Memorial commissioned by Amnesty International
I've spent two years working on a memorial, to focus attention on the violation
of civil rights and inhumanities in Colombia, and especially on relatives
of the victims of the Civil war. People in the northwest (living along the Cacarica river)
witnessed horrible torture, assassinations and intimidation. In 1997 they were forced to flee, leaving their houses, farms, fields, their land,
because of paramilitary-military operations in the region.
Over a period of three years hundreds of victims lived in refugee camps under terrible circumstances.
Part of them joined together as a peace community called CAVIDA (Comunidades de
Autodeterminacion, Vida, Dignidad del Cacarica) and went back to their land in
February 2000. CAVIDA consists of two villages, Epseranza en Dios (Hope in God)
and Nueva Vida (New Live) The survivors who lost a lot of family and friends,
that were murdered, or disappeared, asked for a memorial.
Amnesty International Holland answered their question and asked me to make a design. This was on
voluntary basis. Amnesty asked that a part could be made at a festival, so that
a lot of people could join in the making of the memorial and show their solidarity.
The idea of hundreds of hands working together filled my mind. Together filled
within a curved wall reaching out and literally showing their support. So hundreds
of casts of the hands of people at the festival Mundial where made in 2001,
as well as additional ones from Colombian villagers. Their hands joined together
in a wall now standing in that little village called Nueva Vida in the middle
of a jungle. On the back of the wall the people of the peace community Cavida
wrote a poem.
The wall measures 623x40x300cm. In front of the wall lays a ceramic figure (352x147x110cm) which is trying to stand up, but is tied up. He tries to struggle free from the position into which he was forced, symbolizing their situation, their struggle to survive, representing pride, hope and comfort. The people of Cavida, adult men, women, even children, helped me build the memorial. The amazing experience cannot be told in words. Without using violence the community fights for peace asking both sides to leave them out of their conflict. Their territory is neutral. I was witnessing their beauty, their dignity and their poverty.
I heard stories, the deliberate burning of rice fields, individual stories filled with pain, their flight. I saw the worries about food, and about circulating helicopters above the villages, the same helicopters that bombed them only a few years ago. And I was witness when the body of a young man called Ramiro Vasque was being brought back into the village. A man of only 20 years old, one of the many who helped me with the memorial. He was murdered after seeking some relatives, butchered by paramilitaries. I heard the agonizing cries of his wife Paola. I saw the fear of those people, the eyes of the children that witnessed the horror of their difficult lives, in a land in war there is no time for innocence.