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Lucia's journey from Peruvian lockdown to an emerging life as an artist

Our Art Director Lucia Zúñiga met with Amy Ridout from Stuff for a coffee and chat at Red Art Gallery to learn about her background as an artist and what brought her to New Zealand. Read below:

BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF Peru artist Lucia Zuniga is starting her new life as an artist in NZ.

Lucia Zuniga is finally starting to feel like the artist she’s been since she could first pick up a pencil.

With her work hanging in a window in Bank Lane, part of a Cultural Conversations and Viewfinder initiative, Zuniga’s ink portraits are gaining attention and the Peruvian artist is coming into her own.

Zuniga, from Cusco, high in the Peruvian Andes, arrived in Nelson last year. Her plan to escape political instability in her home country for a fresh start was a long time in the works: the day after her working holiday visa was granted, Peru closed its borders in a bid to halt the pandemic.

Lockdown in Peru felt like “an experiment”, with a large police presence and “strange rules” imposed on the population, Zuniga said.

Women were allowed out on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; men on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Sundays, everyone had to stay home.

Zuniga enjoyed the feeling of safety of being out with just other women, while her partner told her of “men in despair” at the supermarket, phoning their wives for help.

However, as lockdown dragged and case numbers soared, claustrophobia and worry set in. Peru would go on to have the highest Covid-19 mortality rate in the world, with more than 217,000 dead.

To keep her mind occupied, Lucia turned to creative expression, painting ceramic bulls – a symbol of Andean culture – which she began to sell online.

“That was the bright side, I had more clients, people were at home, people were paying attention to things that mattered.”

When restrictions began to lift, she left for New Zealand.

However, Zuniga’s fresh start hasn’t been plain sailing, she said. She’s suffered depression as she faced down past trauma, and has worried about friends and family during violent protests in her home country.

She’s also coming to terms with ADHD, a recent discovery about herself that explained a lot about her personality and past, she said.

“I lived many years thinking I was a brat. I thought something was off with me ... I had bad grades, I was always too busy dreaming.”

BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF Peru artist Lucia Zuniga is starting her new life as an artist in NZ. Lockdown in Peru was claustrophobic but helped Lucia start a business selling painted ceramic bulls.

However, through counselling and medication, Zuniga is finding ways to manage her conditions, and things feel “less catastrophic”, she says.

Art helps; her work calming her busy mind as she concentrates on the intricate patterns that characterise her pieces.

Next year, Zuniga hopes to expand the scope of her art, creating larger works and making a name for herself in Nelson and beyond. New Zealand’s art scene is a “crowded space”, but the artist feels there’s a place for her.

“I’m feeling good; for a few months I have felt like I can do everything.”



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