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Bocas de Ceniza


It may seem strange that an art piece exhibiting the struggle of Colombians was first shown in North Dakota, but in the summer of 2005 this was the case. The people of Colombia live a life that many of us could not imagine. A brutal civil war between guerilla forces and the military has ravaged the country for years. The violence has displaced nearly 6 million Colombians. This mass movement has generated the world’s second largest population of internally displaced persons. The government condemns the attacks, but has been unable to track and arrest all the perpetrators because the violence is so widespread. People who do attempt to change the violent trend often face death threats.

Juan Manuel EchavarrÍa was so disturbed by the violence that he turned away from his thirty-year writing career and began making artwork about the conditions of his country. He made this decision when he saw three mangled mannequins lying in a dumpster in his hometown of Bogota. The sight reminded him of bombing victims from the civil war.

EchavarrÍa put down his pen and turned to his camera to channel his emotions. It is from this experience he created the amazing art piece entitled, “Bocas de Ceniza,” or Mouths of Ash. EchavarrÍa said he named it after the mouth of the largest river in Colombia because it is common for people to dump bodies in the water after a massacre. He associated the rising water with rising bodies. The piece itself is a compilation of seven Colombians singing songs they composed after experiencing massacres. For each person, the camera is focused on only their face, and you can see the details of their pained expressions, intending to to demonstrate the growing suffering as the body count increases.

EchavarrÍa brought this piece to the U-S in 2005 for his first solo exhibition in the states. He toured it across the country, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. However, the very first U.S. exhibition of Mouths of Ash, happened on this date in 2005, when EchavarrÍa brought his haunting piece to the North Dakota Museum of Art. He also created a 160-page full-color catalogue that was published in collaboration with the museum. It contained seven additional interviews with women who were kidnapped with 160 other people from a church in Cali in 1999.

As of 2015 Echavarría has presented over thirty solo exhibitions and participated in well over a hundred group exhibitions, screenings and film festivals all around the world.

Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas


"http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/41903/juan-manuel-echavarra-mouths-of-ash/" http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/41903/juan-manuel-echavarra-mouths-of-ash/

"http://www.jmechavarria.com/pdf/Echavarria_Bio.pdf" http://www.jmechavarria.com/pdf/Echavarria_Bio.pdf

"http://www.artealdia.com/International/Contents/Artists/Juan_Manuel_Echavarri_a" http://www.artealdia.com/International/Contents/Artists/Juan_Manuel_Echavarri_a

"https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/colombia" https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/colombia