Mogaje Guihu who took the Western name Abel Rodríguez in the 1990s, grew up in the Muinane community who live near the headwaters of the Cahuinarí River in the Colombian Amazon. His uncle, a sabedor (man of knowledge) taught him the knowledge of plants and he became known as el nombrador de plantas (the namer of plants).

Rodríguez’s precise, botanical illustrations are drawn from memory of knowledge acquired by oral transmission. His knowledge grasps a large inventory of plants that grow in the Colombian Amazon and their relations within the ecosystem, but also their uses for food, healing and other needs. Traditionally, he would have used his knowledge every day as a sabedor within his community. Drawing and sharing his knowledge with non-indigenous people became his livelihood in the foreign context of Bogotá.

Since 2008, Rodríguez’s works started to be acknowledged for their artistic value. Rodríguez does not consider himself to be making contemporary art as defined by the West:

We don’t really have that concept, but the closest one I can think of is iimitya, which in Muinane means ‘word of power’— all paths lead to the same knowledge, which is the beginning of all paths.



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