In our work with the youth of Jaguos por el Territorio we've been able to experience many creative expressions used as valid tactics in the struggle for the defense of territory; muralism has been one of the most important strategies as well as photography and theater. This year the Jaguos collective received financial support to collaborate with diverse allies in the creation of an art process for land defense called Geochoreographies.
Geochoreography comes from the words geography, or the study of space, the environment, land and territory, and choreography, or the organization or structure of actions within a space. Geochoreographies is made up of two simultaneous processes, one body and the other audio-visual.
The body process consisted of 16 workshops that took place over 4 months in four municipalities nodes of actions, with training in performance arts, theater, puppets, and contemporary dance. The nodes of action were in La Jagua (Garzón), Gigante, El Agrado, and countryside of Paraguay (Oporapa). In La Jagua there were also participants from Tarqui, and in El Agrado there were participants from El Pital. Each hub was its own working group, with a diversity of ages, experiences, knowledge, and interests.
The audio-visual process is still ongoing. Since August, 15 workshops have taken place in La Jagua, with youth from La Jagua, Paraguay, El Pital and Garzón participating. The workshop facilitators for the audio-visual process were the artist La Cloud and professors from the Mother Earth Teaching Program at the University of Antioquia. During this process they've created various shorts about different themes related to territory, including fishing, coffee growing, and displacement. The audio-visual training process will continue in 2015, and will culminate in the First Street Film Screening Series in the middle of this year. This traveling film series will be the official premiere of all the material created in the workshops, and have an open call for film entries from everywhere but directed primarily to audio visual material from Huila, Caquetá and Putumayo.
Just like the diverse participants, each workshop facilitator came from a different background and had experiences and knowledge to offer based on where they are from. The performing arts teacher, Fernando Pertuz from Bogotá, led all of his teaching through workshops about Practices of Resistance. The theater teacher, Lucenith Castillo, who comes from the group Esquina Latina in Cali, started with exercises to analyze reality that gave a basic foundation for presenting scenes through Theater of Neighbors (community/neighborhood based theater).
The contemporary dance teacher, Eduardo Oramas, led workshops in scenic improvisation, and our friends from the Colibrí Collective shared their experience with puppetry in Cauca with a workshop called How to Give Life to Metaphors. Each group evolved in its own way, and the results were very distinct. Struggles in defense of territory were ongoing during the course of these workshops and so they were a big influence. The workshops continued, but also the struggles for land continued in all the many ways that people practice resistance.
In La Jagua on November 1st a blockade began on the road to Tarqui, which effectively paralyzed the Escalereta resettlement work in the neighborhood and the oxidation ponds in La Jagua, as well as their respective areas of preventive archeology. This blockade demanded compliance with ruling T-135 of the Constitutional Court, which ordered Emgesa to immediately open a new census of the affected population. The blockade lasted until November 25th, when there were no longer guarantees from the State, which through ESMAD (riot police) was going to use violence against people to move them. The blockade coincided with a gathering of Ríos Vivos [the Living Rivers Social Movement], and people from the Ríos Vivos Movement arrived from all over Colombia: from Bajo Sinú (Córdoba), the Cauca River Canyon (Antioquia), the Sogamoso River (Santander), the north of the Department of Cauca and also from Neiva, Oporapa and Isnos, Huila. At the same time, the final action of Geochoreographies was taking place in La Jagua, which included a night of street theater in public space in town. During this action more than 300 people joined hands and created a human spiral, to close with an activity of offering and a fire at the site of Las Peñas on the Yuma (Magdalena) River. The next day there was a paseo de olla con sancocho (an outing to cook stew by the river) for everyone, that included demonstrations of throwing fishing nets, artisanal miners showing samples of their work, hanging a banner on the cliffs, puppet theater, rock painting, tubing on the river, and spelling out the phrase “ríos vivos” with our bodies on the warm rocks by the side of the river.
The group from El Agrado and El Pital, who were mostly adolescents and some children, did two days of action. The first day was in public space in a rural area at the bridges over the Yaguilga creek and the Balseadero Bridge over the Yuma River, and the second day was in parks in El Agrado and El Pital. During the geochoreography at the bridges they did some spontaneous graffiti, a human spiral, a presentation of River Theater (as oppose to street theater) called “the Bombarded Frog” and decorated the Balseadero Bridge with paper lanterns and a banner. On both days of action they made dozens of purple fabric bands painted with the names of native species of flora and fauna that are impacted by the Quimbo Hydroelectric Project, raising awareness at the bridges and in the main public parks about the other affected populations that aren't being recognized by the company Emgesa. In the parks they presented a couple of works of invisible theater, the Burial of the Land and the Displaced Fishing Net, and made a human spiral that incorporated the public.
In Gigante children and youth from the Casa de la Cultura theater group did an invisible theatre intervention in the market plaza that grabbed a lot of attention. Some pretended to be working for a multinational company, selling bottles of water from Páramo de Miraflores or from the Yuma River for 1 million Colombian pesos each to people in the market, while groups of thirsty children followed them around begging for water. At the same time, another group was walking around the market gifting hugs and bracelets that say Territorio Matambo (Matambo being the patron Peak of the region) and inviting people to the next play happening in the central park after mass. In the park they made another human spiral, and did a play where the Ceiba of Freedom came to life, talking to the people of Gigante from the heart, inviting them to liberate the land. This activity culminated with a paseo de olla con sancocho in the El Arado creek.
In Oporapa, San Ciro and Paraguay they presented the river-serpent, a 25 meter long blue puppet that wove through the streets until it confronted a dam that blocked its path. They also did the street coreographies of Los Macheteros y Los Cafeteros (The Machete Wielders and Coffee Growers), as well as human spirals. Between the Geochoreographies of Oporapa and San Ciro they took a break at the El Guayabo Creek, and in Paraguay after the presentation there was a community stew cooking where everyone was invited. These last actions coincided with protests against the COP20 in Lima, Peru, and also the participation of representatives from ASOQUIMBO and Ríos Vivos in the People's Summit on Climate Change in Lima. All of the participants in the final presentations received posters, Territorio Matambo bracelets and a Certificate of Participation.
Geochoreographies as a project has come to an end, but the audio-visual process is just taking a break and will be continued in 2015, ending its first cycle in the middle of the year. After much work and reflection it is clear that these kinds of projects in rural communities are needed and desired, especially those that are impacted by extraction projects. We hope to evolve this first experience into an arts and communication school for the defense of territory, in the not too distant future. It is clear to us that there is no lack of interest or energy for participating in these projects in the communities that relate to an intangible cultural inheritance that reinforces rootedness to the land. Now the challenge is to facilitate a second round, and deepen political formation and artistic and cultural creation as tactics for direct action and for personal and collective transformation of communities in the process of defending their territory, their lives, and life itself.