Written in Stone

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Who am I? Where do I come from and where am I going? We have all asked ourselves these questions, yet never do we receive the same answers. For designer César López, the first clues of this personal search came to him written on rocks thousands of years ago, cryptic messages in forests surrounding the small town of San José in Limón Indanza, in the Ecuadorian southern Amazon Basin.

César López, graphic designer and researcher, studies petroglyphs in Limón-Indanza.

The large rocks located at Cerro Catazho, on the banks of the Indanza River, have messages inscribed on them. We have yet to explain how these ‘petroglyphs’ have remained almost intact for so long in the depths of the jungle, considering the extreme humidity and erosion. We can only come to the conclusion that these ‘pre-Columbian designers’, as César calls them, knew exactly what they were doing. They were skilled communicators expressing themselves with ancient carving techniques that are still advanced to this day.

It is astonishing to walk around these forests and feel how history is expressed on these rocks. Amid anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and geometric figures, the rock carvings undoubtedly represented a means of communication for these ancestral societies. How else could we explain the practice of creating these indelible forms; a process that could take months. Cesar knew this and spent weeks camping in this mysterious place looking for answers.

At an international conference on petroglyphs, he then received a message for which he was probably not prepared. An anonymous man stood up and said: “don’t waste your time trying to decipher them. They were not written for us … “

Nocturnal photograph of petroglyphs on rocks in the rural area of Campo Alegre, San José de Indanza.

The petroglyphs lead to an earlier time, to an identity far removed from any cultural imposition. “The decolonization of design,” explains César when he seeks to describe his own way of assimilating these peculiar pre-Columbian forms, in the time and place where he stands in history.

Nekam: The True Treasure of Latin America” is C’esar’s project compiling the petroglyphs’ records as well as their importance for local contemporary art and design.

But on one of his many expeditions, César realized that no matter how much one compiles the forms and studies them, it is impossible to truly grasp their complexity. A local guide from San José once told him that, in search of his horse, he discovered stones set up as tables and chairs, “like a huge meeting room that was being swallowed by the surrounding forest…

Perhaps these messages, indeed, are not for us. But they represent the place where they stand. And in the search for their origin, their identity —and their art— on this journey towards who knows where — seeking who knows who, wishing to explain who knows what — César, and anyone who comes into contact with them, seeking to interpret their secrets, are only but a brief stop on their long road to the future.

All recorded motifs are geo-referenced.

Photos: César López

For more information, contact César López, brand manager and researcher of ancestral iconographic morphology.

IG: @thebrandsur | @nekam.ec | @spacecaesar
+593 99 460 9137
holathebrandsur@gmail.com

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