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French photographer Thomas Rousset and graphic designer Raphaël Verona took a trip to Bolivia to encounter a magical world of doctors, spiritual healers and medicine men. They got to know strange rites and rituals, facing some ancient mythologies.

French photographer Thomas Rousset and graphic designer Raphaël Verona took a trip to Bolivia to encounter a magical world of doctors, spiritual healers and medicine men. They got to know strange rites and rituals, facing some ancient mythologies.

 

Welcome to the Bolivian Mountains, Where Magical Realism Is A Way Of Life.

Artists Thomas Rousset and Raphaël Verona traveled across the Altiplano region of Bolivia for a very specific reason.

They wanted to photograph the astounding spiritual diversity of the landlocked South American expanses, capturing portraits of the healers, witch doctors and medicine men who keep traditional mystic culture alive. Living in a beautiful space between the country’s storied religious past and its rapidly advancing present, these figures represent magical realism in the 21st century.

Echoes of magic realism can be found today throughout the Aymara region of Bolivia. The mountainous area is home to some 2 million indigenous people who practice a peculiar blend of Roman Catholicism (a remnant of Spanish colonization), and Aymara mythology, which includes the worship of Pachamama (“Mother Earth”).

These people, and the fantastically ornate costumes and garb they wear in honor of their mythology, are the subject of Waska Tatay, a book by Swiss photographer Thomas Rousset and designer Rapaël Verona.

Rousset and Verona spent three months in Bolivia. Verona had lived there before, and when he returned to Switzerland he regaled Verona with stories about the country’s unique spiritual culture.

The pair decided to visit the Altiplano region of the country together, to study and photograph the ways Bolivians keep their rituals alive today. Verona’s wife is Bolivian, and brokered their relationship with many of the subjects. The duo sat with her father, for example, and learned about how the Aymara stay up all night on Tuesdays and Fridays.

On those days humans are more susceptible to evil spirits, so it’s tradition to stay awake, smoking Maitos (handmade cigarettes). When smoke is exhaled, the evil spirits get pushed away.

The most decadently costumed people in Waska Tatay are Orureños, from Oruro, where the annual carnival is held. Rousset and Verona visited the artisan neighborhood in town where professionals have been making these costumes from metal, repainting them for years on end.

Each costume honors a spirit or is an expression of a folk legend. The Jukumari bears for instance, fought against the plagues brought on by Wari, a feared God. The bears ornate masks are painted with plague imagery, like snakes, insects, and ants.

 

More Photos and interview:

http://hotshoeinternational.com/blog/interview/thomas-rousset-rapha-l-verona-waska-tatay


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