Thanks to a secret pilgrimage down the Ruvuma River, the Makonde tribe was able to avoid colonialism for various centuries. Their nomadic character saved their culture from being attacked by the Arabian and European invaders whom had inflicted havoc on Tanzania and Mozambique since before the 21st century.
It was not until the 1930s that the tribe came into contact with settlers from Portugal, whom went on to discover the tribe’s artistic traditions and immediately began to exploit them. The pressure imposed by the colony essentially helped improve the Makonde tribe’s abilities and in the 1950s emerged the Trees of Life, sculptural pieces that manifest as representations of life and death. Over the years they further evolved artistic traditions that evoked the strength of the community and faithfulness to original beliefs. The Makonde gained their independence from the Portuguese in 1975 thanks to the Frelimo guerilla, which was financed in great part by their artistic creations.
Inspired by these Trees of Life, which express how the tribe survives by working with nature and supporting each other across generations, Mario Arroyave has created photographic compositions inspired by the animal fauna that has accompanied the Makonde throughout their history as a nomadic tribe.
Makonde – Mandala I 2016, 80 x 55 cm Edition of 5
Makonde – Mandala II 2016, 80 x 55 cm Edition of 5
Makonde – Mandala III 2016, 80 x 55 cm Edition of 5
Makonde – Tree Elephants 2016, 110 x 90 cm Edition of 5
Makonde – Tree Leopards 2016, 110 x 90 cm Edition of 5
Makonde – Tree Cheetahs 2016, 110 x 90 cm Edition of 5
Makonde – River Hippos 2016, 134 x 110 cm Edition of 5
Makonde – River Zebras 2016, 110 x 190 cm Edition of 5