Álvaro Córdova (better known as “Tnaz”), discovered his talents and tastes for painting at an early age. Experimenting with drawing and with colors was something that helped him discover his identity, not just as a resident of the place he inhabits, but also as a member of the native population. Being part of society that has, since the beginning of colonial times, been viewed as lower in the social hierarchy was a strong motivating force for him as an artist. Therefore, it seems no coincidence that his name is phonetically similar to the word “tenacity” in English.

Ecuador (where Tnaz is from) is a country with a strong indigenous presence–with more than twenty indigenous communities in the central mountains, along the coast, and in the Amazon basin to the east. The murals Tnaz paints proudly portray his ancestral heritage as part of the Peguche native community.

Being a strong believer of the saying, “Never forget where you come from and where you are going,” respect for his ancestors is visible in his aesthetic. Wearing the long braid common among his people is one way he connects with mother earth in order to pay homage to the place where he comes from. Meanwhile, his clothing also follows a certain code: long shirt, wide pants full of paint, headphones to listen to music, and more recently a gas mask to avoid breathing in fumes from the paint has become part of his look.

A dominant feature expressed in many of his murals is a kind of mythical romanticism–one that apparently comes from the aura of actual people he has met in different indigenous communities. His highly polished technique allows the lines and colors of the image to stand out in a way that quickly catches the eye. For Tnaz, there is no more beautiful feeling than seeing the reactions of the people in front of his murals, especially those of the community’s elders, who smile when they see their culture portrayed in public spaces. A surprising fact considering that not long ago graffiti and street arts were synonymous with vandalism and crime. These days he says he frequently receives offers to do commissioned paintings on canvas; however, for now at least, prefers that everyone is able to enjoy his creations, and therefore refuses to put his pieces in galleries.

Tnaz has definitely proven himself to be one of the most fascinating figures in street art and without a doubt brings a completely new perspective to the table with his work. You can check out his recent pieces on Facebook at TenazGraff and Instagram at @tnaz.graffiti