Interview With Qanel
Qanel is a drawer, henna tattoo artist and muralist painter whose guiding philosophy is to connect art with consciousness. Qanel sees potential in using art to wake up our interior while at the same time expressing our emotions and our self to the external world. Her latest project is a workshop of mandalas, an artistic way to externalize one’s emotions and learn to understand oneself.
What were the motives that drove you to stand up against Daniel Ortega’s unconstitutional government?
Mainly it were the lack of freedom and awareness. Freedom is a human right that must be respected by everyone and that’s something Daniel Ortega hasn’t done. My disgust started with the wildfire in the “Indio Maiz” reserve and the little consciousness and efficiency from the government responding to the situation. Then started the repression on the protests and the murdering of young people — this only inspired me even further to do something. It’s unfair for someone to want to take possession of something that does not belong to them, let alone to snatch the rights and lives of other people. I also do this because of the farmers, to raise awareness about all the years that they’ve been fighting against Ortega because we cannot allow foreigners to conquer our land. (The context of the last statement is the project of building a Nicaraguan Canal led by the government of Ortega and HKND, a Hong Kong based firm owned by the entrepreneur Wang Jing (from Mainland China), which threatened the livelihoods of many farmers and would have seen vasts amounts of land expropriated from farmers to develop this project).
The resistance against Ortega and his allies is happening in many ways: on the streets, screens, minds. With your murals you’re supporting in a very important way the protests against the current regime in Nicaragua. Could you tell us more about your protest?
Art helps to raise awareness, creates a vision and allows to heal. In this country the press and media have been manipulated and the truth is not reaching everyone. With a mural we can express what’s happening and it grabs the attention of spectators in Nicaragua as well as from other countries. Moreover, a mural is a portal that can show people the vision of the Nicaragua that we all want. Sometimes it is hard for us to clearly imagine the Nicaraguan reality that we want but through art, we are able see it and feel it. Art is also a way to heal. At this time it is extremely important for us to let it all out and express our emotions. Otherwise, repressed emotions can cause more hate, resentment, violence or even physical illnesses.
I read that you work nationally with various artists and you would want more artists to join this fight. What do we need, in your opinion, to inspire more artists to contribute to the cause for Nicaragua?
Going out to the streets, creating and sharing from our social media. It’s understandable if some don’t want to go out to the streets because of fear, but when you see a lot of people doing it, slowly but surely more and more people start to join. In union there is strength.
In one of your signs you wrote ‘Building a free Nicaragua’. Could you explain to us how that dream of a free Nicaragua looks like?
It’s a Nicaragua with unity, solidarity and empathy, where social, racial, political or religious differences are respected. It is a clean and healthy country where culture and freedom of speech are valued. It is a nation where education and good health are a priority for the citizens. It is a conscious Nicaragua where land is respected and one lives in harmony with nature.