Nereida Apaza Mamani

Apaza is a poet and visual artist who has lived between the cities of Arequipa and Puno, in Peru. Her work is critical of dominant national narratives in Peru, in particular, the ways in which these are taught in the public school system. Her criticality is channelled through works that demonstrate the intimate and subjective experience of learning, whether that be through text or engagement with objects. In particular, she explores her ability to learn as part of the process of making art; she learns by engaging with her ancestral practice.

Presidential Message 2019

Cotton thread, newspaper, calico

This work replicates the shape of negrería dance bibs, which are commonly embroidered with significant figures and events from Peruvian history. These dances are often politically and socially subversive. In her work, Apaza adds another dimension, incorporating her own disappointment about the national projects and propaganda of contemporary Peru.

Apaza has embroidered the outline of the Peruvian coat of arms onto the front of the bib, but it is empty of the symbols traditionally inserted into each central compartment. In their place, she has embroidered a fragment of the artwork Peru: problem and possibility by the Peruvian historian Jorge Basadre. Her work critiques political inertia in contemporary Peru. The tangled red lines surrounding the emblem mimic the colour of the national flag, but they also represent injustice and violence. The back of the bib reads mañana (tomorrow) and is a homage to the Peruvian art activist Juan Javier Salazar, whose project “Peru: pais del mañana” criticised the nation’s hopes for a future reform that is always in process, but never takes place.

London A-Z  2019

Calico, cotton thread, newspaper, chiffon

Apaza’s version of the London street map “A to Z” is an embroidered textile that mimics that map book. The book contains poems written by Apaza during her stay in London, which are embroidered onto pages made from materials that reference those used in the British Museum’s textile storage to protect the works. In her work, the idea of enveloping and wrapping connotes concepts of exteriority and interiority. Here, we might read a parallel between these concepts in terms of object/storage space and the artist’s personal experiences of navigating unfamiliar surroundings in London.

Apaza’s “London A – Z” engages with the BM collection through its materiality and in the way that it manipulates the spectator’s experience. It also evokes her own emotions and point of view about the museum and the city. Apaza’s response to her residency with SDCELAR is not only intellectual and political, it is uncomfortable, raw, and questioning of the “Western” world.

Genesis  2019

Cotton thread, calico and felt

Genesis is a textile notebook in which the pages have been modified to produce silhouettes that represent objects, places and people, which are surrounded by a poem written and embroidered by Apaza. All the shapes, including mountains, a pregnant woman, the moon, a river, a heart, a female ancestor, the veins of one’s body, a hand, a tree and the universe, are evocative of the thoughts and feelings that the artist experienced while being and living in an unknown place, as well as her hopes for a better future.

This is a personal and intimate work in which Apaza illustrates her personal experience in the city of London and, more specifically, in the storage spaces at the British Museum. These spaces, with their protocols, customs, languages and memories, are represented through the text of the poem, which sometimes seems incompatible with her lived experience in Peru which is represented by the silhouettes.