Monthly Archives: February 2012

the incredible history of the scots in colombia…

…and while we are on the subject of Colombia (see last 2 posts), here is a work by Colombian artist Juan Esteban Sandoval titled The Incredible History of the Scots in Colombia

moravia second phase…

So while i was in India, the second phase of Moravia Video Lab (see previous post) took place, this time led by video artist Rabía Williams and featuring many of our original participants, see some of their work below:

Both films don’t really feature dialogue so can be understood by all. The first was filmed during the Día de las Velitas (Day of the small candles) which is celebrated on December 7, on the eve of the immaculate conception, which is a public holiday in Colombia and the unofficial start of the Christmas season there.

Noche de las velitas (Night of the Small Candles) from Moravia Video_Lab on Vimeo.

This second is a visual essay on the barrio of Moravia in Medellin where most of the video lab participants come from:

Pasaje Moravia (Moravian Landscape) from Moravia Video_Lab on Vimeo.

moravia report…

…and while we are on the subject of reports (see previous post), here is my final report on the workshop i co-ran in Aug/Sept of last year in Colombia:

Moravia Video Lab – phase 1

THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF MORAVIA (text in grey is taken from the website)

Moravia is a quarter of Medellín, in Colombia, that grew from the illegal settlement of communities that arrived in the city in the ‘60’s. The municipal dump, established in the same area in 1977, gave the inhabitants a chance for survival, based on recuperating any recyclable materials, which effectively turned Moravia into a marginalised quarter with its economy based on and sustained by refuse. Due to social conflict in the early ‘80’s and ‘thanks’ to the presence of the dump, Moravia reached its highest level of population of 17 thousand people in 1983. By 2004 Moravia and its catchment area had 42,000 inhabitants living in just 44 hectares, becoming the zone with the highest population per square metre in the entire city of Medellín. This extreme population density and the indiscriminate appropriation of the land, has caused a decline in the quality of life and a lack of public space. In the same year, the Alcaldia de Medellín (municipality of Medellín) under the guidance of mayor Sergio Fajardo, began the Macroproyecto de Moravia, an integrated strategic plan to promote development through actions aimed toward recovering the urban area and improving the socio-cultural, socio-economic and environmental conditions, working on both physical and social components, such as public space, public hygiene, public housing and education.
Only recently the resurgence of Medellín, founded on culture and education, has led to results even in the Moravia district, the first and perhaps most important of which was the simple inclusion of the quarter within the urban fabric. A significant sign of the quarter’s rebirth is the Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia (CDCM), a centre whose aim is to promote culture, education and the arts, and which was strongly desired by the community; a project that is truly one of a kind, and that offers a highly valid model for the entire continent.

Moravia Video Lab was a 3-week video workshop for young women with an age range of 14 – 18 years old (with a few exceptions, namely two girls aged 12 and one woman aged 24). The workshop took place in the district of Moravia in the city of Medellín, Colombia between the dates 16 August – 2 September 2011. The workshop was commissioned by artist Juan Sandoval from the Colombian collective El Puente Lab, a platform for artistic and cultural production, active in Medellín, which aims to develop cultural projects on a local level, building bridges of communication with artists and experts through a strategy of international cooperation. Scottish/Spanish artist Margarita Vazquez Ponte and Ecuadorian artist Maria Rosa Jijon were invited by El Puente to curate and run the workshop which took place in and around the Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia, the district of Moravia itself, and further afield into other parts of the city.


  • To teach the basic principles of video making and editing.
  • To give the participants hands on participatory experience within as many of the aspects of video making as is possible within the allotted time.
  • To touch upon themes regarding the position of the female within the context of the girls lives (they live in a society heavily balanced towards the male figure, women are objectified and sexualized at very early ages. The statistics for early pregnancy and domestic violence are very high).
  • To initiate a programme that will eventually sustain itself. To train the girls firstly as participants and then to teach them to become local trainers who can keep on teaching new recruits from within the district of Moravia.


  • The principles of participatory video
  • An instant hands on approach to learning and the technical aspects of the workshop
  • Encouraging the participants to become auto critical
  • Mediation from community leaders
  • Utilising and encouraging sense of place and location as thematic values
  • Utilisation of creative commons regarding authorship
  • Field trips 
  • Public presentation of work and closure
  • Feedback sessions with participants



Participants’ feedback:

  • Feedback was very positive; all appreciated the atmosphere of a female only learning environment saying that it helped with concentration and also in feeling less inhibited to express themselves.
  • All were happy with the mixed age group, the common goal united the group and ages were forgotten about.
  • All were very surprised and proud of the results of their own work.
  • The immediacy of the workshop and the quick results were favourably commented on, as was the demystification of the whole process of video editing.
  • Very positive feedback came from the families of the participants who noted a new and invigorated engagement in their daughters.
  • The participants felt that the workshop was too short and that 2 weeks of practical work was not enough. They felt they had only just got going when the workshop ended.
  • The participants felt that there was not enough editing equipment, often three girls had to share one computer and this could become frustrating for them.
  • What next? All the participants wanted to know how to carry on, would there be more workshops?


  • Mediation, preparation and collaboration with community leaders was imperative to the success of the workshop, without their expertise and local knowledge we could not have operated effectively within this complex area of Medellin.
  • In a very short time, due to a common goal and shared experiences a group of young women empowered by their own capabilities was created.
  • A new archive of films and memories was created about Moravia by citizens of Moravia. The styles are incredibly varied, from commercial, to introspective, to documentary…
  • A platform/ body of work now exists that will allow us to showcase the girls work in other contexts and countries in order to share their work and vision with a wider context and also to generate more interest in the project with the aim to make it spread and grow.
  • Spontaneous collaboration – was one of the most exciting side effects of the workshops. Some of the participants have created lasting bonds and are already in collaboration with each other to make new works. Many of the group also proposed the idea to keep working together independently of the workshop on future projects.
  • It was mutually beneficial for both the artists and the girls to come from such different backgrounds. Part of the richness of the whole experience came from the exchanges of backgrounds and cultural norms we had throughout the workshop period.
  • It is imperative that this workshop should continue in order to consolidate the knowledge and skills of the girls, At the start, video editing is easily forgotten unless it is frequently practised and there is a danger that this past workshop will become a nice experience/memory for the girls but will leave no lasting effect. More training and 2 further workshops should be enough to train local trainers and for the whole thing to become sustainable on a local level and not rely on the help of external consultants such as ourselves.

One of the many films produced by the participants during the workshop:

En moravia hay espacio para la musica

Film by Maria Alejandra Galeano

For more films from the workshop please click here

For the official Moravia Video Lab (written mostly in Spanish) click here

school report


Arts and crafts classes

My classes in Andhra Pradesh have run for 3 years now and this consolidation of knowledge has been extremely satisfying for me and I believe useful for the students who have retained and built on the techniques they have learned in these art labs. Art is vital for the children’s greater education; it is a subject where they are encouraged and even compelled to think for themselves. I am very careful never to have them copy what I do, instead I demonstrate and teach techniques and then they have to elaborate and build upon this using their own imaginations. I believe strongly in challenging the children, I expect a lot from them and they always supersede what they original perceive to be their own capabilities. Classes are kept deliberately small, 10 – 12 students per class to allow time for a one to one teaching ratio that I believe really benefits the students.

Some projects we developed this year:


Each child was given a mirror and encouraged to scrutinise their own faces and to draw from life what they see, the idea being they should reflect a little on their own individual identities as well as developing hand – eye coordination. This is not an easy exercise but the students gained enormous satisfaction by being able to create a visible likeness of themselves and they took a lot of pride in this exercise.

click on image for more

 Group drawings:

As a counterpoint to all the focus on the individual from the self-portrait exercise, I decided to counterbalance this with a group drawing exercise. Each class was split into groups of 5 and had to select one of the group to lie on a giant sheet of paper and have his or her body shape traced. Then it was a question of filling in the silhouette. The face had to be a portrait of one of them, but the rest, the clothing and the background would have to be invented by the group. The idea of the project was to encourage teamwork and negotiation. They had to make group decisions about what they would draw etc…it also taught them that if they worked together as a team that they could create far more ambitious and elaborate drawings. Again the children took a lot of pride, care and attention in this exercise.

click on image for more


Children were introduced to the art of origami, they had first to create the decorative paper themselves and then they learned various folding techniques in order to create decorative shapes ideal for Christmas decorations. This was particularly satisfying as I noticed the children passing on these techniques and spreading the skills beyond my art classes. Also the technique is very practical as it requires no special or extra materials and can be carried on throughout the year.

click on image for more

Creative Computer Programme classes:

This year I taught 4 different batches of students in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator programmes with students ranging from 4th to 10th class and post school age.

Due to a new school policy of encouraging even the youngest of students to become familiar with computer skills and thanks to the purchase of some powerful new computers by Fondazione Zegna, this year I focused a lot of attention on computer classes. I ran for the first time Photoshop classes for beginners concentrating on the creative nature of these programmes encouraging, as ever, the students to think and create for themselves and not to merely copy or repeat lessons, catching them young with the idea that they can have many years of extra tuition as they progress through their school careers.

photoshop by Hari…click on image for more

Photoshop is actually a valid and extremely vocational skill to be learned for young Indian students. As well as the fact that Andhra Pradesh (or namely Hyderabad) is a centre for information technology, there is also a flourishing industry for Photoshop artists who work in tandem with photographers to create fantasy albums for special events such as wedding ceremonies etc…

illustrator by Tessy, click on image for more


Once the students leave school if possible they go to college but after that they are on their own, e it is vital to arm them with as many skills as possible to help them in their adult life. In order to create even more desirable potential employees,  I encouraged the older students to be as versatile as possible by learning other graphic programmes such as Adobe Illustrator. The more programmes these kids learn now, the better their CVs for future employment…

devils and gods of electricity

A readymade piece of art if ever i saw it … and one of the many reasons i love India, you never know what you are going to meet around the corner. I guess there is a logic in placing your gods at the source of electric power…though considering the unreliability of electricity in general round here, it’s not working…anyway, i love it!

…and at the other end of the celestial spectrum…these are images of devils and it is customary to hang them outside your house to catch any evil before it gets into your home, you also often see them attached to the wheel mudflaps of lorries…

…and finally this beautiful piece of neon art for the telephone exchange in Gannavaram, i am never here to see it lit up at night in all its glory…check out the old school telephone…