Walls are shouting, architecture is alive, objects are sculptures.
Likewise the artists themselves, hidden in the fibers of society, their magical and spellbinding creations coexist and shine within a grey world made of industrial plastic tools and second-rate objects. You find these illuminated people out in the woods, in the peripheries of big cities, in beautiful houses and palm tree huts in the countryside.
In the north of the island, near the frontier with Haiti, there is a town amongst magical landscapes. Montecristi is a place of harsh climate, saltworks, young mountains of weird shapes. Here in Montecristi, people celebrate Carnival with an ancient street battle. Each Sunday the Toros, dressed in stylised bull masks and bright cloth outfits decorated with mirrors, whistles and other miscellaneous bangles, fight against the unadorned Civilis, normal citizens who engage in a battle with half-animal half-man figures. The streets are full with colour, dresses, and music: a theatre hosting men challenging their own nature. The Carnival is one of the most legendary of the Caribbean sea.
José Careta has been creating the bull masks for the Carnival of Montecristi his whole life. He is a man of few words who lives in a humble hut. He seems to be fearless. The bull masks are covering the hut walls from floor to ceiling. Together we buy the colours he will use for the masks.
I had my camera with me on the day I met Maritza. She weaves together coloured cotton fibers in vegetable sacks, creating wonderful lively rugs that are unique to the Dominican. On the way to her town, I remember balconies covered by vivid rugs, drowned from a tropical storm. A single lightbulb was illuminating her atelier; the entrance from the house next door was blocked by a fridge, which she used as wardrobe. Her art and mastery is of astonishing beauty.
I felt like a white women violating their world.
I was not able to take their picture.
Sometimes, as these craftsmen opened their doors to me to their spaces. The day I met Maritza I had my camera with me but I could not take pictures of her. There was something about that situation, something about visiting her place that was making me feel really uncomfortable. I felt arrogant, going there and capturing her mysterious practice of weaving fibers in her intimacy. I could not do that. I needed to look into her eyes, without any filter. Only after, I could represent Maritza and the other artists in a more abstract way, the way I felt them.
The boundaries of the island protect their art in a vibrant and colourful cage.
They never left this vibrant island. Everything they create is shaped out of their own imaginary. No internet, no references, no visual culture besides what their eyes have seen in real life. No catwalks nor spotlights, everything they do comes from basic needs. Europeans uprooted the Dominican their most intimate and ancient visual identity. This is why their visual culture is continuously creating new roots.
Photo. Olga de la Iglesia
Map artwork. Àngela Palacios
Collages. Olga de la Iglesia
Words. Vincenzo Angileri with Olga de la Iglesia