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Jose Flores Chamale

My name is Jose Flores Chamalé, I am a self-taught artist based out of New York, where I currently live with my three amazing children and my beautiful wife. My heart and spirit remain rooted in my place of birth, Ixim Ulew (Guatemala), the heartland of the Maya.

Art activist: Jose Flores Chamale

Based in United States




Culturally Arts Collective features:

"On Our Lands", August 30th - October 11th, 2022,

Milostka Center for Exhibitions 

When did you begin painting and why? Can you tell us about the artwork you shared with us?

I have been painting or drawing as far as I can remember. It’s been a passion of mine that’s been there my whole life. The artwork shared is a collection my most recent work. All of it is influenced by Maya wisdom and culture. Specifically Maya cosmovisión that focuses on the tradition of Maya counting of time (calendar)

When did you start to explore your heritage through your work and how does your art practice contribute to advocate for Indigenous rights?Has your style changed through the time?

I began to explore my heritage of my work from the very start. My artwork advocates for indigenous rights but most important it promotes sovereignty. Sovereignty that gives indigenous communities the autonomy from governments and corporations. It also aims to restore our pride through teaching our sciences, accomplishments throughout our history that we often do not learn in our schools.

Who has influenced your work, or continues to influence your work?

My elders, my family, my history. Indigenous activists, indigenous history, knowledge and wisdom.

During our research for this project we have come across very impressive facts, such as that indigenous communities are only 5% of the world’s population, but they protect 80% of global biodiversity. However, our society still neglects the voices of indigenous communities, ignoring the incredible contribution of these peoples to preserve our natural resources and help the climate crisis. In your opinion how do you think it’s possible to increase global consciousness of indigenous rights?You have a pretty cheeky take on colonialism, Western civilization, oppression. What are you trying to express? What is your message?

In order to raise global consciousness of Indigenous rights you have to uplift indigenous voices by showcasing different mediums from indigenous artists. What I try to express in my artwork about colonialism and western civilization is all about decolonizing. Decolonize everything which includes our food, our spirituality, our science, our history etc etc. We have an better alternative and knowledge that our ancestors left us.

Do you think that it’s indigenous artists have the responsibility to educate the world about their community cause and fight for justice? What’s is your personal battle? Tell us some personal/ family story - is there something which is hurting you?

No it’s not our responsibility, I believe it up to individual to seek understanding and learn from our communities . as an indigenous person from the global south one of the struggles for me has been what others label my own identity. Right now the terms Latino or Hispanic are labels that used to describe who I am and my work. These labels are harmful and erase who we truly are.

When we look at the representations of indigenous people in art history, it becomes very obvious the objectification and oppression of those communities, are usually seen as inferior. As an artist, do you feel the impact of colonialism and eurocentrism in the art world? In order to you, what is the key for changing the narratives?

The work of many native artists are at times put into the “folk art” label. And the exception is for us to follow those traditional forms of artwork that are popular among outside communities. I tend to not appease so much to the “art world” or art galleries that are not community focused.

What distinguishes your culture and the Western one? What are the points in common and what are the points of divergence? In your opinion, what is the best way to establish a contemporary dialogue with Western culture?

This a question that can’t really be answered simply in one paragraph but rather better answered verbal dialogue . The simplest way I can answer through this from is that we view time as cyclical and it repeats itself. This means what we do today, we do to ourselves in the future. Also our connection to our Mother Earth and our father sky as an important part of our human experience and we share it with every living thing around us. These is an understanding that we belong to an ecosystem that we do it have dominion over. This is very different that what the western culture views our role as human beings.

We estimate that currently exist 350 million indigenous people around the world, living in 90 different countries. If you could imagine the perfect museum to represent your culture, what would it be like? What could not be missing?

It would be important for the space to be available to everyone (free entrance). A ceremonial opening, where an elder has an opportunity to have a verbal invocation to open the space itself.

What would you tell emerging artists?

Do not be afraid to paint what you love and pay attention to what your spirit is telling you. Don’t allow career success or monetary gain be your guide.

If you had to give advice to the new generations, what would be the best way to relate to the art of the natives?

Our artwork is not just an aesthetic, the symbols, designs are meaningful part of our cosmovison. To relate of fully understand the art, it would be important to learn the meanings and history of the artwork.

If you had to give advice to the new generations, what would be the best way to relate to the art of the natives?

Our artwork is not just an aesthetic, the symbols, designs are meaningful part of our cosmovison. To relate of fully understand the art, it would be important to learn the meanings and history of the artwork.

We know that very often, naively, we tend to take the objects that surround us for granted and we do not dwell on their history. What advice would you give to the contemporary visitor? What is the starting point, in your opinion, to change the narrative and to read the history and what we see in the still not decolonized museums in the right way?

The very simple answer is that indigenous people are still here and the history that we learn in our books and in our schools is only half the story. That history is written from a biased point view and don’t include indigenous perspective.

Tikal, Mayan Ruins, Guatemala.

Hector Pineda

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