay, and the Yshir community to jointly manage over 12,000 acres (4,745 hectares) of land for conservation and cultural protection.
The exhibition, entitled Local & Global: art from around the world, included work by British artists who have visited WLT’s overseas project areas. Steve Cale has recently returned to a visit to Guapi Assu in Brazil and Lesley Wood’s Jewel of the Forest was created on a trip to Ecuador. Martin Woodcock has visited Paraguay and worked in Guyra’s reserves. Bruce Pearson is a WLT Trustee and Mark Carwardine is a WLT Council member. Both have visited WLT project areas.
Noelle’s canvases show longhouses in Borneo painted on a visit to Malaysian Borneo. They are highly relevant to WLT’s work at present as the Trust recently launched the Borneo Rainforest Appeal: aiming to raise One Million pounds to protect habitat for Orang-utans in Malaysian Borneo.
The exhibition previewed on Sunday 13 October 2013 from noon to 2.30pm to mark the opening weekend of Halesworth Arts Festival.
The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. The exhibition closed on 15 November 2013.