Biennale of Sydney

Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán

Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán, Machiluwvn / Iniciación / Initiation, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Art Gallery of New South Wales. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán, I came to heal you, the Canelo tree told me / Initiation / The city seems like a counterdream / The Dream of my Grandparents / The forest of memory / The moon can have your name / Where will my dreams go?, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist. Translations into Dharug by Joel Davison. Translations into English by Camila Iver. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán, I came to heal you, the Canelo tree told me / Initiation / The city seems like a counterdream / The Dream of my Grandparents / The forest of memory / The moon can have your name / Where will my dreams go?, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist. Translations into Dharug by Joel Davison. Translations into English by Camila Iver. Photograph: Alex Robinson.
Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán, I came to heal you, the Canelo tree told me / Initiation / The city seems like a counterdream / The Dream of my Grandparents / The forest of memory / The moon can have your name / Where will my dreams go?, 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist. Translations into Dharug by Joel Davison. Translations into English by Camila Iver. Photograph: Alex Robinson.

Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán

Born 1952 in Kechurewe, Chile
Lives and works in Kechurewe


“A human being, a living being, a stone – apparently inanimate – belongs to a place and has a ngen / a spirit. This ngen belongs to a space as much as the human being does, and as they both share it there is therefore a relationship of reciprocity, of interdependence. Hence the totality without exclusion and without fragmentation.”

Blue banners transform our experience of entering the colonial neo-classical facade of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Taken from the book Of blue dreams and counterdreams by Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán, the powerful message on these banners radiates with a colour that refers to ‘the blue’ (Kallfv epew or Kalfü epeu) – a significant colour in Mapuche culture that Chihuailaf Nahuelpán frequently employs in his work to refer to a deep and infinite cosmic origin. Chihuaiaf Nahuelpán’s gentle words hold urgent messages for the world – they remind us of the eternal in the present. His message is clear: to be vigilant in the care of nature, spirit and in the nourishment of each other. This way of life embodies a balanced view of both the spirit and physical worlds.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Chihuailaf Nahuelpán's words are shown in four languages; Mapuche, Spanish, English and Dharug. It is the poet’s wish that his message be translated into as many languages and presented in as many public spaces as possible.

Oralitor, poet, essayist and storyteller, Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán lives in his native community, Kechurewe, district of Cunco, in the Mapuche Region, Chile. Chihuailaf Nahuelpán’s thinking and writing expresses itself through an attitude of deep listening, entrenched in the Mapuche idea of ’Itrofill mogen,’ which relates to biodiversity, and an appreciation of the integrity of all living things. This notion acknowledges the integration of nature into all aspects of life, and accordingly, incorporates the belief that human beings are one with the surrounding environment. Within this, humans are removed from the centre of the networks constituting our engagement with the world. Rather, things relate to each other in ways that exclude human perception and knowing altogether.

Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist

Exhibited Artwork

Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán, Machiluwvn / Iniciación / Initiation, 2020, text on vinyl, 450 x 1,350 cm (installed); 450 x 150 cm each. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist.

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Art Gallery of New South Wales

Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán, I came to heal you, the Caneo tree told me Initiation, The city seems like a counterdream, The Dream of my Grandparents, The forest of memory, The moon can have your name Where will my dreams go?, 2020, text on LED display. Presentation at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney was made possible with assistance from NIRIN 500. Translations into Dharug by Joel Davison; Translations into English by Camila Iver. Courtesy the artist.

Photograph: Alex Robinson

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia