Magdalenas por el Cauca

Artist: Gabriel Posada, Yorlady Ruiz
Location: Cauca Lake, Buenaventura, Colombia
Year: 2008
Researcher: Gabriela Ribeiro

At the age of 8, the artist Gabriel Posada Andrés Montoya had a fishing trip with his father in the Cauca River. What it should be a time of fun, it brought him an unpleasant image that 35 years ago accompanies him: dragged by the current, two bodies with half their faces with exposed bones and the other half with skin rotting, both bound and floating in River.

However, Gabriel Montoya came to understand the scenario of violence related to the carnage of Trujillo, which is a historic case in the events involving the armed conflict and they lasted eight years. Between 1986 and 1994, there was a series of killings, uninterrupted torture and disappearances committed by paramilitaries in northern Valle. The crimes have left 245 victims. However, the drama of Trujillo is not limited to these eight years; also as it has been under pressure several armed groups such as the ELN and others linked to drug traffic. And this context was the basis for Montoya along with another artist, Yorlady Ruiz López, they develop the project "Magdalenas por el Cauca", which proposal was winner of the Artistic Residency convened by the Colombian Ministry of Culture.

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The project made the artists coexisting for three months with nearly 200 inhabitants of the Guayabito village in Cartago, north of Valle, and pass throughout the rivers populations of La Carbonera, from Caimalito, Pereira and Beltrán. However, the artists called the local community, to build rafts for release in the creek La Nona, which flows into the river Cauca, lit with candles, decorated with large drawings, gifts and flowers representing women holding portraits with the faces of disappeared people from Cauca and historical records of recovered bodies from the river.

Magdalena refers to the woman who lamented for Jesus Christ, who died after the crucifixion. 'Cries more than a Magdalene' is a popular phrase in Colombia, and artists have appropriated the term to symbolize the suffering of these women in grieving for his parents, children, siblings, spouses, relatives and lovers.

In order to finalize the process and pay tribute to the dead and their relatives who suffered the loss, a kind of exhibition-procession was held on November 2, when Catholics celebrate the day of souls or dead. The ferries that came out of Cartago (Valle) to reach La Virginia y Beltrán (Risaralda), as well as representing the hundreds of victims of violence, claimed that the river was no longer a cemetery and instrument of death.

In each ferry, there was a guide on the way explaining how the local people faced situations like the slow flow of the river, floating logs, vultures and streams, the same conditions that for decades were the bodies of hundreds of men, women, adults and children played in the riverbed. As it was an ephemeral art, the procession was recorded on video that turned into a short documentary.

The project presents a way to assist the grieving process of people who have experienced the pain of trying to overcome the loss of their loved ones, which because they had their bodies thrown into the river, they could not make any kind of ritual for them or bury their bodies. This work provided these people with an opportunity to ritualise their farewell through the construction of rafts until the time of peregrination.

The work of the artist has great sensitivity to the situation of violence in Colombia. He lived and points to the current scenario: a country that strives to develop, but still has very deep marks in relation to the insecurity of its people. There is also potential for the work to be something useful, perhaps therapeutic, by involving grieving families in order to unravel this moment and deal with it in a poetic and symbolic form and can respectfully say goodbye to someone who was a victim of something so brutal.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency