Posts Tagged ‘medellín’

In my second week in Medellín I spent some time on my project with Hiperbarrio. The organization tries to reach social inclusion through means of digital media in several depressed neighbourhoods in Medellín. By giving workshops in photography, blogging, podcasting and the use of free software, they try to keep the youngsters off the streets. Their methods are based on the idea of sharing knowledge, where anyone that can add something should give a workshop to the others to share that knowledge. Free culture therefore plays a very important role in keeping the organization sustainable.

This Tuesday I went to La Loma, an area even behind la Comuna 13, about which I blogged in an earlier post. The problem with this area is that it has been home to about all the violence and corruption that you can think of. As the area is located in a gray area of what is considered La Comuna 13 and San Cristobal, order and state presence have been largely absent. This led to the forming of gangs, paramilitaries, left wing insurgents such as FARC that have long used the area for their drugs-related businesses at the expense of the inhabitants. When I arrived everything seemed calm, but Henry, the coordinator of the program knew to tell me that this could change any day. In the library of La Loma I speak with Andrés, an ex gang member that has now dedicated his life to his work at Hiperbarrio. I’m guessing he is around my age, 23, 24 maybe. Hiperbarrio, in which he enrolled 2,5 years ago, saved his life he says. Before that he was mainly involved in the gang life trying to ‘protect’ the ‘invisible borders’ that mark the region of La Loma. In Hiperbarrio he entered another reality where it was about collaboration, learning and being critical to the society they live in. He is now one of the coordinators that implements this program in another area in Medellín, using one of the public libraries as their weekly meeting points.

Another project that I was particularly interested in was related to Cartographies. Gabriel Vanegas, the sub-director of Hiperbarrio told me that they are now trying to map the area of La Loma, with all its streets and institutions to establish themselves on the map (photo): “If you search for La Loma now, you often get an area that seems to be just woods, but it’s more than that, and it is important for the people here that they do not become forgotten”. And who better to tell you where to go than the people that actually live in the area? The project therefore makes special use of the locals to draw up the map: “with cameras and pencils, we send the kids out on the street to create their vision on the neighbourhood. And although a slow and tedious process, it is advancing.”

Talking about cartographies also reminds me of the final results of LabSurLab. I know I already went a little too excessive over this, but I can’t help sharing one more video. Most of the participants were already involved in similar projects across the world such as AntenaMutante, Platohedro, No2Somos, Cartografías Sonoras and Hacktitectura to name some.

This is the video that used the song of Yhiel, the young rapper I commented on earlier. The cemetery where many of the victims of Operación Orion Rest In Piece stands central because in the end, it doesn’t matter to which class or group you belong to, we all end up the same…

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYKyswQC%5D

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These are 2 of the videos that were made during the 5 day workshop ‘Cartographies’ @ LabSurLab, Medellín. Within these days, several groups went into la Comuna 13 to interview people, and record memorable places. Artists, activists, academics, hacktivists, rappers, video producers; all worked together to make it happen in just 5 days. Nice fact is that most of the music in the video is produced by local rappers of Comuna 13. In one of the other videos, a song was used by Yhiel, the young rapper that got killed by the ‘sicarios’, or hitmen, only about a few weeks ago. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s worth watching:

Day one in Colombia promised to be a busy day with the event of ‘LabSurLab’ in perspective. LabSurLab is a gathering of different worldwide Labs taking place in Medellín first time this year. From the 6th of April to the 12th of April different projects will present their work and exchange ideas on subjects such as community improvement, hardware recycling and open source applications amongst others. As the round tables, workshops and seminars were taking place in different cultural venues and squares in the city, and the information booklet did not present exact locations and time, I wasn’t sure where to start looking for my contacts of AntenaMutante. Following the LabSurLab guide, our best shot was at the cultural center Morávia, which was located about 45 minutes away from Ellen and my apartment.

Unfortunately Antena Mutante was not attending the round table of that day, but was doing a cartography workshop somewhere in a very sensitive area of Medellín, called Comuna 13. This neighborhood was marked by Operación Orion (2002) under Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s former president in order to drive out leftist insurgents FARC, ELN and CAP. It held that the area from that point on was under military control in order to restore peace and tranquility. But even though the amount of violence has reduced since than, one sentence I heard that day stayed in my head: “as long as there are weapons, one does not feel safe”. When working with the cartographers, the latter became quite clear as the militias reacted quite aggressively when they noticed they were being filmed. And the fact that they were wearing rifles and guns did not make it any better.

The idea of the workshop was to map out different viewpoints, different ideas in order to offer resistance to the oppression and bring to light themes such as poverty, displacement and economy. It was about showing memories, giving a different view of the problematic and maybe most importantly, present a viewpoint of the people’s perspective instead of that of the mass media.

At 6 o’clock, the 4 different groups that went into the neighborhood to collect footage came together to discuss their findings and come to some common conclusions. What I found especially interesting is the way this meeting was organized; even though there were three leading figures in the group, all opinions and suggestion were carefully taken into account. The final idea of how to continue the work resulted out of a long discussion and referendum where many pros and cons passed the table. The ‘leading figures’ could well be seen as discussion leaders, rather than the ones with final authority. Even when things were said that were not always relevant or useful, it most of the time led other people to come up with an appropriated idea. It was chaotic, slightly unstructured, but effective. This, I think was also characteristic for the whole organization of LabSurLab, where the organization seemed to be fluid, with no rigid planing, but still a clear organization that often went from mouth to mouth rather than a set schedule.

All in all, this was a very instructive first day with already loads of information to process and I can’t wait what more will come!