Kass Mencher's "Fixed in Eternity," Parts 5 & 6

We are happy to publish the third part of the project Kass Mencher completed earlier this year on  Lake Atitlan, Guatemala for @exxplorevision, an Instagram community that promotes the work of women photographers. Kass and her husband Eric Mencher will lead a workshop in Santiago Atitlan from February 18-23, 2018. --Andrew Sullivan

Photos and text courtesy of Kass Mencher

KASS_ATITLAN05.JPG

boat becomes volcano
volcano clouds
clouds sky
all becomes light
.
.
Shapeshifter
.
.
In wisdom cultures the artist acts as a shaman or shapeshifter. He or she is someone who walks between worlds.
Antonio Ramirez Sosóf an indigenous, Tz'utuzil was a shapeshifter. A lumberjack for 30 years, he gave it up when the time of "La Violencia" began in Guatemala--it would have been certain death for him to appear alone in the forest. And Antonio was about life. He became a woodcarver instead, learning to listen to the whispers of the wood, whispering to him what it wanted to be. When his back and shoulder wore out he had a vision of becoming a painter using needle and thread.

Many of his vividly embroidered pieces hang in the restaurant at the Posada de Santiago in Santiago. They depict his world, the sacred and the profane, the waking and the dream one all in one frame. I suspect that to Antonio Ramirez Sosóf it was all real. It was all good.

Near the end of his long life he lost his sight but not his smile. Perhaps he already knew his vision would live on.

 

KASS_ATITLAN06.JPG

wrapped in herstory
in shades of blue
moonlight's descendent
.
.
.
Meditation on Blue
.
.
.
Blue is the color of the spirit. It is the color of water and sky. It is the world's favorite color.
The Maya have their own blue, Maya Blue.
Due to its indestructibility it is considered to be one of the great artistic and technological advances to come out of Meso-America.

It is the color of clear skies in the dry season. And it is the rain god Chaac's favorite color. At the "Well of Sacrifice" in the northern Yucatan, a lot of pottery and at least 127 humans, mostly male, all painstakingly painted Maya Blue, perished in order to woo some rain out of Chaac.
Centuries later different sacrifices were made. Indigo known as the "king of dyes" led to many indigenous dying for the King of Spain. Others made fortunes satisfying the royal appetite. But the people on the plantations were paid 1 peso every 20 days and the unpaid factory workers paid with their lives, lucky to live 7 more years.

Most of the women in San Antonio Palopo still wear traje, traditional dress. This includes a hair ribbon (cinta), blouse (huipil), sash (faja), shawl ( rebozo), and a skirt (corte). The whole ensemble can cost $250 dollars and the blouse can take up to 6 months of labor. Each village has different colors. San Antonio's use shades of blue with vertical stripes. But traje is so much more than a personal expression. It is a story of their life, and their history. It is a testament to their perseverance in the face of unrelenting adversity. And like the color, Maya Blue, the indigenous women of Guatemala are indestructible and continue to dazzle despite it all.