The Art Of Subversion
I wrote this already a month ago, curious about understanding how Nicaraguan artists so quickly became involved in producing political subversive art. This is especially interesting when remembering that the Nicaraguan youth was thought to be asleep and uninterested in national politics. Some of the artists I have been following on social media were still discovering their audio-/visual language, others were already quite pointy with their art, with clear and decisive messages against the oppression and presenting the ideal future they envisioned for the country. I was looking forward to see their art evolve and transform as this revolt evolves.
Unfortunately, many artists have not been able to truly continue their endeavor as they might have wished (for now). The regime of Ortega and Murillo, while claiming there is again normality in the country, is persecuting and prosecuting multiple individuals. The fear campaign and strategies of dismantling the resistance has forced too many nicaraguans to look for a future elsewhere; finding ways of surviving occupies most of their time. From leaders of the resistance to simple participants who dared waive a Nicaraguan flag (yes, it is a sign of protest to simply raise the national flag), anybody can be a victim of these arbitrary prosecutions.
Famous Nicaraguan artists such as Carlos Mejía Godoy have left the country from one day to the next, as they are seen as enemies of the state by the Ortega-Murillo regime. Other less known artists have also been able to flee. However, some are still struggling to find a way out, as planning a future in Nicaragua would probably mean being tortured and living in a prison cell. Things are not well for the development of art in Nicaragua, which is why the Nicaraguan diaspora in Germany will continue to find ways to provide a platform to the Nicaraguan artists. Ortega and Murillo cannot be allowed to have the power to silence these voices of hope. At the moment, the prosecutions have induced fear and displaced many persons but the discontent has not and will not cease.
Nicaragua wakes up every day to tragic news about state violence that tries to crush down the Nicaraguan uprising for liberty, justice and democracy. But to every action there is a reaction and artists from all regions of the country use their skills to create pieces of political art that express what the people of Nicaragua live through and how they resist the government’s actions. Getting various impressions of the art that is being made, I had to chuckle as I saw an illustration of the autocratic leader Daniel Ortega under a guillotine, the blade being the Nicaraguan flag. It reminded me of the painting ‘Execution of Louis XVI, 1793’ by Georg Heinrich Sieveking. In a modern way, Nicaraguan artists are doing the same as those heralds of the French upheaval. It is their paintings, graphics, songs and novels that form our understanding of what happened in the late 18th century to the House of Bourbon. Their impressions of the French struggle live on – and shape our understanding of the French Revolution – as will the modern Nicaraguan art showing the upheaval and discontent in the Central American country.
The main source of inspiration for the Nicaraguan artists is a fundamental rejection of the government’s actions and courage to denounce the autocracy as well as to take a firm position on where Nicaragua should be headed. All of them are affected by the state actions, whether because they were participating in the protests or simply because the everyday life of everyone has been placed on pause for the greed of a dictatorial couple and their crownies. This small circle around Ortega has become unbearable since they started to murder our students, friends, loved ones, … the future of Nicaragua!
The arrays of artwork that were born after April 19th have taken multiple functions in the public discourse. Some of the works are reproduced by people as an additional defense against the government and to subvert it. Other works of art that are able to help the mourning population in working on the traumas lived during these months, making people not feel alone with their grief. Other pieces of art present a model for the nation’s future, highlighting new values and goals which reflect the population’s hopes. Some art strengthens the people in their struggle and helps to not lose sight of their goal. The sum of all these works of art make up an exciting, insightful and diverse collection of unique impressions on what these individuals are experiencing and fighting for.
Some of the recurrent elements in the narratives are the experiences of violence and oppression, the portrayal of leaders or protagonists from various institutions, movements and groups, the depiction and ridiculing of those responsible for the oppression and the hopes of a democratic and just future for Nicaragua. Those aware of the potential of focusing on the latter – namely to provide an image and a model on which to orient ourselves when violence has finally ceased – integrate the utopia that they think will make Nicaragua a peaceful and great place to live for all Nicaraguans.
Hundreds of Nicaraguan artists from all regions of the country have come together in this uprising via social media, the safest way they can meet as the streets are endangered by state police deployments and paramilitary forces. The artists collaborate on their projects, support each other to find ways to cooperate in common events.
Checking out all the great works of art that have been made, I can’t help but wonder how Nicaragua would be if all these unique human beings could participate unhindered in the political decision-making processes, have their ideas heard and their knowledge influencing future politics, polity and policy. How short-sighted must Ortega and Murillo be to exclude us already for so long and how ignorant are they to not understand even if it is stenciled to the wall next door.