The Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación (Centre of Memory, Peace and Reconciliation) in Bogotá recently launched a permanent exhibition exploring the city’s experiences of armed conflict. The exhibition is pedagogical, multi-sensory experience, using emotions to generate empathy.
This project involved the observation and analysis of the visiting experience of students from 4 secondary schools in Bogotá as they visited the exhibit “Remembering: passing again through the heart” (Recordar: volver a pasar por el corazón). The exhibitions was designed to bring Bogota students closer to what happened in the city during the several decades of armed conflict using a series of multi-sensory and active exhibitions, using sound, touch and vision to sense and feel conflict realities.
Students visited the exhibition as part of their school day. Their visit was preceded by a preparatory phase and succeeded by further classroom activities that CMPR developed and supported teachers to implement. CMPR developed information gathering instruments such as questionnaires, printed teaching materials, observation guides, an methodological guidelines for each of these phases. Furthermore, CMPR staff members accompanied the visiting groups to provide pedagogical support.
At a later stage, the team used the software ATLAS.ti to systematise the collected information and developed qualitative procedures to analyse it. In addition to remembering, the exposition proved to be a useful means to stimulate participants’ actions towards a transformative peace as students were invited to develop plans for building peace in micro-ways in their classrooms and school communities.
Approximately 120 secondary school students aged 12-18 from different neighbourhoods across Bogota participated in this project.
The analysis of our observations during and after the visit to the exposition allowed us to reach the following conclusions:
- The displayed past events were sensed by students in close relationship to their everyday experiences, such as violent situations in their immediate environment and national political processes such as the Peace Agreement and its implementation.
- The exposition, through its different facilities, not only allowed participants to acquire information about the violent past, but also to generate provisions for change in the lives of students and in relation to the peacebuilding process faced in Colombia which is found in local scenarios such as the family and the school among others.
- The narratives and approaches to building peace, from students’ perspectives, change when they are questioned about what they know about peacebuilding and what they do to build peace.
- When students are asked for what they know about peacebuilding, they tend to highlight the negative aspects of peace (lack of violence) and to associate them with top-down approaches such as the negotiation of peace and the signing of peace agreements, towards which they feel alienated and with not enough margin for action.
- When the students are asked for what they can do to build peace, their narratives come closer to positive perceptions about peace such as cooperation, harmony, tolerance; and even translate them into artistic and communicative proposals that make them feel as subjects with agency for social change.