Colombia exhibit features art of passion, conflict

Nils Dybvig and Michele Braley will give a lecture preceding the opening of “Remember Me: Voices of the Silenced” which features Colombian art. Submitted.

Gustavus is proud to present “Remember Me: Voices of the Silenced,” a traveling gallery of powerful interactive artwork from Colombia. On March 14, Nils Dybvig and Michele Braley, social workers who have worked with Christian peacemaker teams in Colombia since 2006, will present a lecture at 7:00 p.m. in Alumni Hall. A reception and the opening of the exhibit will follow on the main floor of the library. The exhibit will remain in the library until March 25 before traveling to other locations across the United States.

Sponsored by Peace Studies, Office of the Chaplains, LALACS, Crossroads and the Modern Languages, Literature and Cultures departments, the exhibit will commence with a lecture by Dubvig and Braley, who will speak about their work with the teams in Colombia accompanying human rights workers. The lecture will be followed by a reception and the opening of the exhibit on the main floor of the library.

“Remember Me: Voices of the Silenced,” from Colombia, is created and inspired by victims of violence. The gallery consists of testimonies from individual victims and entire communities affected by the ongoing violence, giving a unique and deeply personal voice to the decades-long conflict in Colombia. The exhibit is brought to the people of the United States by the Lutheran World Relief organization with the purpose of giving United States citizens the opportunity to advocate for those silenced by violence.

“The situation in Colombia is basically one of the biggest humanitarian needs in the world, but it does not make the news very often,” Mimi Gerstbauer, associate professor of political science and director of peace studies, said. The crisis in Colombia is chronic and has been ongoing for many years. Gerstbauer indicated the situation to be one of great importance to all citizens of the United States, as we are all a part of this situation in either a direct or indirect way. Colombia is an ally of the U.S., and the ongoing crisis plays a role in U.S. foreign policy.

The source of the crisis in Colombia is relatively undetermined due to the complexity of the situation and the amount of time it has been occurring. Currently, about five million people have been affected, being displaced or having disappeared, which accounts for roughly 10 percent of the population. Another few million people, including journalists, teachers and peasants whose land is wanted, are living in fear. Guerillas and militaries connected with drug cartels pose a threat to people and communities in rural Colombia, with violence and despair escalating as time goes on.

“At first the number affected was around 1,000 [people]. Next I heard it was 5,000 … and then 10,000. As time went on the number kept getting higher and higher until it was in the millions. Every time you read a report, the numbers go up. It is just unbelievable. Some populations have been very affected by these displacements,” Mayra Taylor, visiting instructor of Spanish and native of Colombia, said. Taylor describes the situation as “surreal and complex” and expressed concern over the lack of attention citizens of both the United States and Colombia show for what is going on in the countryside.

The exhibit and accompanying lectures will provide more insight to the humanitarian crisis occurring in Colombia, aiming to bring attention to and provide students at Gustavus with a better idea and look at what is really happening there. “A lot of people do not realize what is going on and has gone on in Columbia. The exhibit is set up in a way that you actually discover information and connect emotionally,” Kristy Proctor, senior English major and Crossroads member, said. She has been very involved in planning for the exhibit. Proctor is currently an intern in the library and is involved with the outreach program. As part of the exhibit in the library, Proctor has created a display which will aid in providing more information to students and the community.

Students will have access to view the exhibit at all times during normal library hours through March 25. Along with the exhibit, various other events in conjunction will occur during the exhibit’s tenure in the library. Amnesty International has put together a scavenger hunt to find information and learn more about Colombia. The clues will be provided on the main floor of the library, and the winners of the hunt will receive gift certificates for Patrick’s. The scavenger hunt will go on for the duration of the exhibit’s time on campus. The “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” quiz show will be sponsored by the Crossroads Program in the Courtyard Cafe on March 17 from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m.

“Remember Me: Voices of the Silenced” will provide students at Gustavus with awareness of this major humanitarian crisis and a mental picture of what is going on in Colombia from artwork by those affected, lectures by those who have experienced the situation through mission work and activities aimed at increasing knowledge. The artwork should be powerful for students. “It is very interactive; much more than reading, it is interpretation,” Proctor said.