2016 Photographic Residencies
Neo-Andina looks at the recent development of new architectural forms in the town of El Alto, Bolivia. El Alto — one of the peripheral cities of the metropolitan area of Bolivia’s capital La Paz — is home to over 858,000 inhabitants, most of whom are of Aymaran origin.
Since 2006 and Evo Morales’ inauguration, a new middle-class has emerged, particularly in the city of El Alto. The wealth of these booming nouveau riche is reflected in the large colourful constructions known as cholets, a term coined from the contraction of the words cholo (a person of Aymaran descent) and chalet. These large constructions made up of several storeys generally combine shops at the bottom and the owner’s apartments at the top. Most of them also include a large function room, which can be rented out for various events. The majority of these buildings were designed by the architect Freddy Mamami. The city now has around 170 cholets.
Tatewaki Nio has taken many photographs against this backdrop, exploring local life and the conditions of emergence of this architectural style that has considerably altered the Andean social and urban landscape. He has attempted to determine the origin of the colours and patterns used in this architecture, which are supposed to be taken from traditional
Andean art, and has also explored the role of the architect and the degree to which he has personally contributed to this style.
While the photographer intends to show these pictures to Brazilian viewers familiar with cultural mixing, we might wonder how these images are perceived by Western observers. Indeed, once onlookers get beyond the initial surprise of strangeness and colourful seduction, they have a whole set of allusions and comparisons to explore. Among references to architectural aspects of pre-Inca Tiwanaku culture, we find traces of Japan’s visual pop culture of the 1970s and 1980s, including Transformers, Grendizer and others. In the images of interiors of cholets, the impression of being inside a pachinko parlour — a typically Japanese games room for pinball and fruit machines — becomes even stronger.
Tatewaki Nio understands how to use the potential of buildings, but also how to make the most of the outstanding quality of light at high altitudes. The saturated blue skies, with a few elongated clouds, enhance the unreal look of these brand new buildings.
Series produced in 2016.