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Through graffiti, the artist Anitra Molina, aka Yukue, represents the identity of the Yaqui people in Arizona
“Yukue” means rain in Cahíta, the language spoken by native peoples of Sinaloa and Sonora, including the Yaquis. This is the name Anitra Molina adopted as her artistic signature. For the graffiti artist of Yoreme origin, art is to her spirit what rain is to the desert. That’s how she’s shaped her identity on different artworks in Phoenix, like the rain.
Anitra considers herself a self-taught artist. She handles different techniques with acrylic, aerosol and in digital formats. However, she identifies most with graffiti. In addition, she works as an art teacher and is part of different movements that seek to make indigenous peoples visible as part of the community of Guadalupe, Arizona, a town founded in 1975 where the Yaquis emigrated.
Anitra Molina’s work has become increasingly popular among the urban artist community in Arizona, allowing her to collaborate in different projects. The most recent one was made in partnership with the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance, Inc., the umbrella organization for the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area.
“Since I was little, it was always my dream to be an artist and now my career is focused on muralism full time and the defense of youth. It’s an adventure to be in this position, but I feel very grateful that this is the life I have to live,” said Yukue.
A mural in honor of the Yaqui people
In 2021 Anitra worked on a mural honoring members of his community in Guadalupe, Arizona. The most critical period of the covid-19 pandemic hit the town hard and hence the need to honor the lives of deceased members. The realization of this work was organized by the group Guadalupe Prevention Project.
In the painting, located between Avenida del Yaqui and Guadalupe Road, you can see the shades of orange and purple typical of the Sonoran desert covered by mountains. In the center, in the most symbolic way, Anitra places the figure of a Yoreme woman, a symbol of strength and hope, dressed in white with embroidered garments. The woman embodied by Anitra wears a nopal crown “to represent resilience even in difficult situations,” according to the artist.
On the crown are eight stars that represent each of the original Yaqui peoples. Yukue, although she does not consider herself religious, painted the Yaqui Temple as a “beacon of faith” for those who still follow the beliefs and faith. To one side, Anitra painted the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to represent the virgin who gives the town its name.
“I am able to pursue my dreams because my grandparents and parents worked hard for me to do so. I am a thoroughbred Yaqui like my grandmother before me, who stood up, fought and died in the battles of war for us to be here”, expressed Anitra “Yukue” Molina about this project.
Anitra’s rebellion reflected in Yukue
Beyond murals and works that represent the tradition and history of the Yaqui people, Anitra has another artistic and urban identity born from rebellion, an authentic sample that fuses its origin with its present. In her teens, Yukue began to dye her hair neon colors and dress in a gothic fashion. Anitra’s grandfather inspired her to shape her own identity through spiritual teachings that move away from the Catholicism practiced by the Yoreme people today.
This revolutionary attitude is reflected in her style, especially in a character that shows her essence, Nopalita. It is a kawaii-style caricature of a girl with a cactus body and colored hair, like Yukie’s.
Nopalita has been around for almost 10 years Since then, the cactus girl has evolved and perfected her form, taking on different phases and being a source of inspiration for other girls.
“I know who you needed when you were a child. For me, that means always taking the time to teach what I know to future writers and artists.”Anitra “Yukue” Molina.
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