ArtCorps Artist Naphtali Fields and her ArtCorps colleagues facilitate the transformation of fear into hope during a workshop with youth community radio broadcasters in Xela, Guatemala.
Our excitement grew as the bus climbed up the mountain towards the community of San Mateo, outside of Queztaltenango. On our way to spend the morning with youth volunteers in a community radio station we passed cows crossing the road, men pedaling furiously on bicycles, selling the morning paper, and buses that spit exhaust so black the shimmering air around them recoiled. We disembarked, and began the five minute process of greeting kisses and hugs with the few indigenous youth standing shyly outside the radio gate.
“This is Freddy, Ximena, Ruby, Merlita and Anna!” began my colleague ArtCorps Artist Patricia Escalon, the multi-media artist who has worked with the Radio Doble Via youth for the last three months. They stepped towards us timidly, shaking our hands with small smiles and looking at the ground.
Isabel led the group in breathing exercises; we giggled nervously when she made us feel our partner’s lungs as we inhaled and exhaled deeply. Then Evelina joyfully jumped in. She taught us how to move our bodies to different rhythms.
The youth have worked mostly on radio production, but movement workshops were new to them. We began exploring techniques for story-building using physical theater techniques. Using body sculptures, the youth began to share their different experiences of rural Guatemalan reality.
What did we see? A portrait of the youth by the youth showing the everyday injustices of their lives. Some participants were sculpted into gang-members, stabbing innocents in the street. Others showed hopelessness, ignorance and the violence that takes place behind closed doors. It was a pretty powerful and depressing picture.
So where are these young people headed if they’re coming from so much hardship? Well, we did a second sculpture and this time, we asked them what they wanted from life. What a difference! We saw Willy reaching towards his dreams, Freddy studying hard, Rubi’s father hugging her, proud of her achievements. There were no more knifings, and instead of fear, hope took center stage.
This project is being carried out in partnership with Cultural Survival.
Tags: Art for Social Action, art for social change, ArtCorps, ArtCorps Artist Naphtali Fields, ArtCorps Artist Patricia Escalon, artist orientation, body movement, Cultural Survival, dreams, Guatemala, hope, human sculpture, indigenous, Radio Doble Via, storytelling, theater, violence, Youth