Nan Cuz

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Nan Cuz
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Irmgard Heinemann Cuz

(1927-01-06)January 6, 1927
Secoyocte, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala
DiedNovember 11, 2019(2019-11-11) (aged 92)
Panajachel, Guatemala

Nan Cuz (born Irmgard Heinemann Cuz; 6 January 1927 – 11 November 2019) was a German-Guatemalan painter.


Nan Cuz was born in 1927 in Secoyocte, in the municipio of Senahú in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Her mother was Q’eqchi' Maya, her father German. While she was growing up with her mother and grandmother in the traditional Mayan way, her father returned to Germany and married there. When Cuz was seven years old, her German stepmother traveled to Guatemala to take her back to Germany in order to provide her with a good education. Although the original agreement was that she would be returned to her mother when she completed her schooling, World War II and its aftermath prevented this.

Her father was a accomplished photographer and taught her the craft, but she soon moved on to painting portraits.[1]

Nan Cuz died at the age of 92 years on the 11th of November 2019 in Panajachel, Guatemala.[2]

Artistic work

The indelible impressions of her childhood - the glowing, shining power of the sun, the close relation with animals, with the always fragrant vegetation, and last but not least with her mother - had left Nan Cuz with a longing that demanded expression. Nan Cuz created scenes in which motifs from the world of myths and legends from everyday Mayan life dominate.[3]

She used various techniques, including relief painting and screen printing in works characterized by intense colors. Her interest in world religions, especially in the Maya cosmovision and Buddhism, is particularly evident in her later works, which deal principally with spiritually inspired subjects.[4]

From 1957 Cuz had exhibitions at numerous important European sites, including the Museum der Völkerkunde, Hamburg (1960), Übersee-Museum, Bremen (1961), Stenzel Gallery, Munich (1961), Meyers Art Gallery, Esbjerg (1963), and Galerie Commeter, Hamburg (1965). In 1968 Nan Cuz’ and Georg Schäfer's book In the Kingdom of Mescal was published, an illustrated fairy tale for adults based on indigenous Guatemalan folklore. It rapidly attained cult status within the hippie movement and was later translated into several languages.[5]


Die Geburt der Sonne. Indianermärchen aus Lateinamerika. Nacherzählt von Harri Findeisen. Illustriert von Nan Cuz. Union Verlag, Stuttgart 1985, ISBN 3-8139-5623-7.

In the Kingdom of Mescal: A Fairy-tale for Adults. Georg Schäfer (Author), Nan Cuz (Illustration). Synthesis, Essen 1968, ISBN 978-3-922026-13-6.

Nan Cuz. Magia y Emociones. Fundación Paiz para la Educación y la Cultura, Ciudad de Guatemala, 2017, ISBN 978-9929-8132-6-7.

Indianische Malerei von Nan Cuz. Kunsthalle Rostock, Rostock 1968


Brennende Feder. Sehendes Herz - Nan Cuz, eine deutsch-indianische Malerin. Production/Regie: Anja Krug-Metzinger, Radio Bremen/Arte, 2008

In the media



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