The object of analysis is the military uniform of the emancipation battles in Peru. Many of these costumes are represented in official paintings or in the historical monuments as these items were used to construct a narrative of the history of independence of Peru and were an ideological mechanism to forge the first ideas around the Nation. Therefore, these types of outfits strongly influenced the local vision on the establishment and course of the Peruvian Republic.
Such type of military uniform, wore by José de San Martín or Simón Bolivar –considered the independence icons for most South American countries–, had clear historical references to the nineteenth century and in particular to European colonial aesthetics. Therefore, such military outfit requires a reading based on historical painting which considers the garment through its design and its aesthetics.
My idea was to re-elaborate the military uniform through other works, considered minor because they are on the periphery of formal “aesthetic”-“ideological” values, responding through the use of native handcrafted techniques such as: weaving, embroidery, spinning and natural dyeing combining it with figures used in Peruvian “retablos”. The use of traditional techniques and elements aimed to represent communities and through them the histories of migration and other non-hegemonic narratives of everyday life.
It is was not only a question of re-signifying symbols of great historical value but also generating a message that responds directly to current racial problems, social inequalities, and discriminatory practices in Peru. Therefore, I worked with different traditional artists who were also politically engaged leaders or activists among their communities: Maxima Acuña, environmental activist from the northern Peruvian highlands of Cajamarca who has been fighting against the mining company Yanacocha and the Conga project for over a decade and won the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize –considered the most important environmental award worldwide–; Olinda Silvano, leader of the first Shipibo urban community who migrated to Lima and victim of discrimination and forced eviction; and, Teodoro Ramírez, artist from Ayacucho who uses the “Retablo” to represent the internal armed conflict in Peru, one of the bloodiest war in Peruvian history, which began in 1980. With each them I worked in a co-authorship basis for periods of 2-months in the towns where these artists were traditionally based.