The Power Plant

Olinda Reshinjabe Silvano


Courtesy Olinda Reshinjabe Silvano and The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, photo by Hyerim Han

Olinda Reshinjabe Silvano is an Indigenous Shipibo-Konibo artist from Peru, utilizing traditional art of kené in her creative practice.

Olinda Silvano Inuma grew up in the Native Community of Paohyan on the banks of the Ucayali River. She belongs to the Shipibo-Konibo people, one of the most numerous indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon. She was born at seven months, frail and small. Her grandfather then breathed medicinal plants into her body to strengthen her and placed an invisible crown of kene designs on her head, to endow her with the gift of vision. The plants and medicinal visions not only fortified her health but her will. This visionary ability has accompanied her throughout her life and guided her defence of the Amazon with the power of the luminous designs she received from her ancestors. As a child she lived in intimate familiarity with forest and rivers and learned how to paint and embroider beautiful fabrics covered with kene designs; but she could not complete her schooling because her parents had no money. So, at the age of 15, she travelled to the city of Pucallpa to look for work. With the first payment she earned, she bought a yellow shirt she had promised to take to her father as proof of her determination to succeed in the city. She soon formed her own family and migrated to Lima, the capital, looking for better education conditions for her children.

In Lima, she built a precarious house in a dump on the banks of the polluted Rimac River, founding with other Shipibo-Konibo families the urban community of Cantagallo. For many years, she would go out into the streets of the city to offer her kene embroidery to the passers-by, walking the entire day to bring home a small sustenance. At last, in 2014 she was able to show her works in an art gallery. Olinda has achieved national and international recognition for her colourful embroidery, paintings and murals of extraordinary beauty and light. Her art targets an urban audience but brings into the city the power given her by the plants that she herself received as a child.

Kene lines are not mere abstract geometric graphics; they are the materialization of the koshi force of plants and their ibo, the spiritual owners of the forest, which visionary women, like Olinda, see in their minds and show in their works. The meshes of kene give rise to perceptions in synesthesia, where hearing, smell and touch join in the vision of designs, generating associations between the landscape of the forest and the embroidered and painted paths of designs. For Olinda, her work as a contemporary Shipibo-Konibo artist is a powerful form of activism that uses another language, the language of plants, to fight against discrimination and to defend the Amazon and its peoples from within the hardcore of city life.