Chile protests: Santiago's walls turn into open-air museum



 The walls of Chile's capital Santiago are bearing witness to the biggest wave of protests in the country's democratic history and have become makeshift canvasses for dozens of creatives looking to reflect the social discontent through the medium of street art.

An interpretation of Pablo Picasso's Guernica on the outer wall of the Veracruz Church in the Lastarria neighbourhood of the capital catches the attention of passersby.

The bull, the horse and the mother cradling dead son in her arms, subjects found in Picasso's original piece from 1937, the middle of the Spanish Civil War period, have been swapped out for disfigured eyes, tear bombs, burned subway stations and "pacos", the colloquial name given to Chile's police, which faces accusations of violence toward protesters.

"This work by Miguel Ángel Kastro synthesizes the horror we have experienced in the last two months," Juan Pablo Prado, one of the founders of Dignity Museum, a civic platform that seeks to preserve some of the artworks born from the protests, Efe news reported.

Inspired by open-air exhibitions like the East Side Gallery on the remnants of the Berlin Wall, the seven members of this atypical museum scrutinize the graffiti on the walls of Santiago to select those they deem most representative of the unrest.

Once selected, the works are framed in gilded wood and incorporated into a catalogue on Instagram, where the location of the piece, the name of the artist behind it and the techniques used, are detailed for potential visitors.

"Something bout the frames makes people stop and think, like a museum," Prado added.

The museum has already curated 14 works and is about to add another dozen or so, all in Santiago.

The platform has plans to expand into cities like Valparaíso and Antofagasta, which have also been pulled into social unrest.

Some 14 people have been killed so far in the protests, which have been rumbling on for two months.

The first framed work was a collage by Caiozzama, a renowned Chilean graffiti artist who drew Jesus Christ surrounded by police officers with the message: "Don't forgive them, they know exactly what they're doing."

"Santiago has become a public museum. I am fascinated by the representation of (Chilean poet and Nobel prize winner) Gabriela Mistral with a Chilean flag died black as a sign of mourning," Prado said.

There is hardly a blank space on the walls around Plaza Italia square, the epicenter of the protests in the capital.

Images of Camilo Catrillanca, an indigenous man killed by police a year ago, are interspersed with portraits of ousted former president Salvador Allende and former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

"There are times that we find a work we like, measure it to buy the frame, only to return to find that is has gone. That's the magic of street art," Prado said.

"The walls are the printing press of the people."IANS