View From The South

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Eduardo Galeano windows2 Images

For Art History Class
In the depths of a cave by the Pinturas River a hunter pressed his hand red with blood on the stone. He left his hand there in some sort of truce between the urgency of killing and the terror of dying. And some time later another hunter printed, next to that hand, his own hand black with soot. And then other hunters began leaving on the stone the prints of their hands soaked in colours that came from blood, ashes, earth and flowers.

Thirteen thousand years later, near to the Pinturas River in the town of Perito Moreno, someone writes on a wall: 'I was here.'

The Photographer
Hiladio Sanchez lives in darkness, like the bat. Like the bat, he sees with his ears. But the bat does not know how to take pictures. Hiladio is a photographer, and a good one.

He was a soccer player, and a good one, 20-odd years ago. Playing for Cuba's national team a ball to the head knocked him flat. He looked dead. Some time later he woke up in the hospital. He was alive. He was blind.

Besides seeing with his ears, Hiladio sees with the eyes of his imagination and his memory and he has found a way to tell us what he sees. Camera in hand, he plies his art as miracle-worker of the image. He measures distance by footsteps and adjusts the shutter by the heat of the day or the cool of the afternoon. And when everything is ready he aims and hits the target, guided by voices or by silences, which are never quiet.

Hiladio Sanchez lives in darkness, like the
bat. Like the bat he sees with his ears

Hiladio photographs his neighbours leaning against a wall pocked with scars and he photographs sheets hanging from the line and cups and pans hanging from nails, the slow passing of hours and people, the light of the sun on the courtyard and the shadow that slices through it.

He does not photograph the moon, though he knows it well. Each night those cold fingers touch his face. It is the moon, calling him. And the blind man plays deaf.

Some place in time, beyond time, the world was grey. Thanks to the Ishir Indians, who stole colour from the gods, today the world is resplendent; and the colours of the world burn in the eyes of all who look at them.

Ticio Escobar accompanied a film crew from Spanish TV that came to the Chaco to shoot scenes of daily life among the Ishir. An Indian girl pursued the director, a silent shadow that stuck to his body and stared into his face from up close, as if she wanted to get inside his strange blue eyes.

The director turned to Ticio, who knew the girl, and that very curious one confessed: 'I want to know what colour you see things.'

'The same as you,' smiled the director.

'And how do you know what colour I see things?'

Piltriquitron Hill has its head in the clouds. Until a short while ago its head was a burned forest; now it is a carved forest.

A few sculptors, artists from here and from there, climbed that peak to where the tall trees lay, levelled by a ferocious blaze, and they set to work on the trunks that the flames had uprooted or mutilated. The trees - were they dead or were they playing dead? For a week - day in, day out - the sculptors kept at their task; and by the grace and magic of their hands, the cadavers began to walk.

A gigantic tree trunk is now a harlequin/jester
sprawled flat, with a single hat for two heads

The show begins when you arrive. The cemetery has become a theatre. A gigantic tree trunk is now
a harlequin/jester sprawled flat, with a single hat
for two heads. The harlequin/jester welcomes the distinguished audience who step inside and wander from tree to tree amid the wooden bodies that spring forth from the ruins and, dancing, take flight.

Eduardo Galeano, whose many books include
the trilogy Memory of Fire, lives and writes in
Montevideo, Uruguay. Translation © Mark Fried.

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New Internationalist issue 326 magazine cover This article is from the August 2000 issue of New Internationalist.
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