Tales of the Future – Colombia

The “Tales of the Future: Senses, Creativity and the Arts of Survival in Colombia” is the focus of the Phase 1 Colombia project for Changing the Story. Find out more about what we’re doing in Colombia, our approaches, processes and aspirations.

Tales of the Future: Senses, Creativity and the Arts of Survival in Colombia is a collaborative, experimental and itinerant project that seeks to stimulate creative embryos (or artistic ensembles) among young people inhabiting the borders of precariousness in Colombia. In the middle of the current and complex transitional scenario, which we identify not only as a series of unresolved tensions between fractures and continuities of diverse forms of violence but also as a moment in which a retrospective gesture seems to co-exist with the prospective illusion of a new imagined society, Tales is concerned with creative forms of narrating or articulating the future as a possibility through different languages of collective pain and particular modes of integrating lived experience, whether they are corporeal, visual, sonic or textual among other possibilities. Likewise, we are interested in the textures and creative modulations of daily survival of these youth and their complex contexts, as well as in the economies of solidarity that will grow out of these embryos. This project is sustained on a vision of peace in a small scale in which the restitution of the other’s neighborliness and the transformation of the imaginaries ossified over the years of war and armed conflict takes particular importance.

As a result of a long armed conflict, in Colombia there are effects not yet explored in all areas of society. Within the framework of this project, some of those undesirable effects are:

  • The impossibility for security reasons, for researchers and academics to travel through different regions of the country, which creates limitations in terms of documenting various facts, exploratory research, without any direct relationship in the regions and populations analyzed, and in many cases with secondary sources.
  • Existence of a great social distrust towards any agent external to the communities that have suffered through the war, which implies the need to find innovative methodologies for the reconstruction of trust and dialogue spaces of collaborative work.
  • Emphasis on programs for the development of productive components and the generation of resources that, while important, do not contemplate with equal importance the strengthening of intangibles such as trust, solidarity, and emotional components, so necessary in post-war contexts for communities and people affected by violence.
  • Methodologies that promote cooperation from civic agencies and State agencies, rather than solidarity between just local organizations for access to resources and financing.

 Art, Social Imaginaries & Change

“They wanted to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” A wall mural in Colombia (Photo: Simon Dancey)

An important starting point for our initiative focuses on a critical review of the practices and approaches of testimonial documentation derived from creative experiences and efforts from the communities themselves, civil society, government entities and academia. This first phase of the project combines desk research of secondary sources with experiences of fieldwork, with itinerant ethnography as a research technique and social dialogue valuable methodological instruments.

Alongside this critical review, an exploration of how counterhegemonic social imaginaries are constructed and the role of culture in facilitating this construction, with reference to post war imaginaries.  An understanding of these processes will contribute to the theory of change, illuminating how culture can help transform social reality.

Another contribution to a theory of change, in the midst of a process of “transition”, is to facilitate the communication of “small stories of great heroism”, which implies on the one hand rewriting heroism in a different way to the individual courage and machismo of the armies; and on the other hand, to explore different manifestations of the body and “art”, as valid and complementary forms to orality and writing as a documentation process. As an example, a theatrical experience documented by the author in the port of Buenaventura in Colombia allowed revelation of “a kind of collective testimony, staged, made with his body, in his body”.

Theory of Change

Click to enlarge.

Phase 1: Research and scoping

PROBLEM: There are gaps in the narratives and dominant narratives of what peoples’ experience has been of the violence and conflict in Colombia, particularly around young people in marginalised and remote areas. The documentation of experiences has also missed key elements around emotion, trust and belonging vital to understanding what has happened to society in the process of the violence.

PROCESS: Desk research; 10 field trips guided by young people; Interviews and critical review of cultural and artistic experiences (documentary and experiential) in relation to conflict. Identification, classification and analysis of different documented experiences and social imaginaries.

Carrying out 6 trips to different regions of Colombia after identifying areas of special interest for the project for direct meetings with communities and youth groups.

Systematization of experience, gathering of information and documentation of best practices

OUTCOME: Research provides evidence of alternative social imaginaries. Research and scoping phase informs knowledge of alternative approaches to cultural and artistic experiences in relation to conflict to inform pilot interventions. Research informs civil society and partners working in this field.

Phase 2: Pilots and project interventions

Civil Society

PROBLEM: Civil society and government working in this field have disparate, non-collaborative and competitive approaches to working with young people through culture and arts.

PROCESS: Identification with young people and civil society of collaborative, associative cultural and artistic practice and alternate social imaginaries. Design and delivery of pilot programmes based on these principles and practice.

OUTCOME: Greater understanding of alternative, collaborative approaches in practice and nature of culture and art in developing and shifting new and alternative social imaginaries.

Young People

PROBLEM: Lack of trust between young people and civil society in marginalised regions of Colombia.

PROCESS: To carry out close, direct and non-intermediated work with young people and communities to develop trust and explore the role of art and culture in constructing alternative social imaginaries through collaborative ethnography and analytical radical sociology.

OUTCOME: Building bonds of trust in highly complex contexts with young people and communities and greater understanding of importance of intangibles such as affection, trust, respect and participation (“being part of”) in post-conflict Colombia.

Phase 3: Analysis and sharing of results and findings

PROBLEM: Lack of sustainability of project interventions and embedding of findings and new approaches in practice.

PROCESS: Promote with different academics, universities and cultural and artistic agents the diverse narratives through dialogue with communities in complex regions of Colombia. Dialogue events for the methodological dissemination of the project and work experiences and cascade and develop methodology it in different regions and with the support of other bodies such as cooperation for development, academia, the State and Civil Society.

OUTCOME: Different academics, universities, cultural agents and civil society will be informed about and acknowledge the alternative dialogues and social imaginaries with and of communities in complex regions of Colombia.

 

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