Coronavirus to migrant crisis: Colombian craftivist Edgar Alvarez models clay to educate the masses
Edgar Alvarez, an artist and activist, is a Venezuelan living in Bogota, Colombia. The ‘craftivist’ works with plasticine figures, through which he explains and highlights the issues in the Andean region in recent years. The plastic artist explains current problems and historical events through his artwork, which can be found strewn about in the Colombian capital. Alvarez’s latest project focuses on the current coronavirus pandemic, those suffering because of it and the migrant crises.
Alvarez has dedicated his life to ‘explaining’ current affairs and raising awareness among the population, he works under the name Se Lo Explico con Plastilina, which translates to ‘I explain with plastic’ and has racked thousands of followers on his social media, including the 110k followers on Instagram.
Craftivism is a mix between crafts/arts and activism, which usually revolves around the themes of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, solidarity or third-wave feminism, but is expressed through art.
Alvarez’s clay art symbolises the very real struggle of the citizens affected by the coronavirus, and can be found all across the city often close to down-on-their-luck citizens, whom the art mirrors.
The Andean nation is struggling to control the spread of the coronavirus, with over 4,77,000 coronavirus active cases and over 5,000 deaths. The country’s unemployment rate has more than doubled (24.5%) from what it was (11.2%) in the same month last year In May.
Alvarez told Reuters about why he was creating these figures, some of which showed Central American migrants carrying very few belongings waiting to reach the United States of America, “This (pandemic) has changed us, so it is essential to be able to depict the people who are struggling amid the pandemic and that is where I come in to explain it with clay plasticine. It is precisely that, to bring a clear message to people and that’s how it works, with clay plasticine it is easier to explain certain issues.” Alvarez has shown the faces of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who had to return to their countries because of the pandemic. His other art focuses on the fact that the coronavirus could hide anywhere.
Alvarez love for plasticine started as a game with the flour for arepas (a type of bread made with ground maize and typical to the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela) that his grandmother used and ended up becoming his lifelong passion. He told Reuters, “I started like many children in school making balls and sticks with my grandparents, who liked to work with dough, my grandmother especially who made arepas so I liked to make dolls with the flour for the arepas. After school, I worked a lot with clay, but then I discovered animation.”
Alvarez has always used his art to spread knowledge, highlight an issue and raise awareness, and in 2015, the artist worked on a short film about the homeless inhabitants of Los Angeles, California titled Los Invisibles project, which won awards for animation.