“I am Teofilo Araujo Choque. I was born in the district of Vilcanchos, located in Ayacucho, Peru. I lived in the country with my parents, who worked in agriculture and animal husbandry.
“All my life I have dedicated myself to this beautiful art. I consider myself to be one of the greatest promoters of artistic metal work, as well as one of the last fans of this beautiful art. I make decorative pieces based on a polychromatic spectrum. My products include candelabras, crucifixes, roosters, and sailboats, among other things. I became interested in this art at the young age of 12, when I was laid up due to a leg injury where I fell into a pit and a sharp object cut my knee. In those times, there were no health clinics in my community, and they could only heal me with herbs. I could no longer bend my knee, and my right knee has remained immobilized for my whole life.
“In my day, broken tools and utensils were repaired, not thrown away like they are today. This is what happens to whatever jar, pot, jug, etc., that breaks. Back in the day, merchants and tradesmen would travel from house to house repairing things. It was during one of these visits when I observed how to fix things. I was curious to do this with my own hands, because my leg prohibited me from working in the fields. One day, my uncle Tomas Choque brought me to his house to take care of me. It just so happened that he had also learned to repair things by observing these strangers.
“When something was needed, my uncle traveled to the city of Huamanga to get pliers, scissors, and other things that he used to repair various porcelain, tin, and other objects. All this aroused my curiosity, and I asked him to teach me. I asked him to bring me the basic tools, even though I didn’t know what they were. This is how I began doing the same work that my uncle did. I mimicked him when he sealed the bases of porcelain jugs, and I learned how to seal holes in jars and pots. One day, the chapel authorities came to request a cross. They told me, “Young man, you are an amateur and there are no metal workshops here. Can you make us a cross to put in the church?” I accepted, and I did the work without even knowing how to weld. It was work done 100% by hand; I made it with recycled tin alcohol containers. The authorities were happy with the cross. This is how I became impassioned by this art.
“My uncle was the person who first taught me, and then I continued learning on the job when I moved to Huamanga, because it was there that I would find all of my materials and tools. This city attracted me because it gave me the opportunity to perform a service for the community, and I felt good when my clients were happy and thanked me for the crosses that I made. I loved it even more when my neighbors began making requests for crosses to put in their own homes. This art is my passion; it is my life.
“I had to be patient, curious, observant, tenacious, and persistent in everything I did. I always thought that, if I could make any piece or design, I would not be limited by my disability. I was helped greatly by talking with others, and also by training sessions, forums, congresses, fairs, and interacting with people.
“My creative and innovative strengths helped me a lot, because admirers of my art promoted me and I received awards and recognitions. In 2009, the Cultural Ministry distinguished me as a Meritorious Person of Peruvian Culture, and after that the Provincial Municipality of Huamanga named me Ambassador of Popular Art and Peruvian Handicrafts. Also, the Minister of MINCETUR (Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Tourism), Magali Silva, recognized me as Promoter of Peruvian Handicrafts. I feel very proud to represent my country in this way, doing what I love most.
“Every day, I wake up at 5:30 AM and I go to my workshop to make my candelabras and my crosses. I live there; it is my life and my home, where I create new items, paint, weld, etc. My hope is that this art will continue through time, and that all of my sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and everyone else who wants to learn will expand this local art. In that way, they will develop our society and ensure that new generations can learn to appreciate our culture and our arts, which is sorely needed.
“What I like the most is making crosses and candelabras, and the most challenging part about my art is making brass sculptures. My inspiration comes from the environment that I have lived in from my youth. In nature is where I find all of the decoration that I use in my pieces, like the different varieties of flowers, birds, figures, forms, etc.
“When I began working on my own, I made the decision to do this work, no matter the cost. In this way, I persevered under any condition. When I started my workshop in 1974, I was robbed of all of my tools, leaving me with nothing. Later, in 1983, I was robbed again! I experienced two robberies, but I made it through thanks to the advice of good people that have crossed my path. I remember Dario Gomez, a friend who was present during one of the robberies and reported it to the police. Dario gave me good advice and told me, “Teofilo, you are young. Do not be sad or go on pushing yourself to make decisions. Don’t go looking for another job, either; instead, start fresh with what you have, and borrow or rent tools from your friends in order to continue.” These words were the strength I needed to carry on. I found it so profound that I worked very hard in order to get ahead and realize my goals.
“One of the other difficulties that I went through was in the 90s. Then, I experienced economic hardship due to the arrival of industrial plastics and aluminum from China. People did not buy my pieces because plastic and aluminum was cheap. Even though I survived, I was on the verge of extinction. Because of this, I had to adapt to the needs of my clients and reinvent my own line of work.
“My home workshop is open to the community. I teach metalworking to students from universities, institutions, and high schools. We receive internships from different private educational institutions, and I lend artistic pieces to the institutions during their anniversary expositions. Through these activities, we spread and promote artistic metalwork.
“I am very happy to be part of the Novica family. I have many hopes and dreams to introduce my art to the world so that people everywhere can know me and enjoy my art.”