Episodes

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0101Memorial20171114

Protest art in Latin America. A journey into the memorial art of Guatemala and Chile.

Protest art in Latin America. A continent-wide commitment by many artists to social activism makes Latin America not just one of the most diverse art scenes in the world - but also one of the most compelling, with music, visual arts and street art calling out injustice, often in the face of discrimination, oppression and impunity.

This first of three programmes examines the process of memorialisation in two countries which have suffered civil conflict and dictatorship - Guatemala and Chile. These brutal histories remain, in the words of Amanda Jara, "a sceptic wound". How can art help heal the trauma?

Amanda is the daughter of protest singer-songwriter Victor Jara, one of the first victims of Chilean dictator Pinochet's regime. She has been trying to re-open the notorious Estadio de Chile, now called the Victor Jara stadium and where war crimes took place under Pinochet, as a memorial and arts venue.

Meanwhile, in Santiago's Museum of Memory, an immersive installation by Alfredo Jaar, The Geometry Of Conscience, brings visitors face to face with victims of Pinochet's regime.

In Guatemala, artist Daniel Hernandez-Salazar uses photography to expose a history of genocide, while Mayan theatre group Mujeres Ajchowen resurrect the indigenous culture that the Guatemalan war tried to obliterate.

Picture Credit: "So That All Shall Know", copyright Daniel Hernández-Salazar

Dubbing Voices: Yuri Betancourt Garcia, Esmeralda Lobos, Maria Fernanda Reyna
Field Broadcast Assistant: Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn
Executive Producer: Sarah Cuddon
Video Editor: Nick Romero
Producers: Louise Morris, Andrew McGibbon

A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0102Graffiti20171121

Protest art in Latin America. A journey into the graffiti art of Columbia and Mexico.

Latin America's protest and socially conscious art. A continent-wide commitment by many artists to social activism makes Latin America not just one of the most diverse art scenes in the world - but also one of the most compelling, with music, visual arts and street art calling out injustice, often in the face of discrimination, oppression and impunity.

This second programme in the series explores Latin America's visceral and complex street art. Graffiti artists use their access to public space to pose questions and provoke criticism of what the papers are afraid to say - as well as transforming maligned communities into places of colour and pride.

Colombia is coming to terms with a truce after 50 years of civil war while, in Mexico, street artists promote local pride in places like Tijuana that are often seen as merely a trampoline into the US. Both countries are internally plagued by drug cartels, violence and corruption. It's an environment where the street art scene has exploded.

DJLu, a Bogota native and spray can veteran, explains how street art is "taking the tension and violence to the wall and not to the real arena." But not everyone agrees. Señor Rayon feels that guerrilla groups' slogans are political marketing and questions whether this is an appropriate use of public space.

In a climate of fierce censorship and division in Mexico City, journalist and graffiti expert Cynthia Arvide explains why graffiti can be a "silent yet more powerful protest".

Producers - Louise Morris, Andrew McGibbon
Film Editor - Nick Romero
Field Broadcast Assistant - Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn
Dubbing Voice - Luís Bonilla
Executive Producer - Sarah Cuddon

A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0103Cumbia20171128

Protest art in Latin America: Cumbia music in Peru and Argentina.

Latin America's protest and socially conscious art. A continent-wide commitment by many artists to social activism makes Latin America not just one of the most diverse art scenes in the world - but also one of the most compelling, with music, visual arts and street art calling out injustice, often in the face of discrimination, oppression and impunity.

The third programme in the series explores the pan-Latin music genre Cumbia. Popular with the working class, the genre was largely rejected by middle-upper class society. Now a cumbia revival is prompting widespread enjoyment of Latin America's quintessential party music - but can it heal social divisions?

Cumbia styles like Peruvian cumbia chicha and Argentinian cumbia villera explicitly voice the daily lives and struggles of the poor. Chicha legend Pascualillo says chicha is "a total identity". DJ Diego Hernandez notes that chicha's popularity has accompanied increasing tolerance between ethnicities and classes in Lima.

Despite Cumbia's growing popularity, new bands from the villas (akin to Brazilian favelas) still face hostility. Singer Ivan Brasil states, "I was talking with our mayor, and I said I have my cumbia band and I want to play in a plaza and he said 'cumbia - no, it will bring a lot of vagrancy'".

Cumbia's rebellious and infectious rhythm has also been drawn on by Tropipunk band Kumbia Queers. Singer Juana Chang (pictured) says they use their music "to say something without losing the joy and purpose - which is to bring people together". Fellow Argentinian Miss Bolivia wants to "re-appropriate cumbia to let some alternative contents appear" to counter the misogyny that she believes has infected the genre's lyrics.

Is the increasing popularity of cumbia raising awareness of social issues? Or is it simply Latin America's best loved party soundtrack?

Producers: Louise Morris, Andrew McGibbon
Peruvian Dubber: Kieffer Santander
Argentinian Dubber: Guillermo Fiallo Montero
Film Editor: Nick Romero
Field Broadcast Assistant: Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn
Executive Producer: Sarah Cuddon

A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.