The World Art and Culture Summit for Peace in Colombia opened Monday, with the participation of hundreds of artists and cultural groups aiming to contribute to peace through art.
The Summit, which will run until April 12, brings together over 400 national as well as international artists from 37 different countries. Singers, writers, painters, actors, and other cultural producers will be gathering in the Colombian capital of Bogota to discuss the role of arts in conflict resolution and peace building.
“We want people to recognize artists as direct agents for society transformation and peace construction in Colombia”, said Santiago Trujillo, the director of Bogota’s Arts Institution IDARTES.
Among the summit participants are also victims of Colombia's armed conflict who have used art as a vehicle for healing from the impacts of war.
This is the case for Cristina Mendoza, a woman forcibly displaced from Montes de Maria, one of the most violent areas close to the northern coast of Colombia. In 2004, when Cristina arrived in Bogota after fleeing her hometown, she found that composing music allowed her to forget – at least temporarily – her forced displacement from her land.
"I tried to create spaces where people could see me and where I could present my musical work and compositions that reflect all this legacy, all this nostalgia, all the feeling of being forced to leave my territory,” she recalled.
Julian Marin, who came to the summit from Cauca – also one of the regions most affected by the conflict – believes that art is an important driving force for peace construction. "Across all Colombia's territories we have suffered the consequences of war, now we are mature enough to contribute to peace. From the most remote territories of Colombia we are willing to play a part in peace through art, through culture, through social justice," he explains.
As the issue of victims’ reparation continues to be at the center of the negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) underway in Havana, renowned Colombian artist Patricia Ariza firmly believes arts could play a central role in advancing the talks.
"We, who for many years have worked with victims, know that through art creation it is possible to transform victims sorrow into power, into poetry, into a song, among many other things," Ariza points out.
Among the other highlights of the summit will be the “Concert for Peace,” featuring renowned Latin-American salsa singer Ruben Blades. The concert, scheduled for April 9, will coincided with the National Day for Memory and Solidarity with Victims, where nationwide marches in support of the ongoing peace process between the government and the FARC are planned across different Colombian cities. Argentine football legend Diego Maradona is expected to participate in the march in addition to the soccer match for peace scheduled for Friday.
The opening of the World Art and Culture Summit for Peace marks the beginning of what promises to be a colourful and special week, where Colombians from different regions, ages and backgrounds can unite in a common cause: achieving peace after more than 50 years of war.