Finding life in bricks and mortar

Expat Speak

Finding life in bricks and mortar

Nurtured in a pristine village Concepción de Oriente located in the northeast of El Salvador, Mayra Navrette grew up listening to fascinating stories about the natives and local traditions of the country from her grandfather. “Grandpa was a storyteller, his stories used to conjure up images in my mind. Perhaps, in photography I follow the influence he left on me.”

Rene Figueroa and Mayra’s photo exhibition, ‘Kitchen Dialogues’ left a similar visual impression on visitors who delved into the juxtaposed images of Indian and Latin American kitchens, recently at Instituto Cervantes. Speaking to Metrolife, Mayra, living in Gurgaon since the last four years, shares her absolutely picturesque journey from being a civil engineer to a photographer.

Her childhood village was a beautiful little isolated town, where there was no electricity, or running water, she recollects. “Perhaps that place gave me a fantastic opportunity to learn the joy of life, where there is no TV or any materialistic amenity, and a family gets to share time and bond together.” Keeping herself creatively occupied, Mayra spends time either working on ceramics or freezing moments on camera. But for the better part of the last decade, Mayra was working with the indigenous communities in Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica as a World Bank consultant. “Amidst the tropical green forests, empowering these communities to look at their work in a different way as to appreciate their talent and labour, I started understanding them closely. Spending time while working with them, I took to photography in those years,” the shutterbug narrates.

 Coming down to the Indian capital four years ago, she felt, “By first impressions, it seemed difficult to set out as a photographer in the city if you are not well known. So, I wanted to slowly understand the market for photography while working as a civil engineer.” Even her architectural projects showed impressions of her photographic talent as “I started capturing children at the project site and my reports used to have an element of photography in them, something that my colleagues appreciated.”
Speaking about her recent exhibition Marya elaborates, “As migrants, we are always taking with us that one thing that we are fond of having. Every place I go to I am impacted by how kitchens are similar to the place I come from.” 
Metrolife quizzed Mayra on what is that one ingredient she feels inextricably attached to? “Corn! That’s our basic ingredient. The way wheat is most important for you, in your rotis, chapattis and naans. For us it is corn that is the essence of our meal.”
Her zest for photography which fires her ‘travel’ genes, is taking her to Punjab next. “I will be there to cover a community of Polo players in the festival of Hola Mohalla in March,” says the photographer, signing off.

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