Well, I Saw it Different
August 5 – October 30
Reception: August 5th, 5-8 pm
ESX/COCA by Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo
August 22nd – October 23rd
Reception September 2nd, 5-8 PM
This work, entitled ESX, which means COCA leaves in the Yuwe language, seeks to deconstruct colonial and postcolonial visual narratives of the coca plant. When the conquistadores arrived in America, they took over the Incan Empire of coca leaves and enslaved its people with it. For centuries, the church demonized the plant and condemned the indigenous people to reject their ancient practices. With the invention of cocaine, the plant faced extermination under international laws. Colombia, my native country, has suffered greatly due to the fifty year war over cocaine.
These series of portraits were taken at the Wasak Kweswesx School in the Nasa indigenous reservation of Toribio, Cauca, Colombia. At the school, the Nasa children are educated in the ancient rites of the coca plant and their relation with their weaving and spinning practices. For the Nasa, the coca plant and the Cabuya plant that they use to weave and spin are considered sacred. The cabuya fiber on the leaves symbolizes the hair of mother earth. Classes are instructed by a traditional doctor called ‘the Wala’, along with six teachers, and one counselor to train these children to become traditional doctors, midwives, or cultural leaders and thus to ensure the continuity of Nasa culture.
For these handmade photographs, I used a large format camera and printed the negatives first with the XIX century Platinum-Palladium photographic process on Arches paper. I then printed some of the photographs on handmade paper done with recycled paper and coca leaf fiber.