Indigenous expression and intercultural dialogue in Brus Rubio

Brus Rubio next to Amazonian Passport (Pasaporte amazónico). Photo: M. R. Colombier

By Marco R. Colombier

Servindi, 12 March, 2015.- The presence of Amazonian indigenous peoples in new spaces is a main topic in visual artist Brus Rubio Churay’s universe. Born in Pucaurquillo, Loreto, in 1983, he belongs to the bora and huitoto-murui people.

A selection of his work was exhibited from November 2014 to March 2015 in Lima’s Inca Garcilaso Cultural Center under the title “Crossings. Retour from Pucaurquillo to Paris”.

This exhibition gathered paintings completed before and after the artist’s travel to Paris in 2011.

Brus Rubio complements his self-taught artistic development with the investigations on the memory of Amazonian indigenous peoples and research on Western contemporary art, which produces an intercultural artistic proposal.

“There is mutual respect in knowing other artistic styles and oneself, too. With respect, we establish limits, you can’t dominate or be dominated… this respect must always remain”, Brus Rubio reflects in conversations with Servindi.

Amazonian Passport is the exhibition’s emblematic work. It shows the Eiffel Tower taken over by Amazonian people, animals, plants and territories.

It is about the ideal balance between cultures, where indigenous and Western symbols coexist in harmony.

Strong arrival (Llegando con fuerza) has a similar meaning, as it shows a group of indigenous peoples arriving in Lima, bringing plentiful goods and celebratory music, in much the same way as people arrive to the traditional ceremonies to which they are invited.

Lima and its main square turns into a big maloka (house), where Amazonian peoples “arrive with the same joy, with the same strength and intentions to share their knowledge”, says Brus.

Invitation (Invitación) has a playful self-referential spirit. It depicts an Amazonian art exhibition opening. However, the people in the pictures pop out of the frames to share the party.

With this painting, Rubio invites people in exhibitions “not only to look at art, but to live the Amazonian world. Don’t only look at me, look at yourself too, because you’re also part of that world”.

The roots of my world (La raíz de mi mundo) by Brus Rubio. Photo: M. R. Colombier

The mythical world

These intense blue, black or yellow are chosen to paint the mythical huitoto universe, inhabited by beings such as Buinamá and Monallatirisa, the primordial couple. Usuma, the ancestors’ spirit, is also present.

These show a symbolic narrative which provides lessons for everyday life and the future of the peoples.

In huitoto-murui oral tradition – Brus points out – Buinamá and Monallatirisa give birth to the Yadico tree, source of life and abundance.

The artist compares trees to children: “if you don’t look after them, they won’t yield fruit”.

The tree is also the main figure in The roots of my world (La raíz de mi mundo), an allegorical depiction of the huitoto universe’s origins.

Its branches turn into the rivers which originate the different families. Humans and animals dance around its trunk. Inside its core is the maternal figure of Monallatirisa and her son.

The unavoidable? (¿Lo inevitable?) by Brus Rubio. Photo: M. R. Colombier

¿Is contamination unavoidable?

Brus Rubio has not evaded addressing environmental contamination, a constant threat to Amazonian life.

In The unavoidable? (¿Lo inevitable?), the tree divides two worlds. To the left of it, people and nature live in harmony. On the other side, oil has polluted the river, animal float lifeless, the sky is dark and the forest looks sick.

Since people have lost their connection with the environment, they must take refuge far away from the forest.

However, the interrogative title leaves open the possibility of a different future:

“Oil contamination comes from an economic power that doesn’t look at the human side of things. That’s why our human side reacts, because it feels manipulated. Oil companies offer us goods that do not belong to our reality”, Rubio declares.

The art of Amazonian peoples as a new form of expression

During workshops with Pucaurquillo youngsters, Brus Rubio learned that the visual arts can be a means to reflect on their own reality, but also a way to express and represent it, connecting indigenous sensibilities with other cultural environments and establishing a dialogue with them.

“Kids like expressing their feelings, their world and their environments through art. There is a need to communicate, but no ways to do it, so we use art. That is what I do here”, Brus concludes.


Brus Rubio Churay was born in the Pucaurquillo community, Loreto region, in the Peruvian Amazon. He belongs to the huitoto-murui and bora peoples. He won the second prize at the XIV National Contest “Passport for an Artist”, organized in 2011 by the Alliance Française and the French Embassy at Lima. His work has been exhibited at the Maison des Associations gallery (Paris, 2012); Ccori Wasi Cultural Center of Ricardo Palma University (Lima, 2012); Irapay Cultural Center (Iquitos, 2010); Alliance Française (Lima and Iquitos, 2012), among others.

Click on the following link to look at more photographs of Brus Rubio’s work:

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