Street artist Jade set to bring art to forgotten corners of Peru

Frustrated with the poor education he was receiving in public schools in Peru, Jonatan Rivera turned his focus to visual arts –though he would eventually drop out of art school and become a full-fledged autodidact. From lettering and graffiti to sophisticated strokes of realism, Jade (Rivera’s pseudonym) has left a colourful trail of his evolving artistry throughout the streets of Lima. And though his skill has allowed him to continue decorating his passport with international entry stamps from the Caribbean to the Middle East, this humble artist is planning something big for 2019 in his birthplace of Huancayo, Peru.

Travel News - BUSCANDO LA VERDAD
BUSCANDO LA VERDAD - Mural for BarrioArte project in Santiago, Chile. Image by: Jade

You were born in Huancayo but moved to Lima before turning one year old. Where do you consider ‘home’ to be?

I’ve lived nearly my whole life in the district of Chorrillos, up until last year when I moved to [neighbouring district] Barranco where I’m closer to my gallery and gift shop Jade’s World. Over time I’ve fallen in love with Barranco. It’s very walkable. It’s unlike any other part of Lima in that it’s more cultural, more bohemian. It’s been a great place to live and call ‘home’ so far.

You travel to the Peruvian highlands quite often, particularly Huancayo in central Peru. Do you feel connected in some way considering you were born there?

I certainly feel some sort of connection on an emotional level. Nearly all of my family that lived in Huancayo moved to Lima at one point. My aunts continued to wear polleras (full colourful skirts), lived in humble circumstances, continued to cook the same dishes and speak (Quechua) as they did in their hometown, so I grew up surrounded by the aesthetics of the highlands. And it’s reflected in my work. I find beauty in certain things from this culture and area of Peru and feel proud. That’s why I’m planning on doing a project there next year called Despierta.

Travel News - FERTIL
FERTIL - Mural in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. Image by: Jade

Can you tell us about the project?

Despierta means 'Awake' in English and will take place in 2019 in a small village called Pucará in Huancayo. I’ve invited a few other international and national street artists to join me and basically, we are going to bring art to an area of Peru that has little to no means to see art as a viable path to follow. The murals we’ll paint are going to be a constant reminder and act of inspiration for the younger generations, to show them that they can create and be artists wherever they are. I hope it inspires at least one child. Personally, graffiti pushed me to explore and continue to learn about all forms of art much more than I ever had in school.

Despierta is a project that has artistic and social aims and was inspired by ArteSano, a similar movement that my friend and fellow artist Evoca1 has been organising in his native Dominican Republic. I was able to participate in the inaugural edition of this event in 2014 and the Dominican Republic has become one of my favourite places to visit.

Travel News - RESPIRAR
RESPIRAR - Wall in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. Image by: Jade

What does travel offer you as an artist?

Travelling gives you lots of ideas, and really broadens one’s perspective. Here at home, I’m already sensitive to everything that’s going on - observing, thinking, taking mental notes. But when I travel it’s on a whole other level, especially Latin America. I’m always taking photos on my trips to bring home and use as inspiration, and here in Peru I always use my phone to document what I see at local markets and ordinary scenes of daily life.

Travel News - EL PASEO
EL PASEO - Wall mural in Monterrico, Lima, Peru. Photo by: Jade

Depending on the type of traveller and their needs and wants, every city has so many sides to be seen and discovered. Where in Lima would you take someone to see your version of Lima?

First I’d take them to the commercial centre Gamarra, to see the movement, the people. Then to a local market to buy some fish and take it to my father-in-law so he can prepare ceviche. These are things that are truly part of our country, day-to-day occurrences. And there’s a beauty in it – it’s distinct, and might not be for everyone, but for me, it’s natural and beautiful and inspiring.