Saturday, November 11, 2017

Boards of Memory

When Juan Manuel Echavarría traveled thru the Montes de Maria region in 2010, in a community depopulated by Colombia's conflict, he came upon a schoolhouse abandoned by the fleeing residents. Inside, he entered a classroom - and found the teacher's final lesson still on the blackboard.

That haunting experience started Echavarría  and a friend on an oddysey across the remote region, where they visited more than 100 abandoned schoolhouses, photographing more than 200 classrooms as memorials to disappeared schoolchildren, families and whole communities.

According to Verdad Abierta, from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, nearly 50 massacres took place in this bucolic hill country just a few hours outside of Cartagena, mostly committed by right-wing paramilitary groups against landless campesinos.

Echavarría's work, named Rios y Silencio, preserving a history Colombia hopes not to repeat, is on now  thru Jan. 7 at Bogotá's Museum of Modern Art.

The museum has, incidentally, done a good job of becoming bilingual.

A mule outside of a school, apparently waiting for a child who long ago went away.
An abandoned chalkboard in a deserted school conserves its final lesson.

Photos of abandoned schools in the Museum of Modern Art.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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