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“We are Land” Exhibit Opens in Bogotá, Colombia with Support from Lutheran World Relief
Bogotá, March 20, 2012 — Lutheran World Relief (LWR), together with partner organizations in Colombia, celebrates the opening of the exhibit “We are Land” today at the Universidad del Rosario in downtown Bogotá. The exhibit, a “memory gallery” created by victims of violence in the Montes de María and Catatumbo regions of Colombia, includes both text and works of art that tell the history of violence in the area from the perspective of those who have suffered its effects. Both communities have been particularly affected by assassinations, forced disappearances, and massive displacement perpetrated by armed groups operating in Colombia. The communities’ experiences are emblematic of violence felt across Colombia as a result of the nation’s nearly six decades of internal conflict.
Pedro Veliz, LWR’s representative for the Andean region, will offer opening remarks. Representatives from the Mayor’s office of Bogotá, along with staff of LWR partner organizations MINGA, Fundación Manuel Cepeda Vargas and Agenda Caribe, will make short presentations about the gallery’s creation and trajectory. “We are Land” recalls the victims’ experiences and provides a national platform for their stories. The gallery’s opening occurs at a critical time in Colombia as the government begins to implement a national “Victims Law,” approved by the Colombian Congress in 2011. The law seeks to provide varying degrees of reparation to more than 4 million victims of armed conflict and represents new opportunities for their participation in public debate and legal processes related to crimes committed against them.
“It is a pleasant coincidence that the Victims Law and Colombia’s first National Day of Victims to be celebrated on April 9 are helping to set the tone for this gallery’s opening,” said Zoraida Castillo, LWR’s country director for Colombia. “I believe the nation’s political efforts to recognize victims have the potential to reinforce valuable work already being carried out by communities that created this gallery.”
“We are Land” represents the second phase of a bi-national memory gallery initially launched in the U.S. as “Remember Me: Voices of the Silenced in Colombia” in 2009. This second phase of the gallery, funded by LWR and the U.S. Institute for Peace , included workshops with victims aimed at strengthening victims’ networks, teaching them about their rights under Colombian and international law, and initiating dialogue on issues related to violence and victims’ rights in Colombia. The project also included a series of workshops where communities conceived of and helped design the art pieces, which interpret the effects of violence carried out against them by armed groups. “The gallery is not just a space to hang photos and read tragic stories,” says Castillo, “It is an effort to involve victims in public debate, create an opening for them to contribute to implementation of the Victims Law and amplify their voice and experience to the public.”
“We are Land” is open to the public and will be on display at the Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá until April 4. It will then travel to Cucutá for an April 18 opening at the Library of Cucutá. It will be on display in Cartagena beginning May 16 and again in June in the city of Mocoa, Putumayo.
The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Institute of Peace.