La Cucaracha, 2020

Limited edition

Printed in a limited print run of 1,500 hundred copies in a large and appealing format, the book will become a rare and collective piece.

Author: Pieter Hugo
Blinding: Hardcover
Pages: 132
Sizes: 31 x 35 cm
Language: ENG

CM H 35 W 31

IN H 13.78 W 12.2



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La Cucaracha, 2020

Pieter Hugo is one of the most gifted and greatest photobook maker of South Africa.“La Cucaracha” is the final stop after 2 years visiting Mexico in what Hugo consideres to be his greats work since “The Hyena” was published. This is the first time this body of work is published in a book format.

The book is a striking, tough and beautiful view of today’s Mexico. Printed in a limited print run of 1,500 hundred copies in a large and appealing format, the book will become a rare and collective piece.

Pieter Hugo first came to Mexico at the invitation of Francisco Berzunza, who was curating an exhibition of South African art at a museum in Oaxaca titled “Hacer Noche” (‘Crossing Night’) and dealt with the liminal space after death. His only brief to Pieter was that the work should be about sex and mortality. What started as an open assignment quickly became an obsession for Pieter. Mexico’s anarchic, visceral energy really trapped him.

If one looks beyond the clichés of dancing skeletons and sugar skulls, there’s a deeply complicated connection with mortality. This necropolitical dynamic is most visible in contradictory expressions of honouring the afterlife, in the Day of the Dead celebrations and the brutal dismemberment of bodies by narco traffickers.

“La Cucaracha”, the Spanish folk song after which this work was named, is of contested origin. While its basis has remained the same, describing a cockroach that has lost a leg or two and struggles to walk, its many verses have been improvised according to the needs of the moment. 

The jingle-like refrain, combining humour and derogation, is tied deeply to the specific geopolitical, historical and pop-cultural expression of Mexico – a place where hyperviolence, the joyful treatment of death, extreme machismo, expanded viewpoints on gender, dogmatic Catholicism, a reverence for the supernatural, cyclic autocracies, the provision of equitable social housing, chronic desperation and a communal outlook have all somehow found a way to coexist.

Pieter Hugo

Born in Johannesburg in 1976, Pieter Hugo grew up in Cape Town where he currently lives.

Internationally renowned portrait and documentary photographer, his work is represented in prominent public and private collections, among them Centre Pompidou, Rijksmuesum, the Museum of Modern Art, V&A Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, J Paul Getty Museum, Walther Collection, Deutsche Börse Group, Folkwang Museum and Huis Marseille.

Major museum solo exhibitions have taken place at Museu Coleção Berardo; the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; the Hague Museum of Photography, Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, Ludwig Museum in Budapest, Fotografiska in Stockholm, MAXXI in Rome and the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, among others. Hugo has participated in numerous group exhibitions at institutions including the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, Barbican Art Gallery, Tate Modern, the Folkwang Museum, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, and the São Paulo Biennale.

Hugo received the Discovery Award at the Rencontres d'Arles Festival and the KLM Paul Huf Award in 2008, the Seydou Keita Award at the Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial in 2011, and was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2012. In 2015 he was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet and was chosen as the ‘In Focus’ artist for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

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