Hilda Paz (1950 - )

El santito (1988)
The Little Saint

Linocut and collage on paper
height: 65cm
width: 50cm
Mixed Media

Donated by the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo - Buenos Aires, Argentina 1993


The 'little saint' of the title of this work is Ceferino Namuncura, a Mapuche Indian from Patagonia who led a blameless life and died at the age of 18 in 1906. By virtue of his indigenous heritage Ceferino is unusual in the Catholic Church. Although never canonised he remains an enormously popular icon. His image is found repeated on popular prayer cards such as that used in this work, where he appears in a hand-tinted photograph wearing Europeanised clothing.

As an Indian, Ceferino brings to mind the excluded, and also repressed, sectors of Argentine society. Many of the country's indigenous inhabitants were deliberately exterminated in the nineteenth century and their descendents remain among the poorest. In her artist statement Hilda Paz remarks that she made this work during a difficult period in Argentina, of which, she notes, there have been many. The prayer cards are layered over a print of a heavily lined face, whose embossed features are echoed in the embossed, white backing paper. The fragile whole is tied together with string.

Joanne Harwood, 2008

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