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Picturing Peace: Murals, Conflict and Transition in Colombia

Contact: Professor Bill Rolston
Funder: Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship

Colombia is in the middle of peace negotiations. It is far from being a fully fledged cease-fire, and is rather a tentative and gradualist process that may or may not be leading to a solution to the protracted violent conflict. During that conflict, all sides - the guerrillas, the paramilitaries and the state - engaged in the production of visual propaganda, including murals. And in the current phase of negotiations murals continue to appear from all sides, including perhaps most noticeably, from women's groups and other civil society groups yearning for peace.

A research assistant in Colombia is busy doing the essential preliminary work of locating the main sites and contacting key people for interview so that I can hit the ground running. I will spend a month in Colombia travelling widely, photographing murals, talking to muralists, representatives of civil society and women's peace initiative groups which sponsor murals and the few Colombian academics who study the issue. As an outsider, I will strive to decipher the propaganda messages in the murals of various armed actors. But, given the peace negotiations, I am particularly interested in murals which call for peace, demand justice, highlight the plight of victims and memorialise the dead.