Art and music in the streets of Oxapampa


Hands flew across the sheet of paper, dripping black paint everywhere while fevered melodies were plucked out on a nearby guitar. This wasn’t just art and music. This was art *with* music. This was performance art. Artist, Diego Alonso and musician, Patrico Crespo Barrios had rehearsed the piece, and performed together seamlessly. Neither did anything without the other being fully aware of the other’s actions,

As soon as each painting was finished, it was pegged to a string running behind the artist and musician, the story the men were telling, coming together piece by piece. They finished with a flourish, Patricio’s guitar-picking rising to an impassioned pace while Diego Alonso threw his brush wildly across his penultimate sheet of paper, before dramatically screwing it up and throwing it to the ground. By the end, Diego Alonso’s hands were covered in paint.

live art
_(Photo: Hannah Vickers/Peru this Week_)

We were in an upstairs room of the Oxapampa Municipal Library on the first night of the culture week organized by the Selvámonos music and arts festival. Music school Jazz Jaus had played an energetic open air concert in the square before we curiously filed into the library, near to the picturesque main square. The top room of the library was somber, with warm yellow lighting and yellow curtains running the length of one wall. The other walls were covered in pieces by the Lima Fine Arts students, a group of six students and their teacher who had been chosen to represent their school.

_(Photo: Hannah Vickers/Peru this Week)_

One of the students, Elizabeth Salas Huapaya, who had displayed a disturbing oil painting, ‘La Violencia de mi Silencio,’ said that she was honored to represent her school at the event. “It’s great. It’s an experience that fills you,” she told me.

_Elizabeth hard at work (Photo: Hannah Vickers/Peru this Week)_

It certainly was an experience that would keep the students and their teacher busy over the week. As well as bringing pieces from Lima, they would also be transforming a wall into a jungle-themed mural and teaching local children various art techniques in workshops over the week, and participating in the Selvámonos live art onsite on Saturday night.

_Teacher Rolando Sánchez Ponce and one of his many butterfly masks (Photo: Hannah Vickers/Peru this Week)_

The young artists were busy but not phased. “It’s all cool,” fourth-year Susana Vázquez Torres, who was responsible for bulbous-headed, dreamlike figures at the exhibition, told me. “I like the workshops with the children, painting a mural, making an exhibition.”

“And also the things apart from what we’re doing. The theater piece [‘Por Qué Cojea Candy?,’ which took place at the Oxapampa Social Club on Tuesday] and the jazz concert were beautiful.”

_The Jazz Jaus concert that opened the Culture Week (Photo: Hannah Vickers/Peru this Week_)

Susana was also excited about the live art they’d be taking part of at the weekend, but was aware of the limitations of that kind of art. “When you paint live, it’s something lyrical. They [the designs]have to be more or less simple. To start with, there’s not a lot of light and you have to do it quickly.”

I don’t know when these guys slept. When they weren’t painting the wall, they were teaching children. And then, when the weekend finally arrived, Kervin, Andrea, Susana, and Paul stood in a circle along with other artists painting huge pieces of wood and oversized cubes.

They weren’t the only ones giving classes. Patricio spent his afternoons teaching guitar and Selvámonos photographer François Canard was giving photography workshops and showing off his rather splendid pinhole camera.

_This little mototaxi spent the week telling everyone who would listen about the free activities available in Oxapampa during the festival (Photo: Hannah Vickers/Peru this Week)_

Carolina Carrismo, who works with Selvámonos sponsors and never stood still for more than 60 seconds at a time, told me that the culture week was a way to get the locals involved, so that the festival, bringing upwards of 5,000 people a year to the small town over a weekend, didn’t feel like such an invasion. And, to make sure that the citizens of Oxapampa didn’t miss out on anything, the Selvámonos team sent a mototaxi armed with cone-like speakers perched on the top of it round the town encouraging people to the different events they’d organised throughout the week.Your intrepid Editor, Hannah Vickers ventured out to the jungle streets of Oxapampa to find out what this Culture Week was all about…