“Make It Visible” Indigenous Art Project & Display

Suzanne  -  Nov 12, 2013  -  , ,  - 

Nukak boy with a necklace made of monkey teeth

Amnesty International Canada has a new campaign focusing on indigenous peoples in Colombia. According to the Colombia Constitutional Court, 34 of 102 distinct indigenous nations in Colombia are in danger of physical and cultural destruction due to armed conflict between insurgents, drug traffickers, the Colombian Army, other state security, and the state’s paramilitary allies; resource development on indigenous lands; and what Amnesty International describes as “the failure of the Colombian government to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples in Colombia.” The Colombia Constitutional Court describes the situation as “an emergency which is as serious as it is invisible.”

The Make It Visible campaign seeks to address this invisibility in two ways: by providing Canadians with information on the situation in Colombia, and by creating a public groundswell of support for indigenous peoples in Colombia that Amnesty International Canada hopes will have an effect on Canadian policy and legislation.

There are many ways students, educators, and communities can participate in this campaign:

  • View Amnesty International Canada’s online video “What We Want to Tell You” and incorporate the histories and experiences of indigenous peoples in Colombia into your Language, Social Studies, History, Native Studies, and other subject planning
  • Contact ncameron@amnesty.ca and host the “What We Want to Tell You” display at your school, university, organization, or special event
  • Participate in the Make it Visible art project by having students or community members create visual art or videos that respond to the photo messages in “What We Want to Tell You”; these responses can be displayed in your school or organization and should also be sent in digital form to Amnesty International to become part of a country-wide digital art project (for more information on the Make It Visible art project, click here)
  • View the online video “What We Demand” and have a discussion about the role citizens play or should play in determining government policy and whether citizens have a responsibility to get involved in situations that happen outside their national boundaries but that are connected to their government’s policies or their own consumer demands/lifestyle (Canada recently signed a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, and Canadian mining companies are at the forefront of mining and other resource extraction in Latin America)

"Respeten nuestros derechos indigenas (Respect our indigenous rights)," one of Juan Pablo Gutierrez's photographs from the Make it Visible campaign

Educators know that accessing prior information is crucial to developing good reading skills. When readers connect their own schema to new text – when they connect their previous knowledge, emotions, experiences, and understandings to the text by making text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections – they have a better chance of understanding what they are reading. Colombian photographer Juan Pablo Gutierrez’s images of indigenous peoples in Colombia – the visual texts that appear in “What We Want to Tell You” – allow readers to use prior schema to connect the photos to indigenous issues in Canada, to develop critical literacy skills (What is this text about? Why are we viewing this text? What does the author of this text want us to know? How are indigenous peoples represented in this text? Has anything been left out of this text? Who benefits from this text?), and to create “exportable knowledge” they can use in other subjects and in daily life.

Amnesty International Canada is compiling all the student/community responses sent in through the Make It Visible art project and creating a digital “quilt.” They plan to post the quilt on their website and present it to the government of Canada.

A note about the photo captions above: Throughout history, Aboriginal peoples and their distinct identities have been erased through the use of images with titles such as “Indian Maiden” and “Blackfoot Boy,” where the subjects were reduced to symbols and denied names. Dragonfly does not condone this practice. However, the indigenous peoples in Colombia taking part in the Make It Visible campaign – who are putting themselves at risk of death, disappearance, and other reprisals by revealing their faces and making their stories known – have chosen to remain nameless in order to protect themselves and their communities. Photographer Gutierrez has received death threats for his work with the Nukak Nation in the southern Colombian Amazon, but he told Survival International magazine that the threats will not prevent him from documenting the Nukak struggle for survival.

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