The traditions of Cartajima have graced some of the streets for the past two years. / SUR

Murals painted under the blazing sun

For three summers now, a team of young women has been painting scenes on the white walls of the village

JAVIER ALMELLONES

It is the highest village in the Serranía de Ronda and the third highest in Malaga province. Cartajima, in the Alto Genal area, is one of Andalucía's traditional 'pueblos blancos' and for centuries it has been able to boast about how sparkling and bright its whitewashed houses are.

Despite this, a couple of years ago the council of this mountain village took the surprising decision to add a touch of colour to that brilliant white, and it has done so with murals painted by young women from the village, who took advantage of the long summer days to create what has become a real outdoor pictorial museum. And it hasn't ceased to grow.

This came about thanks to a project devised in the early months of the pandemic, called 'Creative façades'. In July and August 2020, as the sun blazed down in Cartajima, four young women set about painting 12 murals in different parts of the village.

Paint and brushes

While many local residents of the same age were heading for the beach or cooling down in some of the crystal-clear pools in the Genal river or one of its tributaries, these four worked away with paints, brushes and a great deal of enthusiasm.

The predominant theme of the murals that summer was nature and the environment, both of which are fundamental elements in the beauty of this village and its surroundings.

The four young women selected for the project in the summer of 2020 were unemployed. They painted pictures which alluded to Cartajima in some way: a chestnut tree with wild mushrooms growing at its feet, a wine press, and a donkey tied up outside a house, for example. The 12 murals came as a surprise - but a pleasant one - to locals and visitors alike.

Last summer, 2021, the scheme was continued, with two of the girls who had taken part in 2020 and two others who joined in for the first time.

Once again, they painted 12 murals but this time on the theme of traditions of this village.

And it may come as no surprise to learn that this summer, anyone who decided to visit Cartajima from late August onwards will have been able to see even more representations of its history and heritage painted on its walls.

This year only two women were selected to continue the project which began two years previously. One was Alba González, who has taken part every summer. At the age of 26 she is young, but already the most experienced of the mural painters in the village. She was accompanied by 31-year-old Sonia Ruiz, who spent a second summer adding more colour to the walls of the place she is proud to call home.

This third summer, Alba and Sonia have been tackling a more unusual theme, children's games of the past. As Yoland Benítez, the municipal coordinator of the project, explained: "the murals become more complex every year from an artistic point of view".

The latest paintings include more people and drawings with a greater depth.

As there were only two of them this year, Sonia and Alba worked hard to finish at least six murals before the end of August and Cartijima can now boast around 30 colourful paintings in its streets, thanks to this unusual initiative. It has proven so popular among local residents that some have asked these two young artists to paint murals on their houses as well.

The aim of this project has not only been to fill the pretty whitewashed streets of Cartajima with colourful art, but also to try to prevent a phenomenon which is such a concern in these small villages: depopulation. Where there is work, people will stay.