Embodied Performance Practices in Processes of Reconciliation, Construction of Memory and Peace in Choco and Medio Pacifico, Colombia

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Drama, Theatre and Dance


This project examines the role that embodied performance practices have on post conflict memories in order to aid the processes of reconciliation and peace-building among the majority Afro-Colombian communities affected by the armed conflict in four municipalities in Chocó and el Pacifico Medio. Its main objective is to co-create a digital archive with the vulnerable communities most affected by the armed conflict that features a collection of their oral testimonies, memorabilia, video footage of workshops and discussions, and embodied performance work.
This project asks the following research questions:
1. What is the impact of embodied artistic practices in the discourses of post-war reconciliation in Colombian context?
2. How do the communities and the performance artists co-create memories together through embodied practices?
3. What role do these practices have for the vulnerable communities affected by the armed conflict?
4. How will these archived practices intervene in established discourses around memory, trauma, and practices of reconciliation?
This investigation into the embodied practices led by Colombian arts and performance makers in these four municipalities considers the impact that hearing and learning about one another's memories and experiences via the digital archives will have. It seeks to facilitate a space for critical reflection and reconciliation among the marginalized vulnerable stakeholders while also proposing innovative collaborative models for community building and of co-creating an archive with vulnerable stakeholders. This can enrich the field of dance, theatre and performance studies by showcasing embodied work done by communities normally kept out of official disciplinary and archival frameworks.
By working with our key project partner, Corp-Oraloteca (a research, documentation and dissemination center of the Technological University of Chocó, which seeks to identify, make visible, valorize, and safeguard the oral, sonic and eodied expressions and knowledges of the peoples of the Colombian Pacific), as well as other artists, teachers, community arts workers, dancers, and members of these affected communities, this project will create digital archives about the embodied practices, the arts workers, and the communities affected by the armed conflict. It will then disseminate these archives through a variety of events: community events in the affected areas in Colombia, an event at the headquarters of Corp-Oraloteca in Quibdó, workshops at Universidad de Antioquia, and university talks and lectures in both Colombia, UK and the US. The goal of this research project is to generate spaces (virtual and actual) so that the communities affected by the conflict can use their shared experiences in order to help develop their own community awareness projects, and generate interest in and pursuit of embodied methodologies that can help with the complex processes of reconciliation, reparations, and the construction of peace.
Memory functions as a mobilizing factor for experiences, sensibilities, cultural expression, and everyday practices within these communities. In other words, how did citizens not only experience the armed conflict, but how do they remember and memorialize it now? Additionally, to recuperate or reconstruct postwar memories implies the evocation, creation and materialisation of ideas that these communities have about what their culture is and what is important to remember. By working alongside artists already engaged in embodied practices in/with the affected communities, this research project facilitates a way for members of the affected communities to make sense of their present historical moment through embodied engagements with their respective memories. Through the digital archive and community events produced through this project, we anticipate the creation of spaces for dialogic and embodied exchanges in pursuit of peace and reconciliation.

Planned Impact

This research's ultimate goal is impact: social, economic, and intellectual. It has great potential to influence a variety of beneficiaries and most, importantly, the vulnerable stake-holding communities in the four municipalities where the research will take place. It will benefit new partnerships between the arts community makers and teachers and UK and Colombian universities, and between the scholars at the respective institutions. These partnerships will enable academics, arts practitioners and community members to learn from one another, thereby enhancing their practices. We have divided the impact into the three groups who will benefit from this research:

1. Community participants in the four municipalities of Ungia, Bojayá, Guapi, and Buenaventura;
2. Arts educators, community organisations and community organizers including but not limited to Corp-Oraloteca and the four municipalities;
3. Post-conflict communities within and outside of Colombia

Upon completion of the funded research, several outputs will be legacy projects: the archive, the embodied work and practices. The main one, the digital archive, will be available for consultation and viewing by other Colombian communities, teachers, and universities and will also be accessible outside of the country for comparative analysis in countries with similar post-conflict memory, peace and reconciliation concerns. It can be consulted by policy makers in order to learn how communities engage in activities through their bodies to re-engage as citizens and communities. The digital archive will be maintained by the PIs and RA in association with experienced technical staff in the respective PIs departments at Universidad de Antioquia and Royal Holloway. It will also receive further exposure through links on Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies' e-journal site, already maintained and supported by the Dance Studies Association, and Corp-Oraloteca's website, already maintained and supported by Universdad Tecnológica del Chocó. The digital archive will offer significant insight into how Colombian communities struggling with post-conflict memories and experiences engage in embodied artistic practices after conflict. Furthermore, the strategies demonstrated in the embodied practice work can be implemented in classrooms, homes and even community centers around the municipalities, other cities and within the country allowing a sharing of effective practices for reconciliation work.

It is fundamental to understand that the processes through which society registers in bodies and these in turn produce meanings are highly contentious and conflicting. In this sense, in contexts of violent conflicts, such as those experienced by the communities participating in this research, it is imperative to understand how these conflicts have affected everyday relationships, experience, ways of making sense of the world, and how they are embodied. It is also in this sense that embodied performance practices have the potential to propose alternative forms of expression, to re-imagine themselves, to tell stories, to leave evidence, to relate and to create possibilities of being-in-the-world where life prevails over death, and reconciliation over violent conflict.

While we are not keen to concretize one particular method or methods on how to do embodied arts practices for civic memory, peace and reconciliation work, we do want to offer our archive, interviews, and strategies for dialogue and negotiation, as possible ways to expand upon by other community artists, organisers, methodologies and pedagogies in the pursuit of embodied arts practices within vulnerable post-conflict communities in Colombia (and internationally). It is anticipated that our outputs will inspire a group of people who will then generate or manage a process or output themselves.


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