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Layqa Nuna Yawar interview with the Archives of American Art, a Smithsonian Institution

Layqa Nuna Yawar’s Story: Experiencing Art and Life during the Pandemic

The Ecuadorian-American muralist speaks about the social and financial challenges of leading a creative life during the COVID-19 pandemic. He notes his own struggles as a community artist suddenly stuck inside and the powerful experience of protest in the wake of George Floyd’s mur-der.

Yawar had just returned to Newark, New Jersey, from his home country of Ecuador when the pandemic started. The muralist always saw his art as an amplification, on a large scale, of the voices and experiences of communities of color.

During the pandemic, however, his ability to congregate, collaborate, and organize disappeared—at least at first. Nevertheless, he found other ways to connect and create.

Yawar began making posters for community organizations and joined the wave of protests against police violence after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.

Newarkers continued to rise up to the moment and react in a very progressive way.

Still, challenges facing people of color, especially during a pandemic, can affect their mental health and adversely impact their wellness. Yawar sees his creative process as indistinguishable from the rest of his life, finding that gardening and cycling help him reconnect with himself.

Although the history of oppression is important, Yawar stresses looking forward. “Newark being a Black city and Brown city,” he says, “It knows … the most powerful part of change is to envision the future, as opposed to, like, stay in the moment of pain.”

A 2021 Creative Catalyst Fund Awardee, Yawar continues to impact the world around him through visual projects that are culturally enriching.

View Layqa's work