Ologwagdi (b. 1953) is one of Panama’s leading indigenous artists and a longtime veteran of the country’s labor and social protests movements. He is best known for his stunning murals which adorn the walls of Colón and Panama City and which treat topics as varied as Native American rights, gender equality, national sovereignty, and the environment. Ologwagdi is a member of the Guna (formerly Kuna) community which boasts a long and impressive history of resisting Western colonization. For years, he has involved himself in cultural projects in the group’s traditional comarca which encompasses the islands and territories of Panama’s eastern Caribbean coast and which functions as an autonomous region. Ologwagdi is a founding member of the Movimiento de la Juventud Kuna which was created in the early 1970s and which organized Panama’s Native American youth in a critical period of indigenous mobilization. In addition, he is responsible for most of the portraits which today hang in the Gunas’ meeting houses. Ologwagdi’s portraits honor deceased heroes and captivate viewers with their visual power.
Ologwagdi grew up in Colón and Guna Yala and attended Panama’s Escuela de Artes Plásticas. He has never concerned himself with producing for galleries, but instead has participated in organizations dedicated to art in public spaces. His paintings appear on buildings and banners and often emerge in political rallies, elevated in the hands of boisterous protestors. Ologwagdi was a key member of El Trópico de Cáncer, a pioneering public art group in the 1970s. More recently, he has been active in El Kolectivo, whose murals focus on historical memory and the decades-long struggle for Panamanian national autonomy. Ologwagdi is a prolific illustrator of books and has contributed to dozens of publications on Panamanian history, literature, and natural resources. From the mid-1970s until recently, he worked as an illustrator for Panama’s Ministry of Education, specializing in bilingual instruction.