BIEKE- VALIENTES
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RECLAIMING CAMOUFLAGE

In 2006, I began painting on burlap, wanting to work with a material that would add more significance to my paintings. I use it as a symbol of the jíbaro past of Borikén that we see resurfacing slowly.   Burlap is a symbol of the farmer,  and of Babalu Aye, Yoruba orisha who guides over the sick and the poor. In 2007, with Archivos Subversivos, I combined burlap with manila file folders, examining the practice of government surveillance files kept on supporters of Puerto Rican liberation. That same year, I also painted my first Vieques piece, "Basta" on a canvas military tent.  It was the first in working with materials referencing the US military to create a series of paintings exploring the impact that 60+ years of US Navy maneuvers on the island of Vieques had had on its people and its environment.   I had known that many of the viequenses that entered the bombing range to force a halt of the maneuvers were better able to hide while wearing camouflage.  In my interview with Aleida Encarnación I learned that camouflage had been used by the youth who would sneak into el "hoyo" a hole in which military personnel would dump food and supplies after their maneuvers.  Young people would go in there to get clothing and cans of food to take home to their families, however they risked arrest in doing so.  By taking camouflage gear from the "hoyo" they facilitated their ability to sneak back in in the future without getting caught. In essence, in Vieques the US military's camouflage became a tool of survival and resistance for the people still battling for peace and justice in their homeland.  Valiente means brave. It was apparent that these viequenses valientes were the true honorable soldiers.  I placed their burlap portraits over camouflage onto which I featured, in my own calligraphy, excerpts of their heartfelt narratives, shared with me in this series of over 30 intimate interviews that I conducted from 2006-2008.  This series, like rebels in the montes, reclaims camouflage for the valiant ones that work to bring change.

© 2017-19 by Yasmin Hernandez. All rights reserved.  Moca, Puerto Rico. yasminhernandezart@gmail.com

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