Comments about the Artist and his Work
Kantule is a leading interpreter of Kuna culture and spirituality, for which he draws on a rich heritage of oral traditions and women’s textile art. The mola is a reverse appliqued textile of brightly colored cotton made by Kuna women who wear it as the bodice of a blouse. Abstract mola designs are symbolic interpretations of daily life, spirituality, history, moral code, and medicine. Kantule references these sacred mnemonic images in creating his own visual language. In his new series of paintings created in 2009 and 2010, he advances his artistic agenda by conflating Kuna ancestral imagery with images from the contemporary world to extend his commentary on community and larger global issues. His strategy is to imbed Kuna and technological symbols within his paintings to create a fusion of multi-referential concepts open for the viewer’s interpretation.
Oswaldo DeLeón Kantule’s paintings achieve a remarkable blending of Kuna pictographs with contemporary urban symbols to address the world concerns and difficulties that Kuna people face as they attempt to integrate into modern society while trying to maintain their ancestral values. The paintings draw inspiration from abstract imagery found in the mola, as a symbol of womanhood, fertility, and the continuation of Kuna culture. The paintings are equally accessible to non-Kuna viewers as they express in compelling visual terms some of the most important issues we face today. (Summarized Text)
Judith Nasby 2010.
"We had an artist here from Panama (Oswaldo De León) for about a year and his work ethic rubbed off on some others... He painted every day and he had a real vision of what he was accomplishing in his work."
Oswaldo De León came into the public eye when Luis Méndez, Olonigdi Chiari, Ologuagdi and Julián Velásquez had already established their work. Like them, his paintings are intimately related to the themes of Dule culture. However, little by little, he has created his own pictorial grammar and with it has developed a very particular style, which we can appreciate in the paintingsNuchu conversing with Madame Time, Achu uka gi, Guardians of Mother Earth, An demar sapi, An demar galu, Nuchu sourgukualedgi, Achu barbad ukagi, to name a few.
Nuchu conversing with Madame Time is one of the paintings that most resembles classic drawings of Dule sailas. The big ledgerbook used by the businessman to keep track of his accounts is used by the saila to create works of art, to draw. Nuchu conversing with Madame Time is the idea of death's journey to the final homeland. Nuchu, a type of totem, in this painting represents a deceased person who has already been buried. Instead of using a coffin, the dead are traditionally wrapped in a hammock for their burial. The soul travels to its eternal paradise in a canoe that voyages through rivers before finally arriving at the great celestial fortress: the Galu. This painting allows us to note that Dule visual arts are gender-centred activities: women sew the mola and men draw, particularly sailas.
This is a most human and yet also a veritable cosmic struggle in which the many spirits of the universe join, in an attempt to maintain balance in the world. Similarly dramatic rituals unfold in each painting, dreamlike, full of movement and suggestive designs, with spirit figures like cocoa woman or tobacco woman, the burnt offering of plants to Mother Earth. In Kuna myth, the earth is the source of imagery, as well as humans, and inspired shamans and healers.
Oswaldo De León Kantule is an artist that breaks away from traditional, primitivist-inspired Kuna painting, creating works of great strength and emotion, with bold lines that are born out of the evocation of religious rites, that have their roots in his culture but are liberated from all formal constraints.
Some of his figures appear to move through space, propelled by magic beliefs, oblivious to the forces of gravity and logic.
Graciela Quelquejeu de Eleta
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