Yo' sna' sut talel ta sna ch'ayemal tz'i'e (How to Call Home a Lost Dog)

Maruch Sántiz Gómez

San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico, 1975
  • Series: 
    Creencias (Beliefs)
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Gelatin silver print on paper
  • Dimensions: 
    Image: 15,8 x 23,5 cm
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Yo' sna' sut talel ta sna ch'ayemal tz'i'e; chich' chotanel nene' bin ta o'lol ti' na, chich' majolanbel sti' li bine, chich' albel oxbel sbi: ÁLa' me, li' me anae! ÁLa' me, li' me anae! ÁLa' me, li' me anae!, chich' utel un. Ti tz'i'e tzut talel ta yok'omal, mi ta xcha'ejal k'uxi. Mi ch'abal bine xu' tzu xich' ok'esanbel oxbel.
To call back home a lost dog, you place a small clay jar in the middle of the doorway, you tap the mouth of the jar, saying the name of the dog three times: Come here’s your house! Is what you say. The dog will come back the next day or the third day. If you don’t have a jar, you can blow into a gourd three times.

The Chiapas Photography Project, an initiative by the American-born Carlota Duarte and in collaboration with Sna Jtz’ibajom (The House of the Writer) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, enabled indigenous artists like Maruch Sántiz Gómez to employ photography as a means of creative expression. Sántiz Gómez’s first project, Creencias de nuestros antepasados (The Beliefs of Our Ancestors), which she started in 1994, seeks to document and compile the traditions of the Tzotzil people, traditions which the elders have endeavoured to pass on and the younger generations are losing. Consequently, Sántiz Gómez travelled to different locations in Chiapas to talk with the eldest inhabitants, and, subsequently, via images first in black-and-white and later in colour, she used a minimalist aesthetic to photograph the objects and animals these beliefs referred to and also recreated their family environment. The photographs are accompanied by a text in Tzotzil with translations in Spanish and English, thus prompting the consideration that both elements are consubstantial and inseparable from the project Beliefs, which is why some critics have placed Sántiz Gómez’s work within the parameters of the conceptual, as well as pointing to her ability to update visual and oral traditions by virtue of photography and iconography. Despite a favourable reception, Beliefs has also given rise to debates around indigenous art in Mexico and its idealisation among critics.

Diego Fraile Gómez