Mar 9th 2021

Video | Abel Rodríguez

Abel Rodríguez from IIT Architecture Chicago on Vimeo.

On February 17 the College of Architecture’s Master of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism program hosted Abel Rodríguez for its annual Alfred Caldwell Memorial Lecture. Rodríguez is a renowned artist and an elder of the Nonuya, an indigenous group native to the Cahuinarí River in the Colombian Amazon.

Rodríguez's drawings, beyond representing a landscape, contain the very spirit of nature, which is manifested through the relationships between all living beings. For the original peoples of the Americas, the river, the rain, and the minerals are living entities, and, like other beings, they possess qualities that are communicated by different intangible means. Rodríguez considers himself as a medium between men and the spirit. His mission is to leave documents that manifest the presence of the spirit uniting everything. In this way, the work of Rodríguez functions as a work of art and as a sacred object.

The concept of the ecological calendar has been very important throughout Rodríguez’s work as it reveals the dynamics, transforming forces, and biological diversity of the Amazon. This is represented in his work through the transformation of trees in different kinds of forests, a perspective that expands our fragmented and static vision of the Amazonian landscape.

“I learned about the forest the hard way: I had to be awake for long hours at night, I had to lend my ears to the elders and make special diets. Our learning was a spiritual process; that is why we consider knowledge as very valuable,” says Rodríguez.

Rodríguez has become a resource for botanists for his wealth of knowledge of the regional vegetation. In the 1980s, he was often called upon to lead scientific expeditions into the rainforest.