Photographs by Rafael Doníz

Oaxaca Textil Museum
Oaxaca, México
november 29th 2014 to march 22th 2015

Rafael Doníz has a unique career as a camera artist. Those of us who knew his work in the early 1980s vividly remember the images he gathered in the book “H. Ayuntamiento Popular de Juchitán”. His black-and-white photography dramatically captured the extraordinary energy of a social movement. The bodies portrayed were fixed only for an instant, about to continue the march, and the faces seem to speak, or rather scream. Fists shake high, and the rushed petticoats whisper slogans while rubbing the sand. Without looking for the exotic, Doníz sensitively captured the passion of the people from the isthmus in the struggle of the daily life, at the party and in the political rally. His Juchitec photographies are testimonies of great courage and great human value.

Thirty years later, Rafael returns to Oaxaca with new tools to forge images. He has taken an interest in color and has improved his technique to achieve prints with formidable chromatic saturation. As one thing leads to another, he is heading down to the places where the colors are born, where they light up and become inflamed. He reaches the cliffs of Huatulco where the dry cleaners of Pinotepa de Don Luis search for the purple snail among the blows of the waves. There, he captures the magical transformation of a milky secretion that acquires intense yellow, green, blue, and finally purple tones. Then he visits the nopal growers and grana breeders in the Oaxaca Valley, heirs to the art of red blood that amazed the world and made rich a lost city among mountains rich. Finally, he looks for the indigo producers in Niltepec, where he patiently observes the harvesting of the bushes, fermentation and strenuous mixing that requires the conversion of a clear liquid into an improbable metallic blue.

The Museo Textil de Oaxaca and the Centro Cultural San Pablo come together to exhibit, together with the photography of Doníz, a selection of Mexican and Guatemalan fabrics dyed with the three dyes that have seduced him. When choosing the pieces, we wanted to show that our stellar trio until recently had a very wide distribution in this region of the world. Accustomed to the often phosphorescent tones of digital advertising, it is difficult for us to perceive the appreciation that our grandparents could have felt for the serene and deep colors of an indigo shawl or a red sarape.

But the exhibition does not seek to simply evoke the past, as witnessed by the pieces conceived by the great cultural promoter and gallerist Remigio Mestas (friend of Raphael), created by a talented group of weavers in 2010: we believe that the three dyes have a bright future, as they exemplify the possibilities offered by plants and animals if they are used sustainably. Synthetic dyes -mainly produced from oil- are finding a growing rejection because they seem to facilitate the incidence of some types of cancer, in addition to the production of toxic waste. In contrast, indigo, hail and snail can offer color and an alternate way of life, one committed with the protection of the earth and the equity of our society.

Alejandro de Avila Blomberg


Museo Textil de Oaxaca

Fotografía: ADN Sureste