The Older Brothers of Sierra Nevada

Citadines Art Center will host from Saturday January 5th the new exhibition of Sri Kolari, photographer reporter from Kerala.

Title of the exhibition: “The older brothers of Sierra Nevada”, words that speak of myths and legends and distant horizons.

The poster shows a man from behind, dressed in white, wearing a conical white hat, sitting on a horse or rather a mule, two sling bags crossed over his shoulders, following a road meandering through arid mountains like the path toward one’s destiny.

‘Where is Sierra Nevada?’ will wonder some of you.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is in Colombia. It is a mountain range overlooking the Caribbean Sea at the northern end of the Andes Cordillera. An invisible border delimits what remains of the ancestral and sacred territory of four indigenous tribes: Kogi, Kankuamo, Arhuaco and Wiwa. For these descendants of a very ancient civilization expropriated from its lands four centuries ago, this mountain is the heart of the world.

And it is in the heart of the world that Sri Kolari went in 2016 to capture this project on the “old brothers” of the title, the healers of the Earth, who take care of the world, and also the “little brothers” who stubbornly destroy it. He spent three days with an Arhuaco family.

Sri lived in symbiosis with them, laid down his weapon (i.e. his camera), was accepted through his kind and patient behavior coupled with an absolute determination. Like his hosts – for whom all manifestations of creation are linked together – Sri became the nature, its inhabitants, the observer and the observed.

Sri was the lens.

The last day, they allowed him to take pictures.

The result is here today in the luminous space of the Art Center: thirty black and white photographs of landscapes, people, animals, objects.

The viewers, numerous on this sunny afternoon, seem to effortlessly integrate this special dimension of intimacy, mutual respect and space-time void.

To quote the great Salgado: “The big privilege of photography is to go where you like; you are a free bird, you are alone in this trance. When you really get inside something, that is part of the trance. It is total joy.”

Sri flies over forests that touch the sky, giant ferns, fields containing houses with thatched roofs, streams where children bathe like in the early days of the original paradise.

Sri captures ritual objects with a body or an immaculate wall as backdrop.

He photographs people, alone or in groups, posing or during their daily activities. In a family portrait, nine people altogether, gentle faces smiling, their attitudes are extremely natural, there is no distance or distrust.

They are all dressed in white, except for a child who goes to school outside, one of those who may go away one day. The white of the hats and tunics symbolizes the snow of the mountains, the dazzling purity of a primordial world already condemned, an innocence forever lost.

There are whites that hurt.

A village with earth and thatch houses that are one with the forest. There is a rectangular hole in the photo: a blindingly white corrugated iron roof that reflects the first industrial contamination, the first symptom of destruction.

And while the visitors have a good time on the lawn with a drink in their hands, at the end of the gallery, the young man of the poster climbs the mountain, without turning around, towards a secret place where his spiritual initiation will take place, to a place that has maybe materialized for a moment here in Auroville today: at the heart of the world.

Dominique Jacques, January 2019