Portoviejo/Manabi Province/Ecuador – Thanks to the magic of scheduling a post to be published at a specified date and time, this should reach you when the inauguration of Nomadas en Ecuador begins. What follows is my ‘Artist’s Statement’ written specifically for this event. Enjoy!
Nomadas en Ecuador – Artist’s Statement – Lisa Brunetti
About ten years ago on a TACA flight from Guayaquil to San Jose, Costa Rica, I sat beside a lovely Ecuadorian couple from Cuenca. They were on their way to New York City, where their daughter was getting married. I chattered about how much I loved their country, and that after visiting many areas, I was planting roots in Manabi. (Jama) The campo lifestyle was similar to the lazy-day summers of my childhood on a farm near the Mississippi River in southern USA. I felt as if I had stepped through a portal back in time – except the temperatures never dipped below freezing, and there were Howler Monkeys and palm trees! I never considered that the Lima beans we planted, harvested and shelled in Mississippi had origins in South America!
After a pause in our oh-so-easy conversation, the gentleman slipped in a subtle question:
“So do you know viche?”
Without one second of hesitation, I confirmed, “I LOVE viche!”
They both chuckled, and the conversation veered to culinary topics.
When people ask me about what it’s like to live in Manabi, I mention viche, corviche, encebollado, torta de pescado, tortilla de yucca and tongas. I tell them about the abundance of fruits and vegetables, about the versatile green plantain, and about the grand Ceibo trees that stand strong and stretch their fingers toward the sky. (Their humanesque torsos trigger my imagination; I picture them waltzing beneath a full-moon sky while the humans are sleeping!) Palo Santo! Ah, what a powerful-yet-inconspicious tree! When out of the country, I travel with a stick of Palo Santo tucked in my bag; that unique fragrance connects me back to the land that grounds me!
What I cherish most about the entire country of Ecuador is the kindness of its people. They’re not only kind but are also happy! Happy people, respectful people, courteous people, generous people! They smile a lot, and they are kind to strangers. How well I remember the early days when someone would say as I walked through Jama, “Gringita! It’s too hot! Sit -” and they might give me a frozen yogurt or a glass of coconut water. Sometimes they handed me a few green plantains – and once a chunk of peanut brittle! How could one not adore these kind people?!
The locals of Jama embraced me into their community, yet the 2015 dengue and chikungunya epidemic made us partners in suffering. Who would have guessed that a year later an even-greater challenge would unite us all? We will all remember where we were when the 7.8 earthquake altered all of our lives. It also united us, and slowly we have adjusted, adapted and moved forward.
After a year of being a true nomad, I found a new place to call home in Manabi. Transplanted to Poza Honda – an hour inland from Portoviejo – I am now almost-completely immersed in the bosque, where Rufous-headed Chachalacas, Brown Wood Rails, and my beloved Howler Monkeys provide extremely-vocal soundtracks for each day. An ever-changing cast of birds distracts me, and many hours are spent observing those beauties. Long leisurely walks bring new inspirations, and I often return with relics in hand. Some of those relics find their way into my paintings. This ultra-quiet new location provides a surplus of subject matter, as I attempt to capture through studies – one species at a time.
While I was writing this statement, my sweet neighbor Melissa knocked on my door and presented still-warm tortillas de yucca! Surrounded by beauty, breathing pure air, and enjoying the lifestyle of this area, I proudly proclaim, “Yo Soy Manaba!”
Lisa Brunetti – June 11, 2018 – Poza Honda/Santa Ana/Manabi/Ecuador