Indigenous International: Green Architecture Project — La Paz, Bolivia
The Soul of Nations Foundation’s Indigenous International: Green Architecture Project is inviting 12 Artist Fellows from the United States and Bolivia to connect through a seven-month virtual exchange that will result in two collaborative online exhibitions. All artists and architects involved in the project should be between the ages of 18-35 and identify with an Indigenous tribe or nation. All Bolivian Fellows should reside in the city of La Paz and all U.S. Fellows should be of Native American decent. This program is sponsored in-part by the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, and the U.S. Department of State.
Traditional forms of Indigenous art and architecture have often been misrepresented in mainstream media and academia. The majority of Indigenous communities in the Americas reside in rural areas where they oftentimes build and live in structures constructed with materials that have been obtained locally and are considered “green.” These structures are created through the use of architectural techniques that have been utilized for generations. Unfortunately, a myth exists that Indigenous American vernacular architecture is substandard, temporary, and for the impoverished. Indigenous communities from the North and South America are continuously striving for environmental stability. However, these communities are often met with natural and governmental challenges that have threatened the traditional value of vernacular and cultural practices for residential styles of architecture.
When thinking broadly of architecture, the masterpieces of the past inevitably come to mind; buildings constructed to withstand the passage of time, that have found an ally in age, cementing themselves in the history of humanity. According to aesthetic and practical architectural standards of urban society, traditional housing structures of Native American nations, in the southwestern region of the United States of America, utilize similar construction techniques of the Bolivian when analyzing the architectural manifestation of the wigwam and pueblo in the American southwest alongside the putuco, Selva and Andean-style dwellings.
Throughout this seven-month exchange program, the Fellows will collectively engage in ten virtual exchanges via zoom or Instagram live. Each virtual gathering among the cohort will focus on a different theme related to the project that will help young Indigenous women to conceptualize how their cultures and heritages intersect within the framework of several issues about the access of housing, urban planning, environmental policy, and traditional architectural representation in the popular imagination.
As a result of artist exchanges, one collaborative online exhibition from the Bolivian artists and one collaborative online exhibition from the Native American artists will be display on the Soul of Nations Foundation and Soul Center for the Arts website. The exhibition’s virtual opening will be facilitated through an online artist forum. Work will included proposals; elements of work that exemplify essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness, and materiality of surface; photographs, works on canvas, and collaborative sculpture; and the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of contemporary vernacular architecture that is sourced from traditional techniques of Native American and Bolivian culture.
The overarching objectives of the Green Architecture Project include: (1) empowering marginalized youth and communities via creative and artistic expression, (2)Further the understanding of Indigenous heritage from North America and South America; (3) creating an environment conducive to effective collaboration; (4) engaging in dialogue to gain a clearer understanding on what freedom and environmental stability look like while examining current setbacks; (5) utilizing culture as a vehicle to expand discourse; (6) strengthening an artistic and academic network among the participants; (7) examining historic challenges through a contemporary frame; and (8) encouraging personal growth and social awareness on a global scale.
Themes: environmental stability and indigenous futurism
The Fellowship Cohort is undergoing design production and will be doing so until October 2021. Currently, the U.S. and Bolivia Fellows are creating two short films, a series of photographs, and design rendering to become an architectural model and two paintings. All creative outputs will be exhibited online in November and December of 2021, followed by an artist talk. Photo by Salvador Saavedra.
During the meeting all Fellow were asked to introduce themselves and show an object or image that best represented their cultural identity.
The Soul of Nations Foundation (SONF) has received a small grant from the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia for the Indigenous International: Green Architecture Project. The Indigenous International: Green Architecture Project coincides with the U.S. Embassy La Paz Public Affairs Section’s program priority to Strengthen cultural and educational ties between the U.S. and Bolivia through cultural and change programming that highlights shared values and promotes bilateral cooperation. The project also falls in alignment with the U.S. Embassy La Paz Public Affairs Section’s mission to promote culture by supporting and facilitating academic exchanges between the United States and Bolivia.
One August 26, 2021, the Fellows met for a virtual midterm report to present artist production deliverables and images from architectural and research site visits. Bolivian participants traveled to three neighboring cities outside of La Paz and the U.S. participants traveled through Indigenous territories throughout the American Southwest.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) led a workshop for our GAP Bolivia Fellows to discuss cross-cultural Indigenous architecture, preservation, and knowledge sharing.
The Indigenous International: Green Architecture Project presents the opportunity for Indigenous youth from around the world to connect through cultural exchanges that are rooted in architectural prisms.
Exhibitions & Events
American Indians of The Southwest is a three-part experimental film doused in contemporaneity and engulfed in dialectical rhetoric with an invitational observation on the current and ongoing social lifestyle of the Indigenous people in the Southwest through the eyes of FOX Maxy (Kumeyaay), Kymon Greyhorse (Diné), and Tytianna Harris (Diné). Through this visual experience, the artists convey the misrepresentation of the evolution in the Great Basin area and how this, in turn, relates to the “architecture” and day-to-day social functionaries throughout the Southwest region. The structure, style, and method of this film challenges its viewer’s preconceived notions on Indianess, modernized sanctity, and the wild west tropes that are often portrayed in Hollywood-based media.
UTA – KUYA: Back Home is a multidisciplinary installation comprising of six bodies of work ranging from photography and film, painting, sculpture, and digital renderings created by Bolivian contemporary artists, Wara Vargas Lara, Elias Huajlliri, Fatima Choque, Salvador Molina, Wara Apaza, and Nelida Condori. UTA – KUYA: Back Home explores the Imaginative theme of being able to walk without prejudice, without borders, and without a sense of time. As Indigenous contemporaries, we can easily inhabit our own worlds through a deep exploration of the past an altruistic reflection of the present. Historically, the Aymara Peoples, a large South American group Indigenous to the Altiplano, referred to the past as nayrapacha and nayra. The act of walking is indeed something quite courageous and could be held to the highest esteem of human endeavor. In fact, the Aymara referred to walking as quipnayr uñtasis sarnaqapxañani, an aphorism that declares the Homosapien urge to continuously transition through the present, while lightly observing peripheral view of the future-past. Thus, a participating in an eternal juggling act of carrying the future on one’s back all the while keeping the past in sight. This scared Aymara perception of walking can easily be interpreted as a metaphor for life.
Webinar link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81511647076