BY DAVID WALKER
An amazing wall mural, perhaps unique to all of Baja California Sur, is emerging in San Jose del Cabo. It’s all because of the efforts of local artist, Gibrana Nemer, who walked out of the door of her home one day and had an idea.
Gibrana and her husband, Carlos, a falconer, moved here from Toluca near Mexico City three and a half years ago. One of the first things that surprised her and her husband was to see many of the same bird species from back home, especially around the Laguna Hills and the Estuary. Soon after arriving, a friend handed her a brochure, depicting the variety of birds (300) endemic of this state.
That’s when the idea came to Gibrana.
You see when she walks out of her door, opposite her is a massive concrete wall outside Antonio Mijares Secondary School, located on Valerio Gonzalez Street. It sweeps down like a whole city block long. What if she painted a color mural depicting eighty of the local birds on that wall?
Sea turtles, whales, and dolphins are all honored in this area. But what about the birds? And would not this be a wonderful gift of art to the people of her new home?
When approached, the leadership of the school were thrilled right from the beginning. “We have been an important fixture here in San Jose for over sixty years and no one has ever come to us to offer such a gift.”
Next was the municipal leadership. Not only did the Urban Development Directorate give her the right to paint this mega project, they stamped their approval “permanent permission” to ensure it will always be well maintained.
Now all that was needed was the money to do all this. Gibrana is an artist who sells her art online and at the Plaza on the Thursday night Art Walk as a profession. This would have to be done as a volunteer.
So, it was not until over three years of working toward this goal that she won the prestigious “Creadores con Trayectoria” (Creators with a Trajectory) PECDA BCS 2022-2023 Award that would enable her to paint this enormous mural. This commission gave her the funds to give her time and expertise.
In quick order, the not-for-profit group, Defenders of Wildlife, as well as two decorated nature photographers gave her permission to use their bird photos as reference for the drawings. Then just two weeks ago, the well-known Mexican paint manufacturer, Comex, decided to sponsor her with products (paints, sealant, and brushes).
Gibrana’s process starts with a thorough sweeping, cleaning, and spraying of each wall panel. A light background of paint is then applied. Gibrana then projects an image on the wall with the aid of an App that matches the outline of the wall to the outline of the chosen bird. The bird is then sketched in place with charcoal. It’s done with the charcoal on the end of an old bamboo tool, approximately two to three steps away. This allows Gibrana to gain a better perspective of the image, using the bricks of the wall as her grid. Last, the brilliant color of each bird is applied. From start to finish each bird takes approximately two to three hours to complete.
To help us all become educated, Gibrana has ingeniously done two things. First, she is arranging the birds in various groupings. The wall panels towards Walmart at the top of the street are Birds of Prey. Then she is painting the Birds of the City. Up next will be the Birds That Inhabit the Estuary. Finally, near the bottom of Gonzalez Street will be Beach Birds.
The other educational piece is that on one wall panel, she will be listing the four bird groupings with a color code. The names of the eighty birds will then be written on that panel, each with a number that will correspond to a small number beside each bird. Residents and tourists alike may walk up and down the sidewalk, learning the names as they stroll.
Gibrana has been greatly encouraged to date by comments of the passersby. Quotes include: “You are changing the image of our street for the better.” “I actually feel more comfortable walking on this sidewalk!” “You are educating us with your work.” (Some of the birds are unfortunately in the protected species category).
Gibrana expects to be finished this mega project by the end of June. If you want to see the artist in action for two hours or so a day, go to the Facebook page Mural de las aves de Los Cabos for her daily schedule. And if you have the time to see this mega project emerging, give her thanks and encouragement for the wonderful part she is playing in keeping San Jose beautiful.