Celebrating Hernán Rodas - Master of Design in Latin America for 2023

Celebrating Hernán Rodas – Master of Design in Latin America for 2023

The first laureate of the Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation and the one who possibly remains today most emblematic of its spirit of community solidarity is Padre Hernán Rodas Martinez, of Ecuador. Hernán’s experience, characteristics and capacities are truly exceptional… a priest in the movement of liberation theology, a practical field-based defender of the land rights of Amerindian people, a vibrant musician, a passionate critical educator, an activist who supported the self-organization of countless communities, an economist who founded and nourished a major savings and loans cooperative that refused the logic of economic profit and provides today benefits in social, environmental and political terms to 700,000 members… Hernán is also a gifted and powerful painter, awarded in 2023 the title of Master of Design in Latin America. The Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation— proud to have supported the solidarity work of Hernán in several occasions and proud of using one of his unique designs for its donation certificates—sincerely congratulates Hernán for this most deserved recognition.

Hernán’s painting vocation goes back to his thesis and active participation in many of the alternative artistic movements at the interface with theology in the early 1970s, mostly in Latin America but briefly also in Europe. As an example, he was part of the team that developed a Bible with text and illustrations adapted to the history and context of Latin America. For that, and more, his paintings remained always ‘engaged’. As pastoral work brought him to live in the poorest and most remote areas of Ecuador’s countryside, Hernán often worked by hand and in small formats, taking inspiration from the daily activities of the people and the struggles of the most vulnerable: women and children. And his paintings and designs generally found immediate ‘applications’.  They offered hope after natural disasters. They added liveliness to pamphlets, manuals, everyday furniture and objects. And they added atmosphere to the walls of houses, community halls, churches, schools, and small local markets.

As the Cooperative Jardin Azuayo was conceived and expanded to become one of the largest and most successful cooperatives in Latin America, Hernán kept being one of its main inspirers in thinking and development, but also in visual self-narrative. Countless images provided by Hernán have kept reflecting the desired reality of the people who are members and staff of the cooperative… those who recognize themselves in announcements, bags, office decorations, t-shirts, websites, posters and wonderful books, such as the volume “We are our memory”, which recounts the story of the cooperative from 1996 to 2014.  Crucially, as today’s market forces seem to envelop much of what we refer to as ‘design’ or even ‘art’, Hernán has always shared his work freely.  His key aim has been much more ambitious than money.  It has been about fostering cooperative work, mobilizing people, generating a sense of community.

During the month of September 2023, a show properly entitled ‘Imagining cooperative work’ has pulled together over 600 original works produced and donated by Hernán to Jardin Azuayo through the years. The show has just concluded with a well-deserved celebration that motivated Hernán to say: “We pull together people, not capital… and cooperative work is not a hobby but a way of living that creates a different future, different ways of being men, women, couples, families, societies… a way of living that fosters dignity, love of life, the profound consciousness that our cooperative is here for us to sing, dance, dream, be joyful, be capable of both imagining and building a new society…”. A glimpse of the celebration and the spirit that connected everyone there can be perceived from this inspiring short video.

Thanks so much, Hernán, for contrasting the terrible events unfolding in Gaza, in these fist days of October 2023, with a powerful reminder that, indeed, “a world of solidarity is possible”.

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