By Marc Eliot Stein, October 31, 2022
Did you know that Colombia has a truth commission working in rural areas to heal the proud country after 75 years of brutal civil war? This truth commission is one of many things I learned about in a fascinating conversation with Maria Antonia Perez, a visual artist, graphic designer and peace activist in Medellin, Colombia who spent years working for humanitarian causes from Sri Lanka to Cambodia to Haiti before returning to her home country.
The starting point of our conversation was visual art, which Maria used in various ways while working with non-governmental organizations like Peace Boat to help struggling communities in crisis situations. What creative approaches can generate breakthroughs with children and adults, and what can we learn from experimenting in this area? What can artistic expression mean to victims and traumatized populations, and what good can it do?
I also wanted to ask Maria questions about Colombia, which has been trying to heal from 50 years of brutal conflict and 75 years of political turmoil through a peace process that was initiated in 2016 and is continuing under the hopeful new leadership of Gustavo Petro.
We also talked about the artwork of Catalina Estrada, the music of Carlos Vives and the many differences in similarities between the two deeply divided societies – in South and North America – represented in this conversation. Thank you to Maria Antonia Perez for an invigorating and refreshing conversation about art, healing and truth in a world torn by war and striving for rebirth.