Window galleries, 6th floor. Museo de la nacion, Lima

Sometimes, even when you have to rush through a show due to time constraints, the work leaves its mark.

The Museo de la Nacion in Lima has devoted a large amount of the 6th floor to Yayanapaq. To remember. In the tradition of excessive explanation, kisim piksa throws out that in the Quechua language ‘yayanapaq’ means ‘to remember’.

Peru and its decades long struggle with militant groups (such as the Shining Path), corrupt government undertakings and a law enforcement community prone to violent shadowy ‘justice’ is well known and documented.

The collection of photograhs is excellent (and by that I mean it is not flippant or ‘sexy’). It is an exhibition of the many wrongs committed against the Peruvian population. Deaths at the hands of rebel groups are treated with the same sharp eye as those people killed by law enforcement officials. Mass graves, houses full of bodies, the 1996 hostage situation in the Japanese Embassy and wrongfully jailed innocents finally released hang on the bare grey walls. A particularly arresting sequence is from a television crew, where frames from the moving footage are reproduced as stills, showing the few brief moments of terror as some teenagers are bundled into the boot (trunk) of a law enforcement vehicle. Their bodies were found the next day in a city hospital.

6th floor installation. Museo de la Nacion

The museum is an imposing, angular concrete structure that stands tall above a major road through Lima. The 6th floor gallery was a refreshing change from the white cube yawn fest that so many exhibiton spaces have become. The concrete rooms are small, concentrating the experience of the few pictures in each themed section. Free standing concrete slabs provide additional hanging and a way to break the larger areas into spaces where you can’t do the easy ‘lap of the wall’. In addition to the darkened nooks are the fantastic areas near the floor to ceiling windows, where thin fabric screens have been installed to permit glowing, bright, diffused light to flood parts of the space. These areas are used and images are hung effectively with the sprawling, slightly obscured, view of Lima stretching out to the horizon.

In the accompanying exhibition catalogue (reproduced here as it is printed, so every so often the grammar or structure is a little tricky) the President of The Commission on the Truth and Reconciliation, Salomon Lerner Ferbes, writes:

“Any community that comes out of a history of violence faces, several dilemmas, one that is inevitable and radical: to remember or forget. Peru, set up a commission of Truth and Reconciliation. This commission took sides with remembering. Choosing to remember is at the same time, choosing the truth. It is a moral choice that involves courage and maturity.

Our duty was to offer the country a portrait of itself. This portrait was intended to restore the dramas experienced by hose who were victims of violence. The images selected for this photographic exhibition narrates part of the events between 1980 and 2000 and tries to reconstruct the visual memory of a period of internal armed conflict which resulted in the death and dsappearance of more than 69,000 people.

This is a documentation of the resistance of thousands of men and women of Peru, whose faces of desolation and puzzled by the tragedy fin the greatest moral commentary – testimony and education – while pressing a mandate: that of not acquiesce in oblivion indifferent or concerned, the obligation to write our recent history knowingly and integrating in it the memory of those who suffered in silence.

The Commission on the Truth and Reconciliation wants to offer this immediate facing of a truth that not only must be recognised and understood, but we also need to feel like it is our own truth to build over it a more peaceful and more humane country.”

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