Painting in the Time of COVID-19: Art to honour Community Resilience during the Pandemic

By EntreMundos

On Wednesday the 19th of August 2020, a mural was completed at the EntreMundos facilities as part of the COVID-19 awareness campaign. This mural is part of our project – ‘Strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities with technological training at a transnational level in Latin America.’ EntreMundos launched this project in collaboration with a group of volunteers, who developed, exchanged, and selected ideas, and reached agreements to create this work, which provides the opportunity to bring art to the visitors of EntreMundos and highlights the reality of Guatemalan life during the pandemic. This activity was made possible thanks to the organization WeWorld-GVC Guatemala.

The mural was contributed to by the artist Wilson Adolfo Quiej, a young man with eight years of painting experience who has taken part in various social projects. In addition, we worked with the group Young Artists for Social Justice, which provides a space for civic participation to youths who, through different forms of artistic expression, promote and advocate for better social, cultural, political and economic development in Guatemala. These volunteers were led by their representative, Thelma Suchi. Emmy de Paz, an independent volunteer who is a graphic designer and advertising specialist, and who has participated in other events involving murals, also took part. The mural was possible thanks to the support of Pinturas el Volcán, who donated the paints used in this initiative.

The process for creating the mural began with an initial meeting between the coordinator, the volunteers, and EntreMundos, who made a first sketch expressing the main theme of the mural: Community Resilience. The ideas came from the experience of people in cities and communities in the face of the pandemic, emphasizing positive attitudes such as solidarity, empathy, and collaboration. The first section of the mural illustrates how nature is reclaiming spaces and recovering; there is a jaguar, a quetzal, and some endangered animals. Another part depicts hands holding a carrot; one hand gives while the other receives, representing the themes of the solidarity people have shown in recent times, and the importance of food. A woman with a baby is also illustrated to highlight the work of midwives, especially their work with pregnant women who have not been able to freely use hospitals of health centres for their prenatal check-ups, labour, or postpartum care for fear of catching the virus.

On another section there is a tree and a doctor to represent the root of health and wellbeing, as a tribute to health personnel, doctors, nurses, and all those who work in healthcare – people who have done everything possible to care for not only those who have COVID-19, but also those who continue to need the health service for other reasons. This tribute seeks to remember those who lost their lives at work, and those who are still alive and making sacrifices; the image of the tree represents the hope that they will soon reunite with and be able to embrace their families, as many families are yet to be reunited.

The mural features a saleswoman with her wares in baskets (this was also the cover of our September/October edition – “Surviving COVID-19”). The saleswoman represents all those who sustained us during the pandemic; including the people who organised the cantonal [regional] markets. Thanks to their efforts, people who could not travel due to presidential decrees were able to feed themselves and their families, at the same time as supporting food producers, who were also affected by the pandemic. Also shown is a man speaking of planting vegetable gardens and medicinal herbs, both of which could be ways of combatting COVID-19 by strengthening immune defences and being healthy.

In addition to the aforementioned elements, the mural features fire and the faces of young people, who represent hope in these difficult times. There are also various fruits that represent the different activities people do every day during the pandemic. Finally, there is an image of hands coming out of two computers – this represents the role of technology and how it has enabled people to connect for work, education, and family. At the very end is a quote from Briza Domínguez, one of the volunteers, which reads: “Let nothing stop, because with faith and hope humanity rises up.”

The completion of the mural took five days, with around seven hours of work per day. The technique used was painting by hand using brushes; as Adolfo Quiej explains, “The paint, the wall and the space lent themselves to the painting of the mural, which allowed there to be matte as well as bright colours; it was therefore possible to create an interesting contrast”. The sketch was made in black and white pencil, and colours were chosen based upon the sketch and the mural began to take shape. The elements which inspired the main theme of the mural were words such as, amongst others, resilience, natural medicine, and nature. With these words, the volunteers sought out small and large drawings which had an aesthetic and harmonic visual impact.

The mural has succeeded in expressing the different points of view and different realities surrounding the pandemic, and every person identifies with at least one of the elements embodied in the mural. Within the mural it is possible to see how communities, families, individuals and social organisations have joined forces to move forward, because everyone, no matter their background, has contributed. We have all learnt lessons about valuing life and nature, and the importance of solidarity and empathy, and, above all, our capacity to move forwards, which is central to resilience.

EntreMundos is pleased to have carried out this activity, which encourages the work of quetzaltecos and motivates young volunteers to support painting and muralism. We believe that murals can have an impact on society and motivate positive attitudes, because they can transmit powerful messages and encourage people to tackle social problems. For this reason, it is important to revive this art form by carrying out new projects for education and reflection, and to promote this genre of art as much as possible, as it is still mostly unsupported in Guatemala.

When the situation regarding the pandemic improves, EntreMundos will open its doors for an in-person exhibition so that those who wish are able to see the mural. In the meantime, more photos are available on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We would like to thank the press (Guatevisión, Prensa Libre y Stereo 100) for covering the process of making the mural, and we hope to continue supporting art in the future and that we can count on volunteers to devote their time, skills and energy to painting and telling stories through art on walls.