Dupu is an interactive touch-screen painting that allows users to explore memories of Guna Yala, the land of Panama’s Guna People, in a time of great transformation.
Guna Yala, a territory composed of over 300 islands on the edge of Panama’s southern Caribbean coast, is the homeland of the Guna nation, a proud indigenous people that have fought, gained and maintained their sovereignty since 1925. But today, the integrity of this territory is under threat due to the rising sea levels caused by global warming and also to the junk from the North now covering their shores. The Guna People has to deal with the possibility of having to migrate to the mainland while trying to transfer the essence of their culture to future generations. So Guna visual artist Oswaldo DeLeon Kantule, better known as “Achu”, sets out to render his own interpretation of the territory’s past, present and future painting a map that integrates ancestral symbols of his culture, the feedback of his community and the new technology from the Waga (white western culture). This collaborative work tries to understand if interactive media can offer new ways to create and express an indigenous people's voice while confronting the challenges of cyber colonialism.
Dupu is an interactive painting experience that unfolds as a tapestry of memories, weaving from the personal vision of the artist to the “first-person plural” voice of the community. As a centerpiece of the experience, the project offers an animated painting by Achu that serves as the interface to connect audio recordings and short video stories about the current reality of his people. The interactivity emulates the complex choices the Guna people will have to make to resist, preserve and adapt to the challenges ahead. Achu’s painting is composed of 4 main “objects” and 4 “layers”, each one allowing a different way to explore the audiovisual assets.
As with most of Achu’s art, the entire design is inspired on the principles of the Guna’s Mola art, an intricate technique of colourful layered cloth representing natural and supernatural pictograms sewed on traditional dresses worn by women. According to the artist, Mola art encompasses 5 main principles: duality, repetition, abstraction, multi-dimensionality, and the use of metaphorical language or symbols. The purpose of abstraction in their art is to get rid of forms to seek the true essence of things (Gwage) and to create a new language inaccessible to physical and spiritual enemies. The design, video approach and even the programming choices take these principles into consideration.