Courtesy Abra Caracas, photo by Beatriz Fernanda González
Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe is an Indigenous Yanomami artist from Sheroana, a small community of the Upper Orinoco River in the Venezuelan Amazon. Working primarily with drawing and handmade papers crafted from native fibers, he draws from his ancestral knowledge of the signs and symbols of Yanomami culture, and their application in basketry and body painting for ritual ceremonies. While such practices are female in Yanomami culture, he has consciously recovered these motifs to build his visual lexicon. Hakihiiwe’s work is a very personal interpretation of Yanomami tradition and identity; his drawings and paintings speak to his rites and beliefs, observations of the jungle and concern for the ecosystem.
Hakihiiwe was born in Amazonas, Venezuela. He began making art in the 1990s when he met Mexican artist Laura Anderson Barbata. Barbata introduced Hakihiiwe to the practice of making paper from native plant fibres like Shiki and Abaca. Hakihiiwe began to draw and paint on the handmade paper using vegetable ink. His drawings generally depicted a range of abstract shapes, lines, or grids suggestive of the flora and fauna of the Amazon rainforest. In 1992, Hakihiiwe collaborated with Barbata to establish the Yanomami Owëmamotima Community Project. The project enabled the publication of written and illustrated books made from the collective experience of the Yanomami people.
When Hakihiiwe is in his native environment of the Amazon, he has no communication beyond his tribe's territory. While in the rainforest, Hakihiiwe draws and sketches in a notebook, where he develops a unique system of visual communication. When he travels to Caracas, he translates his illustrations into paintings and screen-prints on fabric or paper. Hakihiiwe's artwork is minimal and abstract, adopting a reduced colour palette. His work is often viewed as an archive in development because he makes transient cultural traditions permanent. Hakihiiwe's work depicts patterns used in body painting and illustrates ancestral and mythological narratives from Yanomami culture.