Among Mountains and Bears
Among Mountains and Bears is the story of Duverney, an ex-combatant from the Farc –The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia– guerrilla.
The story shows Duverney’s transformation process, from growing up in a context of social inequality and wanting to remove the Colombian government from power using violence in order to impose the Farc political ideals, to realizing that instead of weapons, he can use his leadership abilities to make positive changes in his region. These changes are motivated by his wish to provide others with the opportunities he did not have when he was young, and that he believes were critical in his decision to join the guerrilla.
My goal with this project was to explore how the complexity and particularities of a personal story can help us understand a bigger picture and some of the nuances of a social complex issue, in this case, the armed conflict in Colombia.
I used the methodology Narrative Conversations and carried out a conversational process where I regularly met with Duverney to talk about his life. After each meeting, I created a set of cards with short texts and collages to visualize my interpretation of his stories. I articulated the final narrative through a narrative arc composed of 24 cards.
Aug. - Dec. 2020
The collages are composed of images of mountains, plants, and animals that evoke rural life in Colombia. In the story, Duverney, the main character, is represented by a spectacled bear. In one of our conversations, he mentioned that if he were an animal, he would be a spectacled bear as he saw them while in the Farc, and these are animals that people are afraid of, but according to him, are not dangerous.
I developed different versions of the collages and iterated on them as the conversational process evolved and I, progressively, got a better understanding of Duverney’s experiences.
Talking with Duverney about the images I used for the collages also helped me to discover new layers of the stories. For example, I had initially portrayed Duverney’s boss like a chameleon, but when Duverney saw the collage, he said his boss would be more like a panther and proceeded to describe him using that metaphor. This led him to share things about his boss he had not mentioned before and that I used to create a new version of the collage.
On the other hand, throughout the process of making the collages, I made a transition from using literal fragments from war (uniforms, weapons, explosions) combined with images from nature, to competently use images from nature. Embracing the metaphor allowed me to step away from the stereotypical narratives about war and experiment with and explore dspecific meanings of the story.
Some of the first collages that are not part of the final narrative
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