Artist statement: Lanto’oy’ Unruh

BY LANTO'OY' UNRUH, | POSTED IN Blog

Lanto’oy’ Unruh is an artist from the Enlhet Ya’alve-Saanga community, in the Paraguayan Chaco and is part of the Paraguayan project 'Collection, mission, colonization: encounters and intertwined stories from the Chaco'. Find out more about his statement and latest series of works here. 

With this series of works, I express the Enlhet world from my perspective. The expropriation of our territory caused a severe loss of cultural pride, and was experienced as a defeat by the Enlhet people. After this defeat, the community rebuilt its society based on the silences produced by our fear of the victor, of being treated with contempt, and of being discriminated against. The culture and history of the Enlhet People have become invisible, and visions of the Enlhet have been shaped through a colonial logic that expects us to be: Christian, saved, civilized, citizens, settled and developed. 

This project invites people to see what is ours, because we exist and live here. With my images, I challenge the championing of the death of the word: the impulse to silence what displeases the victors, who insist we live in harmony with them. I express the pain people are afraid to name lest it challenge the pact signed outside and within Enlhet society, within which we dissimulate a harmonious situation that does not exist. 

Certainly, it is impossible to live in a constant state of war, because our desire for peace is immense. However, as long as our existing pain is not assumed, a dignified life is also impossible. That is why, using art as a resource, I paint possibilities for a different future for my society. 

Specifically in the case of the series of trees, I show trees destroyed for no reason. What is the point of cutting down a tree that gives me air, shade, where the others are. I look… and it’s just smoke, the field has been burned, I should take care of the Earth, we belong to it, we are nature, if the Earth were of any use, but nothing would be the same without the trees. 

©Lantooy Unruh

©Lantooy Unruh

©Lantooy Unruh

©Lantooy Unruh

It is important for me to give visibility to the People I belong to because we are also here, my Indigenous People. In the context of a complex correlation, between seeing and saying, between perception and expression, I explore forms of expression and the creation of meanings. This project has been a professional and personal challenge and I loved seeing the photos from the collection, as this photography, like my own, gives expression to the world. 

© Lantooy Unruh
© Lantooy Unruh
© Lantooy Unruh
© Lantooy Unruh
© Lantooy Unruh
© Lantooy Unruh
© Lantooy Unruh
© Lantooy Unruh
Headshot of the Paraguayan artist Lantooy Unruh

Lanto’oy’ Unruh (Paraguay, 1988), also known as Ronaldo Unruh, is an artist from the Enlhet Ya’alve-Saanga community in the Paraguayan Chaco. Through digital illustration, photography, oil painting, and video, he expresses his views on the importance of preserving the beliefs and traditions of the Enlhet community, and the natural environment.  Some of his works are currently on display at the Museo del Barro in Asunción, and his illustrations have been published in the book ‘Sounds of the Rainforest’ (Alianza, 2019). He is also part of the Instituto Nengvaanemkeskama Nempayvaam Enlhet (‘Make our Enlhet language grow’), a space for reflection which promotes the Enlhet language and culture.