Interview With Gabobena

Gabobena is a gifted illustrator, graphic designer and drawer whose art varies from collages, posters, portraits, nature and political illustrations, among others. His graphic designs have become central in the cultural resistance against the regime, being shared on social media as a sign of protest. He was also the designer of the visual art for the CD of Nemi Pipali, the band of Bruno Cortina.

Questions:

  1. What were the motives that drove you to stand up against Daniel Ortega’s unconstitutional government?

  2. The resistance against Ortega and his allies is happening in many ways: on the streets, screens, minds. With your work you’re supporting in a very important way the protests against the current regime in Nicaragua. Could you tell us more about your protest?
  3. These last few months have been really hard for the Nicaraguan people, but they have also shown that we have the power to change plenty of structures that seemed to be unbreakable before. This movement has brought a new air to the Nicaraguan population, which we used to think was asleep. As an artist and Nicaraguan designer, do you think we’re being witnesses to a rebirth of the subversive political art in Nicaragua?

The abuses to the fundamental rights of the Nicaraguan citizens, the alarming and increasing number of femicides in the country, the destruction of natural reserves and protected areas, the institutional and state corruption, the violence perpetrated by shock troops/paramilitaries (related to the government), the national police and the army against peaceful protesters, as well as the destruction of the democratic system in Nicaragua, are some of the reasons why I stand against the ruling government.

They Were Not Criminals, They Were Students. Design by Gabobena

On April 18th at 6:00pm I found myself — together with other people — in the city center on the street “Camino de Oriente” protesting against the inaction of the government to control the wildfire in the natural reserve “Indio Maiz” (a protest against this inaction had been repressed the day before). Earlier that day, the government’s mobs attacked other civilians that were demonstrating against the social security reform, media outlets started to report the news, you could watch “live streams” on Facebook and other social media outlets (I did mine via Instagram but couldn’t save the video). When I arrived to “Camino de Oriente”, I found myself with a group of around 100 people. In front of us were the riot police officers in a formation of a shield wall; the riot police officers were protecting a mob of paramilitaries who were on motorcycles, armed with stones, sticks and some even with knives.

More and more people started to join us. (The street “Camino de Oriente” is next to the main road of Managua “Carretera a Masaya”.) The riot police attacked us by throwing a tear gas bomb in our direction, which meant we had to run away through “Carretera a Masaya” during rush hour. We were running away, heading towards the closest safe spot, the roundabout “Jean Paul Genie”, as the police also opened the way for the mob of paramilitaries to attack us. I remember as we passed by some cars and screamed for help — asking them to step outside and help us out — some shouted back as a sign of support and others honked.

The most critical point was as a group of the mob and the riot police started to attack us. Cars would stop to let us through and allow us to run away. The riot police was surrounding small groups of people and the mobs were punching and kicking others. A friend of mine had his cheekbone broken because of a kick right to his face. We managed to get to the roundabout “Jean Paul Genie” and stayed there for 20 minutes. We couldn’t stay longer as we were attacked again. We were scattered as the mobs arrived and tried to take over the roundabout with kicks and stones. I remember running as I hadn’t done in years and seeing by my side cobblestones breaking as they fell to the ground. We ran towards the entrance of the shopping mall “Galerias” (also a close-by location. this gate had already been closed, as they became aware of the incident) and we were able to enter “Galerias” through another entrance by the gas station. There, the group that managed to run away from the demonstration stopped to reflect upon what had just happened, whilst the people at the mall were clueless about what was happening almost right before their eyes.

Nicaragua Is Free. Design by Gabobena & Camaleoni

After that day everything was different, the mobs (which attacked the press and civilians) and their violence was documented and exposed on social media, the people that were driving their cars, using public transportation or taxis on all the mentioned roads became witnesses of the repression and attacks. The government’s and his allies’ double-sided discourse was exposed; speaking hypocritically about peace when violence had spread to the point of killing innocent civilians.

Amongst those that protest nowadays, there are a lot of artists, musicians, designers and people from all walks of life that have been fighting since that day from every one of their “trenches”. We, as artistic content creators, have the right to express ourselves freely and the duty to reflect the country’s current situation through artistic language. Art mirrors people’s humanity and leaves room for free interpretation, critical and reflective thinking and a connection to our emotions, whereas a dictatorial discourse only promotes broken and cynical ideals from those who try to remain in power.

Art has now become another weapon of expression in this fight against the regime and the artists in their different disciplines, inspired by the civilian’s morals and dignity, have managed to channel and spread messages that had before been repressed or ignored by the government.