Katy chose the word “Resiliencia” (=”resilience”).
During the past month, I’ve been staying at her house with my friend/assistant Dudu.
A year and a half ago, I started looking for contacts in Caracas because I wanted to know more about the situation there and the possibility of an episode of “Share The Word Project“. Somehow we got in touch and during a whole year she sent me messages telling me I can stay at her place and paint in her neighbourhood. I usually invite myself into slums, but this time I thought I’d accept the invitation. Smart move.
Katy is an absolute exemple for her community but also for Venezuela in general. In a slum full of litteraly hungry people, with drug trafficking and political polarisation, she managed to unite people with brooms. She started by sweeping the streets to clear the rubbish that the government no longer collects, and got people to join. She then started to think that art could be the one thing that would unite everyone in her neighbourhood. This is why she wanted me to come over, and why she’s getting other local artists like Dagor to paint on her streets.
As a human being, Katy is an inspiration. She focuses on those little positive things amidst a brutal crisis. She spends her days sweeping the streets, painting murals, solving day-to-day problems in the slum, taking the slum kids out to art galleries, helping those who can’t eat, taking care of her own family, giving talks at events… And all this while surviving in a house without water and with regular power cuts, and of course, very little money.
I could have easily thought that Venezuela would be totally fucked. But I met Katy. A Venezuelan incarnation of resilience.
I can see the crisis in the emptiness of streets at night. I can smell the crisis in my bathroom as we have no water to pull the flush. I can hear the crisis when a car comes to a halt and the brakes are screaming that they need to be replaced. I can taste the crisis in the plainness of the rice I’m eating. I can touch the crisis on the smooth rubber tires of buses whose owners can’t afford new ones.
It’s everywhere around me, in everything I do. The country has been hit hard, and its population is paying an extremely high price. But somehow, from somewhere, people are fighting back, organising themselves, re-thinking their neighbourhoods and just not giving up. After working in so many crisis-hit areas, I see resilience as a weapon used by humans all over the world in extreme situations.
For the first time since I started this project in 2013, someone has asked me to paint the word ”resilience”.
“Amistad” (= friendship) chosen by Chipi for his friends who are with him in the slum, those who migrated to Colombia and those who got killed.
”I would like you to paint the word “Amistad” (=friendship) on the wall.
I have 3 sorts of friends, those who’re with me in the slum, those who’ve migrated to Colombia because of the crisis and those who are dead.
My thoughts go to F and J, two close friends of mine who got killed by a rival gang.”
– Chipi, 45 years old –
Henry chose the word “Dios” (=God) and told me it’s important to be grateful and not take for granted what God does for us.
His whole family has moved to Colombia these last few years, but he wants to stay in Venezuela to participate in shaping the future of his country “with the help of God” .
I painted this with kids from the barrio with @compromisoco as a “mural class”.
Yaneth, 67 years old, chose the word “Vida” (=life).
She officially lives alone, but her home is always full of people, and full of life. She cooks for kids who woulnd’t eat otherwise, gives coffee and arepas to volonteers who come to the neighbourhood to help out, and cooks a lovely breakfast and lunch for me every day. I also wash at her place because there’s no running water in the house I’m staying in.
Although I’m told that the slum used to be much more lively before the crisis that forced 15% of Venezuela’s population to leave, it is still full of life, thanks to people like Yaneth who keep a smile on their faces and pans on the stove!
Emily, 13 years old, chose the word “Libertad” (=Freedom).
She told me that her word is a reference to the history of Venezuela. Her country use to be a place where huge numbers of West-coast Africans were shipped over by Europeans as from 1576 and were made slaves for centuries. Slavery was officially abolished in Venezuela in 1854.
Today many Venezuelans of African descent live in low income neighbourhoods like Petare.