Atowla & Uriel Montúfar

28.07.2021 - 15.09.2021

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Peru's independence, Melbye-Konan Gallery, together with the Consulate General of Peru in Hamburg, presents a duo exhibition in their 230m2 space in the center of Hamburg from the 28th of July until the 15th of September 2021. Peru celebrates its independence with great confidence, hope and optimism. In these 200 years, the Republic has come a long way, and is proud of its thousand-year history, enriched by European, Arab, Asian and African contributions. The exhibition 'Atowla & Uriel Montúfar' aims to represent the importance of cultural syncretism in Peru today and recognise the contribution of African culture to the different areas of Peru's cultural development.

Peru is part of a thousand-year history of cultural influences. From the 13th to the 16th century, the indigenous Inca Empire, which over 200 different ethnic groups characterised, ruled over large parts of the South American continent. At the time of their most remarkable expansion around 1530, the Inca covered around 950,000 square kilometres, and their influence extended from present-day Ecuador to Argentina.

The colonial institutions of the Spanish Empire ruled their American territory, including present-day Peru, for three centuries. During this period, a multitude of rebellions arose under the power of the colonial leaders, and ideas of independence spread -- especially during the 18th century. These concepts of a democratic and inclusive nation were manifested in two indigenous revolts.

During Spanish colonisation, about 95,000 African slaves were brought to Peru. The first African people arrived with the Spanish conquistadors in 1532 and were used as soldiers in various wars between the Spanish and the indigenous groups of Peru. The abolition of slavery occurred in 1854, over 30 years after Peru's declaration of independence. Despite prohibitions against mixing local and African culture, syncretism between African and indigenous heritage developed and consolidated itself over time. An example of this cultural mixture is the Afro-Peruvian dance groups that exist in the Andes.

In November 2009, the Peruvian government officially apologised to the Afro-Peruvian population for slavery. Afro-Peruvian culture is being revitalised and established as part of Peruvian society.

On display in the exhibition will be the works of Peruvian photographer Uriel Montúfar, whose images refer to indigenous world views and the relationship between Man and the environment, and the latest portraits of Ivorian painter Atowla, whose technique and subjects are inspired by photographs. The dialogue that emerges between Montúfar's and Atowla's works exemplifies the importance of cultural syncretism in Peru today and recognises the contribution of African cultures to the various areas of the country's development – in this case, especially its cultural aspects.

The emerging artist Atowla Kouadio (*1997, Côte d'Ivoire) studied at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts in Abidjan and was awarded the Young Artists of the Future (JAA) Prize and the Peace and Environment Prize in Abidjan in 2019. Atowla's paintings resemble photographs but, on closer inspection, reveal themselves constellations of dots forming the outlines of faces. His work questions the power of pictorial representation on many levels, from the reproduction of historic and iconic images to the phenomenon of the social media age.

Uriel Montúfar (*1983, Cusco, Peru) is a passionate photographer and environmental lawyer. He was born Quechua and was raised in the Aymara. His personal connection to these indigenous Peruvian groups plays a significant role in his photographs. In his images, Montúfar refers to both capitalism and the increasing effects of industrialisation on our environment. The photographer has received several awards, for instance as part of the UNESCO Projects for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and at the Sony World Photography Awards.