A Tribute to Humboldt by Mikolji

Ivan Mikolji has devoted much of his life to photography to make known the biodiversity of the Amazon basin. His exploration projects and documentation stand out the uniqueness of these ecosystems. After more than two centuries since Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) made his epic expedition (1799-1804), this inventory is far from being finished; and many species have not been identified, and possibly never will be, if the tragic environmental impact on these paradises is not stopped.

Mikolji’s artistic proposals create unique looks like those shown in this portfolio, in compositions that were only possible thanks to hundreds of hours of underwater gazes over almost twenty years. Some of the unique aquatic plants of the Amazon, Bolívar and Apure are shown. They seem to levitate over the water, rooted in the riverside bottom. Universes full of vitality and color are documented such as the water starflowers, from whose petals seems to emerge sunbeams, or the flower of the Caño de Picantonal, near Puerto Ayacucho. They are traces of light that bring us close to the fragility of underwater plants such as the fluffy Macarenia Clavijera, in the Sierra de la Macarena of Colombia, which permeates with colors the Caño Cristales river, for which it is known as the river of five colors.

Some of these species were described by Alexander von Humboldt, and are shown in this series, such as the peacock bass, whose picture shows the transparency of the water, which makes the flooded tree trunks visible, the background covered by leaves and debris, along with the poetic underwater reflections, among a shoal of silver peacocks immersed in a mysterious atmosphere. These flooded plains of Apure are also the biome of the black spot piranha, also described by the German scientist and humanist. The image clicked by Mikolji transmits the energy displayed by the predator, among a terrifying shoal. In this selection the image of the panda dolphin could not be missing, to which the explorer in the 19th century dedicated several references in his work, such as those he makes when telling the story about one of the nights he camped.

“… On the flat and sandy shore of the Apure, skirted a short distance away by an impenetrable jungle… The oars of our boat were solidly nailed to the ground to tie our hammocks to them; a deep silence reigned: barely heard, at long intervals, the snoring of water dolphins, common in the Orinoco Delta…” (1)

Eduardo Planchart Licea
PhD. Latin American Art History, UNAM

Quote: (1) The Venezuelan Humboldt. Compilation and notes by Miguel S. Wionczel. Caracas: Central Bank of Venezuela, 1977, pp. 75-83.


A Tribute to Humboldt by Mikolji has been exhibited in:

  • Barquisimeto Photographic Foundation. Venezuela 2019
  • Libertador Experimental Pedagogical University (UPEL). Barquisimeto, Venezuela 2019
  • Humboldt Cultural Association. Caracas, Venezuela 2019
    (Digital Catalog)
  • La Salle Foundation for Natural Sciences, Caracas, Venezuela. 2019