The Network was invited to La Fiesta!

By Laura Jimenez Ospina, Network Research Assistant for Latin America

The auditorium was completely dark and silent. On the stage, images of comparsas – groups who parade and dance in disguise in festivities – touring the neighbourhoods of Medellín began to be projected. Men on stilts dressed in brightly coloured costumes, women and young people somersaulting back and forth, a band of percussionists animating the atmosphere. The carnival took over the streets and the inhabitants surrounded the artists with cheers and shouts of happiness.

As the projector is turned off, a cast of actors comes out to give life to La Fiesta, a play created by the master Óscar Manuel Zuluaga, also known as El Juglar (The Juggler). First scene, the revelry of neighbourhood joy: community sancocho (stew), loud music, dancing among neighbours. Shots are fired, the protagonists take cover, lest a bullet kills someone. Total silence. Everyone is quiet. Then the party restarts.

Photo by Laura Diosa Vera and Sofía García “Ponchis”

La Fiesta is a piece inspired by the findings of the research project “Art that protects, phase 1: Contributions of artistic-cultural initiatives to the self-protection strategies of young people and women in the context of urban conflict in Medellín, 2022“, implemented by the Faculty of Nursing of the University of Antioquia and the Cultural Corporation for Development Arlequín y Los Juglares (Harlequin and the Jugglers), with the support provided by the Network Plus Creating Safer Space. On 17 May 2023, the Pablo Tobón Uribe Theater, one of the most important in down-town Medellín, became the stage on which an auditorium of about 600 people were spectators of this magical piece. Among the attendees were children, young people and women who are part of the artistic-cultural organizations that we approached during the research. All of these groups work in areas of the city that are highly vulnerable and affected by urban violence. Also present were artists involved in other social processes, human rights activists and a large general public who attended thanks to the play’s wide dissemination in social networks and the media by the Arlequín team.

Photo by Berit Bliesemann de Guevara

La Fiesta is a story where hope beats death through joy. In it, the street becomes the stage and the stage becomes the street. It tells us how the inhabitants of the deprived neighbourhoods of Medellín have resisted with celebration the advance of a conflict that has torn the soul of a wounded city. Drums, chants, books, music, carnival, juggling, rap and hip hop become the art that protects, a community art whose main purpose is to serve as a platform for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood to express themselves, to denounce, to undergo catharsis, to resist. This art is the umbrella that protects civilians from violence.

Photo by Laura Diosa Vera and Sofía García “Ponchis”