Where the sky begins: ancestrality and the heritage of resistance
the sky ends
the mecapal begins.
The ancestral patrimony of Guatemala has been transmitted for thousands of years and survives in diverse practices, however, the influence of the West and the logics of capitalism have also been absorbed by the indigenous populations. This ancestral knowledge allows us to access a worldview that relates differently with nature and spirituality. Today, this transmitted knowledge, which constitutes the expression of Guatemala’s plurality, finds in art a place to manifest itself.
Rituality and festivity structure the lives of many communities and groups and reaffirm their identities through such practices, related to seasonal changes, issues related to the land or the stages of people’s lives. Ritual is a form of memory and history. Indigenous peoples in Latin and Central America, but also populations of African origin in countries such as Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and Central America, relive their history through popular festivities and religious rituals.
This panel will address some of these manifestations through creative processes, as a space to express their symbolic density and its historical importance, also, to preserve them.
 Mecapal: a device used to carry loads on the back, made of a sash of ixtle fabric which has ropes at the ends and is tied against the carrier’s forehead.
‘Os Sacudimentos’: The Meeting of the Atlantic Margins
Ayrson Heráclito’s performances O Sacudimento da Casa Da Torre and O Sacudimento Da Maison Des Esclaves em Gorée form a diptych whose central theme is the ‘cleansing’ or ‘exorcism’ of two great architectural monuments linked to the Atlantic slave trade and colonization.
The deliberate duplication of the performative action, one on each side of the Atlantic coast, was perceived as an articulated proposal of intervention on both monumental architectures: one associated with the old Portuguese colonial system, the case of the Garcia d’Avila Tower House, in Bahia, and the other, associated with the slave system that linked Africa to the New World, that is the case of the Maison des Esclaves [House of Slaves], on the island of Gorée.
These works aim to critically review the colonial past and slavery in order to reflect on the historical and present social conditions on both Atlantic coasts and to question what were the lasting consequences of colonization and slavery in Africa and Brazil. However, such questioning could only have been proposed and carried out through artistic languages such as performance, film and photography.
Popol Jay: A journey into physical, non-physical and metaphysical architectural expressions
On December 21, 2012, for many, the Ojlajuj B’ak’tun marked the end of a 5,125-year era and the beginning of another, one of heightened awareness and sensitivity. In this context, the Association of Councils of Releb’all Saq’e Spiritual Guides (ACGERS, for its abbreviation in Spanish) was created. In collaboration with members of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and international partners, ACGERS set out to recover, dignify and promote Mayan ancestral knowledge that has been under threat since colonial times.
In 2011, based on the visualization of a space where religious practices converge with the research of medicinal plants used by the Maya since ancient times, ACGERS invited the architectural firm TORUS to design the first K’ekchi’ spiritual community center, known as Popol Jay, or Sacred House. During the initial phases of this development, the definition of the architectural program was marked by a consensual decision-making process that included the 26 members of the K’ekchi ‘ board, comprised of 13 priestesses and 13 priests (referred to as Nanas and Tatas, respectively). Since then, the project has made possible the confluence of different worldviews and origins, where the cosmovision of the K’ekchi ‘ group is distinguished by its experiential and constantly evolving actions. A common territory for co-creation is thus produced.
While all art forms are seen as cultural expressions in a given period of time, architecture, with its permanence, is the materialization of the ideals and values of a social group. As a result, one of the greatest challenges in building the Popol Jay has been to resolve the spatial challenges in a collaborative manner, sensitively, synthesizing the worldview of the Kekchi ‘group, whom it will serve.