Contemporary prehistory, an oxymoron in every rule, is what attracted the artist Angela Calero the first time he entered the western part of the island of Papua and discovered that its inhabitants, who live isolated from the rest of the world in so-called primitive societies, produce works of art with more elements in common than differences with respect to their own work.
The combination of these two words of opposite meaning that originate a new meaning -as the oxymoron defines the Dictionary of the RAE–, that is, discovering at the dawn of the 21st century that there are tribes that live in total harmony with nature and produce works respecting that relationship is the basis of all the work that Calero has developed since 2002, when he began his visits to Papua. The result of this discovery can be seen in the exhibition hall of the Rector of Malaga until March 2 under the title Papua, a contemporary prehistory which brings together about 80 pieces as diverse in techniques as in materials.
The sculptures of wood, manipulated photographs, objects and jewels made by the artist in the last 17 years coexist with pieces of the Asmat, Dani or Yali tribes that Calero has been collecting in the numerous trips that he has made to Papua from Bali, the island indonesia in which he has resided for almost two decades. Calero, who has returned to Spain and lives in Malaga for two years, has worked mainly with the same materials as the papús to create pieces like his multi-purpose wooden sculptures that are also receptacles for precious objects.
"The Papuan tribes, like many others, do not have the same conception as we do of art, their pieces are objects that they use in everyday life or in their ceremonies and, almost always, each person makes their own ornaments with natural elements combined with claws, teeth or feathers of the animals that hunt, not only beauty is sought, but also other values come into play such as the courage that the individual has shown when hunting a casuary [ave] and then hang their spines and their sharp nails or by making a necklace with couscous teeth [marsupial]", explains Ángela Calero (Córdoba, 1958) before the pieces acquired from the natives during her incursions to isolated villages to which she always traveled alone, with the only company of a translator with whom she communicated in Indonesian, these tribes, whose first contacts with the rest of the world are documented in the sixteenth century, each one speaks their language and some are among the only uncontacted peoples that exist in the world, together with those of the Amazon rainforest of Brazil.
"It is very interesting to understand how chance plays a fundamental role in the Papuan culture, they use few and very rudimentary tools and do not work according to a predetermined design, they simply take a quartz rock and smash it on the ground, they just pick up the pieces and join them with stems of orchids and other vegetable fibers, it is chance that cuts the pieces, "says the artist. "Then, when I returned to my home in Bali, and began to process all the information, I realized that the most important thing is that they conserve that man-nature harmony that in this globalized and uniform world has been broken," he adds.
Teak logs sectioned and turned into receptacles of objects inspired by the ornaments created by the natives, volcanic rocks turned into "hoyeros", as the artist calls them, for jewelry made with fossils, crocodile teeth, iridescent beetles called jewel insects, shells, bone nose rings … Pieces created by Calero, who began exhibiting in 1999 with a shows at the College of Architects of Málaga and has also worked with the Fúcares gallery of Almagro, which are displayed together with the curious kotekas –a hollow, dry and, sometimes, very decorated zucchini that they use as a penis sheath– a bridal headdress or esparto bras.
Fragments of a remote culture that "awaken interest in knowing ancient rites" by following the "call of the unknown and challenging old fears", as Patricia Bueno del Río, curator of the exhibition, points out. Papua, a contemporary prehistory, organized by the Vice-rectorate of Culture of the University of Málaga, and its assembly, inspired by the colors of Melanesia, is the work of another artist, the Malaga Diego Santos. Like the archipelago of Indonesia, Santos has designed an exhibition formed by islands or sets of works, whether objects of personal adornment presented in boxes, as the set of inverted cities where you have to change the point of view to understand the assembly photographic or jewelers of wood or stone.