By Matías Helbig

Warawar Wawa (Son of the stars) adds to the identity of the Bolivian people a system of images belonging at the margin of the foreign perspectives that have made of the “Bolivian” a staging with two llamas and an Indian chewing coca”. First solo exhibition of the phographer (b. 1997,  Cochabamba, Bolivia) in VIGIL GONZALES gallery in Sacred Valley.


Modern history and identities have been built by photography. What burned the negatives stigmatized the world. And these images, with extraordinary exceptions -as in the case of Juan Manuel Figueroa Aznar (Peru, 1878-1951)-, were often produced from Central Europe and the United States, which stereotyped the countries of the suburbs under indigenous aesthetics; or from national states that Europeanized the identity of one sector of the country and deepened the exotic-commercial composition of the other. In this sense, River Claure’s intention, in his series Warawar Wawa (Son of the stars), to recompose, precisely from the photographic image, the Bolivian identity, is not gratuitous.


Bolivia, as Eduardo Galeano denounced half a century ago, has historically been one of the nations most corrupted by colonialism: “This city [Potosi] condemned to nostalgia, tormented by misery and cold, is still an open wound of the colonial system in America: an indictment”. The exhibition presented by Claure at the Vigil Gonzales gallery operates under this affirmation, but extrapolating it to the symbolic (and not material) value of the whole country. The works are thus part of a trend in Bolivia’s recent history -from the 1970s to the present- that confirms, especially since the emergence of Katarism, the Bolivian people’s will to get rid of certain symbolic structures imposed by colonization. Warawar Wawa (Son of the stars) adds to the identity of the Bolivian people a system of images belonging at the margin of the foreign perspectives that have made of the “Bolivian” a staging with two llamas and an Indian chewing coca.

The novelty of the exhibition is the starting point. River Claure appropriates one of the fundamental texts of the Western canon -The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exuperyand recodes it. From that movement, the Bolivian artist produces new codes and icons that respond to the Chi’xi concept, coined by sociologist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, which in the Aymara language means “gray”. Claure places us between the hegemonic conception and the indigenist conception: he vindicates the roots of the Aimara civilization but also points out, through carefully placed aesthetic gestures, the presence of Bolivia within a global economy. That is to say, it does not present us with an isolated land, a terra ignota, but unveils the complex and rich cultural fabric of the region. Nor does it pretend to displace any previous system of representation, but rather to complete it through visual codes that update the country’s identity. Because, borrowing a concept applied to literary criticism, every text, let us say every symbol, “is the testimony of a failure: that of trying to fix something that is nothing more than pure circulation” . What Claure’s work does is to highlight this transit.


The reconstructive character of the work is sustained by the site-specific installation. Using battle bread, an everyday element that constitutes Bolivian culture, Claure develops a sculptural installation that sets the entire exhibition in motion. Bread, as a representation of culture, becomes a construction material to achieve re-symbolization. The sculpture, in turn, plays with the architectural aesthetics of the Alto Boliviano, where buildings are not plastered, because the plaster carries taxes; therefore, this kind of giant edible temporarily places us in the Bolivia of the last decades, pushing the sense of all the iconography of Warawar Wawa towards that decolonizing procedure.


Finally, it is worth mentioning the importance of the name Warawar Wawa (Son of the stars). In the Aymara language, as in any other language, there are no words that are equivalent to others in a foreign language. This is the case of “little prince”. The photographs and the installation are part of a larger project consisting of the translation of The Little Prince into Aymara. But to speak of translation is, exactly, not to understand Claure’s work: his work is an adaptation, an expression that assumes a model and makes it his own, updates it. This is how The Little Prince is transformed -it is neither translated nor substituted- in Warawar Wawa, placing it in a context of Aymara codification, but, above all, Bolivian.

River Claure is a photographer, designer and visual artist He studied Performing Arts, Visual Communication, and Contemporary Photography. Winner of the Eduardo Abaroa National Award (BO) and the XVIII Roberto Villagraz International Photography Grant (ESP). Selected for the New York Times 2020 portfolio review (USA); The Creation Laboratory “20 Fotografos” (BO); FIFV International Photography Festival (CL). He was nominated for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Master Class and was recently chosen as one of British Journal Photography’s “Ones to Watch” photographers. He is part of the team of Photographers at Every Day Bolivia and Proyecto 24 Horas. His work has been exhibited in Colombia, Chile, Spain, USA and Bolivia. The publisher RAYA (COL) has just published his first photobook, “Warawar Wawa”.



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