Artist Nicolás de Jesús creates intricate visual narratives, reflecting Mexico’s indigenous cultures and vibrant social justice movements.
In paintings, ink drawings and etchings, handmade works by de Jesús are printed on traditional papel amate, a pre-colonial indigenous paper that has seen a revival in recent years.
Through his striking ink work, de Jesús remixes political scenes, bringing together complex threads of Mexican political life, both recent and historical.
Central to the work are narratives on indigenous struggles for political autonomy in Mexico, an ongoing battle rooted in the colonial history of the Americas that, in recent decades, has risen from the Mexican grassroots to occupy activist imaginations globally.
As movements like the Zapatistas continue to light revolutionary sparks internationally (as seen at Occupy Wall Street in New York City), Nicolás de Jesús projects an intricate artistic nuance to Mexican social movement narratives, important details so often lost in flashy photos of masked guerrilla fighters.
Artistically, de Jesús’s work is unforgettable, embodying an incredible ability to project both the intensity and complexity of Mexican political struggles in winding ink narratives.
Mexico’s Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations, marked annually on November 1st, also feature prominently in de Jesús’ work. Iconic skeletons are etched into visual frames, pointing to the internationally celebrated tradition rooted in skeleton imagery.
De Jesús also extends the meaning of skeleton symbolism toward politics, into the context of Mexican struggles against neoliberal economics, increasingly a life-and-death struggle for many peasants and indigenous people in Mexico after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In El Funeral del P.R.I. (The Funeral of the P.R.I.) skeletons lead a death procession to mark the recent political demise of the authoritarian political party that oversaw the signing of NAFTA.
In 2012, as media reporting from Mexico focus on incredible drug related violence and corruption in an increasingly economically stratified society, the work of de Jesús is critically important as it projects sustaining indigenous and progressive storylines that stand in contrast to mainstream imagery on Mexico.
Beyond reports on drug cartel violence are underreported stories like the ongoing student sit-in at the Mexico City Stock Exchange. “We need to be the ones to provide the answers to the questions of our times, because we are the main victims of the voracious policies of capitalism,” said activist Alexis Jiménez, a 23-year-old ethnologist who has spent the last two months at the Mexico City Stock Exchange protest, as reported by Upsidedown World.
Nicolás de Jesús is a critically important grassroots artist who conveys alternative narratives on Mexico, stories that are bound to our past and present histories across the Americas. Indigenous narratives in the ink work by de Jesús question the colonial borderlines that arbitrarily divide territories across the Americas, forcing all to deeply question national borders that have become apartheid enforcement lines and consider ways to support ongoing anti-colonial struggles in Mexico.