LA PAZ – An exhibit opened this week in La Paz’s Cinemateca, shining a light on the lives of Bernabe Manriquez and Santiago Huanca, who haven’t let blindness stop them from earning their living as street musicians.
The showcase titled “Retratos en braille” (Portraits in Braille) includes two 3-D pictures portraying the faces of the artists – which enable visitors to feel their countenances – as well as audiovisual installations and a Braille notebook.
“To understand this exhibit, one has to go to the place and feel, touch and listen to get a sense of the work as a whole,” Bolivian artist Miguel Nina told EFE.
“First off, I’d like to thank everybody who has contributed with their coins,which help us make a living,” Manriquez, who plays accordion, told EFE.
The 56-year-old man described how he progressively lost his eyesight after an accident, which did not keep him from cultivating his passion for music.
“I have been playing musical instruments since I was 15,” Manriquez added. “I started playing mandolin, then guitar and charango. Now I play accordion, which makes me very happy.”
Victoria Suaznabar, the organizer of the exhibit, said that the show aims to raise awareness about people who make a living playing music on the street.
“We know that we live in hectic cities,” Suaznabar said. “But it is necessary for us to pay attention and listen in order to open our senses.”
Santiago Huesca – who has been playing trumpet for some 45 years – told EFE that he went blind at the age of nine, when he was crawling around on the floor looking for an eraser, finding an explosive device instead, which blew up in his face, causing injuries to his left hand and eyes.
“After the accident, I did not feel like doing anything,” Huanca said. “Later, however, I found in music, in the trumpet, great freedom and happiness that I still hold to this day, which I display every night on the street.”
He added that the exhibit means a lot to him, as visitors will be able to witness firsthand that blind people “are not useless” and are also able to contribute to art and music.