Library of Creative Sustainability

Inspiring examples of sustainability outcomes achieved through artistic collaboration. Read our introduction here

Más Arte Más Acción: Postcards from the Future

Postales del Futuro (Postcards from the Future) was a three-year project facilitated by Más Arte Más Acción, bringing together groups from two different regions in Chocó, Colombia to co-create short documentary films that responded to plans to build a new industrial and tourist port in one of the regions.

Visit project website

Project Description

Background

The project Postales del Futuro (Postcards from the Future) arose in response to plans to create a maritime port in the Gulf of Tribugá north of the town of Nuquí. This was planned as a tourist port to support and promote national and international tourism to the area and as a cargo port that would move 250,000 tons of goods per year and facilitate the development of industrial fishing in the region.

The building of this port had been promoted for some time by Colombian business organisation Sociedad Portuaria Arquímedes S.A. as a means of bringing prosperity to the area. However, concerns had been raised about the damage that the port would cause to the local environment and how far it would benefit local communities, rather than merely facilitating the extraction of natural resources that would serve the benefit of wealthy countries in the global north.

Más Arte Más Acción saw the construction of the port as a focal point bringing together a number of intersecting issues, including inequality, the (mis)distribution of land, the disempowerment of Chocó’s large indigenous and black community, and ‘extractivist’ economic paradigms. Engaging with it was thus an opportunity to develop discussion around these broader themes as they played out across Colombia as well as to influence the local situation. 

As a means of stimulating and influencing public debate on the issue, Postales del Futuro brought together the communication collective En PUJA from Nuquí and the audiovisual collective Puerto Creativo from Buenaventura, a nearby coastal city that already has a substantial port, for a three-year dialogue that involved creating six short artistic documentary films that drew connections between the distinct situations in Nuquí and Buenaventura. 

Project activity

The project commenced in 2017 with an initial meeting between En PUJA and Puerto Creativo where they shared their respective visions for the territory, including development, good living, autonomous management of the territory, conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of cultural traditions. This was followed by training in documentary filmmaking, provided by Colombian filmmakers for the Puerto Creativo and En Puja collectives, culminating in the creation of two 10-minute documentaries Tribugá and Juntos Somos Más (Together We Are More).

This initial phase was then developed into a documentary creation residency organised in 2018 by Más Arte Más Acción, Ambulante Más Allá, an organisation that supports and promotes documentary film as a tool for social and cultural change and Tierra Digna, a team of women lawyers devoted to protecting the land, life and culture of communities affected by extractive economic development measures. The two collectives were brought into dialogue with local leaders through a series of discussions, resulting in a further two short documentaries that portray the current position of these communities, Ánimas (Souls) and Alabadas (Praises). In 2019, a third phase of the project led to the creation of two more short documentaries: El Barrio (The Neighbourhood) and Silencio (Silence).

All of these short documentaries were screened in the community of Nuquí and the surrounding villages, with particular care taken to hold screenings outside of artistic spaces, such as at meetings of fishermen. The screenings were used to provoke discussion and debate over policy for the future of the area and were important for involving a wide variety of local perspectives. The films were also shown in the Art Museum of the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, the Film Festival for Human Rights in Cartagena and Bogotá, the meeting and exhibition Carretera al mar (Road to the sea) at the Tertulia Museum in Cali, Espacio Odeón in Bogotá, and the Bogotá International Documentary Film Festival. In this way, MAMA sought to connect the institutional art world in Colombia’s major cities like Bogotá, Cali or Medellin with community collectives and creators in a non-hierarchical way. 

Next steps

MAMA is concluding Postales del Futuro with a celebratory event called ‘Local Lumbung’ in August/September 2021. This event is taking place along the Rio Atrato in Chocó and involves around 50 participants made up of people and organisations in MAMA’s networks. It will generate further critical thinking about the issues explored through the films and consider how these can be translated to other contexts, locally and beyond. Going forward, the films will link to events being organised for Documenta 15 Festival in Kassel, Germany, in 2022, involving the collectives and enabling them to present their work to international audiences and build understanding of how the local concerns in Nuquí are connected to international issues. 

Partners & Stakeholders

  • Más Arte Más Acción (MAMA)  is a non-profit cultural foundation based in Chocó, Colombia, founded in 2010 by Colombian artist Fernando Arias and British arts manager Jonathan Colin, who had both already spent a decade living and working in Chocó. In 2011 a permanent base was established as a space for collaborative residencies for artists, academics, researchers, activists and thinkers. MAMA’s core team includes the founders together with Ana Milena Garzón and Alejandra Rojas Giraldo.
  • En PUJA is a communication collective based in Nuquí, Chocó, Colombia, made up of local community members seeking to defend their ethnic-territorial rights and protect the land. 
  • Puerto Creativo is an audiovisual collective based in Buenaventura, Chocó, Colombia, interested in telling stories from the Pacific through their own visual narrative. 
  • Arts Collaboratory is a network of 25 organisations all engaged in artistic and curatorial practices for social change of which MAMA is a member.
‘The three-years project meant we could get to know them, we are good friends and we can follow someone’s growth and evolution.’ Alejandra Rojas Giraldo, Más Arte Más Acción, quoted in 'Forces of Art'

Sustainability Issues

  • The project sought to provide a platform for inhabitants of the area to discuss and communicate concerns over change or damage to the local environment that could result from the creation of the new port.
  • Environmental and climate concerns were presented as interconnected with other issues such as racism, inequality, land usage, and economics. The films sought to demonstrate some of these connections. 
  • By drawing connections between two different communities, the project built greater capacity for action by helping them to share knowledge and resources and instigate connections that would last beyond the project itself. The project also gave people a chance to learn practical film-making skills that they could use in the future.
  • The project aimed to influence policy-making from major cities as well as grassroots action in the locality, challenging the relationship between centre and periphery in the political and artistic spheres.
  • MAMA sought to value alternative forms of knowledge, such as the type of understanding that comes from physically inhabiting a place, and promote notions of progress based on wellbeing rather than development. This influenced the films produced as well as the way that the project was organised.

Lessons, Tips & Advice

  • The process of building consensus among community members with divergent perspectives on contentious issues was difficult and time-consuming, but was itself a valuable means of developing understanding and allowing people to build a sense of ownership over the project.
  • The focus in this project, as in all of Más Arte Más Acción’s work, was on developing long-term relationships with locals, learning from them and supporting their aims rather than coming in as an external organisation to fix problems without an understanding of local needs
  • Organisers felt that bringing people from different fields and backgrounds together allows unexpected relationships and learnings to develop that cannot be foreseen in advance. These unexpected outcomes are valuable and should be allowed space to emerge. 
  • By approaching this issue through an artistic lens, MAMA were able to provide a space for reflection, without immediately focusing on actions and practical outcomes, in a way that can be rare in activist contexts.  
  • The project subverts traditional institutional art world logic by not drawing a clear distinction between creators and audiences; in this case the creators of the films and the audience for them substantially overlap.
  • The process of creating the films was just as important as the finished project, providing an opportunity for mutual learning and developing new connections.

‘[Artistic and creative methods] are important because as well as getting us as a creative team to reflect on our environment and social conditions, they also make it easier to communicate them to everyone in our community in a dynamic, engaging and intimate way, because they are our stories and our storytelling.’

Mariam Quintana, Buenaventura participant

Funding

Arts Collaboratory funding was flexible, allowing outcomes not to be predefined and making it easier to respond quickly to a changing context. Arts-led sustainability projects may avoid pre-defined outcomes and require this kind of flexibility, which can be hard to obtain from funders. 

Building trusted long-term relationships with funders such as Prohelvetia, The Prince Claus Fund and the Goethe Institute have been key to creating flexibility. This flexibility enables MAMA not only to respond to uncertainty but also enables creativity, through allowing for the unexpected to emerge.

Quotations

‘I don't have much work experience and being a biologist I was surprised that MAMA asked me how I could contribute to the process of resistance and struggle for the territory and that my ideas were listened to and then reflected in the process. In a way, what I like about this whole project is that all voices and ideas are valid and equally important, there are no ideological hierarchies, everything is built from a real context of the communities. If it wasn’t like that, the results we obtained would not have been possible.’ Henry Gonzalez, Nuquí participant
‘There are moments when we start discussions with a short film and that creates a kind of sensible space for reflecting in a new way. We have seen how the short films from Postcards from the Future function in a very institutional discussion about the port, and when we show the films, people are like: “maybe we have to think again about this”. It creates another way of talking about alternative ideas, beyond the super rational, more imaginative… And that puts the energy of the discussion.’ Ana Milena Garzón, Más Arte Más Acción, quoted in 'Forces of Art'

All images courtesy of Más Arte Más Acción

Library of Creative Sustainability Partners

Get info on news, opportunities & events by email

About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

0131 529 7909
info@creativecarbonscotland.com

Supported by

Creative Scotland logo City of Edinburgh Council logo

A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Edinburgh Festival City logo Federation of Scottish Theatre logo Scottish Contemporary Art Network logo

Accreditations

Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Good Business Charter Accredited