Sunday, September 26, 2010

Murals of hope

If you travel to view the site of the El Mozote massacre near Perquin in Morazan Deapartment, one of the things you will see is this mural on the side of the little church which faces the plaza. The mural was a project of visual artist Claudia Bernardi who uses art and murals as a tool to restore a sense of community in populations impacted by massacres or other human rights atrocities.

A recent article on the Huffington Post tells the story:

To see Bernardi's gorgeous images is to be seduced by their jeweled colors of raw pigment and lured by their lyrical titles. But a closer look reveals skeletal remains, fragments of the silenced, drawn with indelible tenderness. Her work weaves visual poetry with a brutal frankness informed by her time spent in mass graves exhuming innocent victims of political conflicts. As a member of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (AFAT), a scientific organization founded to investigate human-rights abuses against civilian populations, Bernardi has worked at sites throughout the world.

It was in 1992 that her work for AFAT first took Bernardi to El Salvador. The team was to investigate rumors of a massacre eleven years previous in the hamlet of El Mozote. Their focus was initially limited to a small building known as "The Convent," where they would subsequently unearth the remains of 143 people, 136 of whom were under the age of ten. AFAT would return to El Salvador several more times, completing their investigation of El Mozote in 2004.

She visited the village of Perquin in 2001, four kilometers north of what was now the ghost of El Mozote. There, Bernardi began working with the community and together they would eventually create a mural dedicated to the victims of the massacre. Inspired by the villagers' ability to use art to overcome their longstanding differences and personal traumas, Bernardi would found The School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin in 2005.

Today, the school continues to use art as a tool for education, community development, and a voice for victims of human-rights violations. The school is free and open to all. Students, from children to the elderly, sometimes walk miles to learn to draw, paint, make textiles and wood sculpture. It is run by four local artists who, just five years ago, had never even made a work of art.

You can see a photo album of the development of the El Mozote mural at this link and read more here about Walls of Hope and its recent project at the site of a massacre of indigenous campesinos in Guatemala.

More photos from El Mozote here.

1 comment:

ixa said...

Good post Tim. I was there in December 1994 when Medicina Legal sent the remains of the kids back to be formally buried. Some day they will take away the Amnesty Law, and El Salvador will have their reconciliation time just as South Africa did. El Salvador has hidden for too long.