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Art & Social Space
C'undua: Pact for life. Prospects for the Social Imaginary of Mapa Teatro
by David Gutiérrez Castañeda

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David Gutiérrez: The negotiative strategies used to draw closer to these communities, and develop stories with them were important. How did that take place?

Rolf Abderhalen: That's why the workshops were set up, that was the idea. The workshops were spaces, perhaps unlike other types of interventions, where people were encouraged to do things, take photos, play games, different dynamics that are not necessarily in line with the forms of intervention usually proposed by social workers or workers in municipal agencies. The approach took shape by taking time to work with the community. It's like field work where you are primarily an observer, but a participating observer, you're not a passive, distant observer, you're an observer who joins in, not an observer with an object of study, but one who deals with a community, with real people, and it's based on pure empathy. We were a group, it wasn't just me, we were a group of people, and everyone sought to establish dialogues, conversations, and relations. In the final analysis it all boils down to the specific dynamics of building relationships, having dialogues, conversations between people who meet and start talking: -ok, where do you live?- and -what are you doing here?- I ask you, and you ask me.

After several meetings, several field visits, we began to see how people in Usaquén or Las Nieves lived. We saw how older adults were set apart, they had separate activities, but in fact not much is done with them. We also noticed how there were a few young people who lived there but they didn't really know what to do; that there were age groups that sort of needed special attention. We couldn't bring everybody together and propose activities that would put the older people to sleep and bore the younger ones. We had to specify the relationship a little, by looking for subjects or bonds that would act as a stimulus for bringing groups together. So that's where it dawned on us that the most interesting stories were those of the founders of the barrios, the stories of how they had gotten there, the stories of how they had built their houses, how a makeshift neighborhood had managed to accomplish this or that. There were stories of the foundation of the barrio that were obviously meaningful to older adults, but not to 20-year-olds who were settled in and really had no idea what had previously taken place. That's how the Libros de la Memoria (Memory Books) came to light: they were born of listening to an old man telling us stories of his life in the barrio and of the following conversation: -Haven't you told these stories before? Do you have an album?- -No, I don't have an album-- -Ah, why don't we make an album then?- A discussion of the family memories and of the album would follow, and they'd say: -No, I have photos, but I don't have an album. I don't know how to write-. And we'd answer: -Can anyone in your family write?- -Yes, my granddaughter can write-. -Ah ok, why don't you tell your granddaughter, and she can write it down for you-. So the Books became completely personal albums of each person and their families. Those who couldn't write resorted to their daughter, or son, or granddaughter or nephew, who would write for them. Those who could wrote their memories directly. Then some of them would get others to decorate the album, adding personal photos, and other things such as color cards, drawings, or cut-outs from magazines that they thought were nice. Some of the Books thus became the core action that arose out of the conversations at the end of the workshop. All that led to questions: questions about the founding of the barrio and its myths. The establishment of the barrio became the most important consideration.

Link to Interview with Rolf Abderhalden by David Gutiérrez Castañeda Part two

* This interview was conducted within the framework of the Estrategias Artísticas para Procesos de Aprendizaje Significativos (Art Strategies for Meaningful Learning Processes), together with Sylvia Suárez and Luisa Ungar of Colombia's National University. A student, Alejandro Suárez, helped to transcribe the interview.

(1) Cúndua is the place where we will all go after death, according to the Arhuaca mythology of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia.
(2) A well-known Colombian paramilitary who is head of Colombia's United Self-Defense forces.

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