BLNK: Dispatch From Quito

by Juozas Cernius on October 31, 2012 BLNK

Readers may remember last year’s two-part BLNK essay “Things That Look Like Art,” sent to us from the travels of photographer Juozas Cernius. This one comes from Ecuador.

Juozas Cernius is currently fundraising for his project The HUMANitarians. 

In Quito, Ecuador, dazzling displays of faith include wigged Jesus impersonators burdened by heavy crosses while mock-whipped and abused by their unforgiving Roman captors. This ostentation is reserved for a Good Friday mass performance of blood and piety. It’s a public extravaganza where creativity and personal interpretation of faith are fused with doctrine and dogma in wild and unkempt ways. Using everything from local dollar store merchandise to roadside scrap, the artistic soul of these devout Catholics comes into gear for this annual pageant of passion, color, and devotion.

Other Biblically-themed spectacles make various points about abject suffering with barbed wire, chains, and thorns.

In what is otherwise a mostly inwardly religious society, it’s exciting to witness the one-upsmanship amongst Catholic adherents during the grand procession. Normally, the separation between the sacred objects and symbols of the church are distinct from the earthly and mundane concerns of the individual: Church is to be visited and Jesus is to be worshipped. There is a shift in protocol on each Good Friday: a dichotomy is enacted and the border between the sacred and profane disappears as individuals attempt to access the divine. High taboos of religion trade clothes with the proletariat and together they mingle in the streets.

Then, just as quickly as it came, the cathartic blood letting has to go under cover and wait until next year. As the holy statues go back to their mantles, this archetypal artistry goes dormant until the next holiday.

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