Keeping the Memory Alive

As someone who grew up in a country with a dark history of violence that until now has not been acknowledged by the government, I know how important it is to keep the memory and the truth behind it alive. When reading some chapters in Revista: Memory, In Search of History and Democracy, I can imagine the pain and agony of the family of those who disappeared and never came back. It is a daunting task to keep searching the truth tirelessly that happened in the land they’re living when “so little even nothing to be found” is something that they would often get.

One particular thing I’m interested to find out more is the family of the disappeared, especially the mothers and their hopes to see their disappeared children alive or if it’s impossible: the hopes to find their bodies.

In Because They Were Taken Alive, a mother keeps the light in a single garage on for almost thirty years because she wants her son (who never returned home since the day of the abduction) to know that his family never gave up on him. Those aging women who comb the Atacama Desert in “Nostalgia for the Light” to find the bone fragments of their relatives only have hope to keep doing what they do. The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo keep marching in front of Argentina’s presidential palace demanding the safe return of their disappeared children. It becomes their act of resistance. Their perseverance to find out what’s been taken from them is an act of refusing to forget, their way of keeping the memory alive.

Why focus on the mothers? Because all mothers in the world would feel the same if their children gone, especially when it’s caused by the killing, or forced disappearance. Mothers symbolize universality, while also being personal. When it comes to their children, they cannot be politicized but what they are able to do about it can often be political.

Art can be an effective tool to build the solidarity around the world toward the victimized community, toward the mothers. After all, what happened in Guatemala, or Chile, also happened in other countries like Indonesia.

I’m interested to dig more about the art in relation to the mothers of the disappeared. How art becomes – for a certain degree – an effective intermediary tool to help them get the sense of closure? How a solidarity is built through art? Using art effectively, we can help address and amplify the issue of injustice.

Here’s a link to the video showing an art performance from Indonesia that I think is successful to keep the memory alive and the conversation going. It was about the genocide that happened in Indonesia in 1965. Until now it is not an easy topic to talk to and people usually shy away from it. It was performed here in NYC two years ago:


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