Traces of Freedom
Traces of Freedom
Traces of Freedom (Trazos de Libertad) is a project developed by the artist and ex-prison guard Carlos Rojas and Foundation Casa Tres Patios that addresses the social reintegration of inmates in prisons through the appropriation of artistic techniques and the dialogues that may arise in the approach to art.
This program was created in the absence of alternative training processes and aims to enhance technical skills and generate dialogues around issues that are important in the reintegration and empowerment of those deprived of liberty in prisons in Colombia. The project provides inmates with tools to capture their narratives through the visual arts and express their ideas and emotions in creative and non-violent ways. It is understood that artistic creation in complex contexts such as prisons can contribute to the strengthening of self-esteem, collaborative work between participants, the exploration of alternative life references and the motivation to develop new ways of inhabiting the prison system .
The challenges faced by inmates in their reintegration processes into civil society are reflected in the number of repeat offenders offered by the INPEC (2020), according to which the population that has returned to the prison system is 16,482 (21.34%). Added to this is the difficult situation of overcrowding in prisons, a value that reaches 29.1%, that is, an overpopulation of 23,557 individuals.
Improve the socio-emotional and technical skills of prisoners in the Pedregal, Bellavista and Itagüí prisons through artistic practices and the management of economic opportunities.
Raise positive references and narratives and life skills that allow reintegration into society and improve relationships and behavior within the prison institution.
Train inmates in artistic techniques that can serve as tools of expression for their reintegration into society and the acquisition of work.
Manage personal and work opportunities for the post-convicts through strategic alliances with organizations from the first, second and third sectors and training for work.
Project beneficiaries: 200 inmates from the Bellavista, Itagüí and Pedregal penitentiaries. The number of beneficiaries may vary according to the financing resources available.
Bellavista: 70 men
Itagüí: 65 men
Pedregal: 65 women
HISTORY OF THE PROJECT "TRAZOS DE LIBERTAD"
In September 2012, inmates held in medium security patios were invited to participate in drawing, painting and clay modeling workshops that were to be taught by students in Visual Arts Department in the University Foundation of Fine Arts (FUBA).
A total of 18 prisoners attended the workshops for six months. They received knowledge in the different workshops that were proposed in the first meeting. These workshops were directed by the students: Juan Pablo Echavarría, Alexandra Cossio and Carlos Rojas. It was concluded with an exhibition of the work carried out during this time, inside the jail. This work, which filled those of us who carried out these workshops at the time with satisfaction, was the impulse that generated the desire to dictate permanent workshops in favor of the resocialization of the people deprived of their freedom.
After almost four years, in February 2016, another invitation was made in the medium security and peace and justice pavilions (patios 3,4,5 and 6) for those who had an interest in participating in drawing and painting workshops, this resulted in a little more than twenty inmates who showed their interest in participating. In the second meeting only four arrived, perhaps the enthusiasm and desire of these four participants gave me strength to continue with my dream, a dream that began in a room located inside the prison used by ZENA, which was lent to me by afternoons, three days a week.
As the days went by, the interest and participation of other inmates began to increase, because of their desire to learn to draw. At first they performed basic drawing exercises that allow them to learn the technique. The group began to grow and the space we occupied became too small, the need arose to find a new place for this project, I found an abandoned space in a semi-external area of the prison, where years ago it was used for the manufacture of candles and mops. With the authorization of the Director Captain Erazo, I was given access to a part of this space that allowed us to increase the number of participants.
Simultaneously and at the request of inmate José Luis Mejía who was confined in patio # 2, being the only high security pavilion in the establishment, he requested that the drawing and painting classes that had been carried out in the common and PJ pavilions, could be taken to that patio, or pavilion, since, due to the infrastructure and high security profile, many of the activities almost never reach the people who are held there. The reception was very good, reaching a little more than twenty people, the space was reduced therefore the practice of drawing was difficult, seeing the need to move to a more suitable place to continue with this process, it was decided to request that the workshop be moved to the place where the other group was working, it was difficult to obtain authorization due to the profile of the inmates and the category of the patio. Internal regulations do not allow them to be transferred to a semi-external area. By means of a written request and an intense and extensive dialogue with Captain Erazo, the transfer was authorized on Wednesdays and Fridays under my responsibility.
At this time a project was necessary not only to teach drawing and painting classes but also where other artistic activities could converge such as: sculpture, theater, music, literature etc. At first, this idea did not have very high aspirations, but as time passed the interests of the inmates grew regarding the other disciplines and through observation and monitoring day by day I noticed the change in people's behavior who attend the workshops, I also understood that in the prisons there are human beings, and that the only thing that differentiates us is the condition and the uniform. They are human beings who demand a second chance, and perhaps find it in a project like "TRAZOS DE LIBERTAD" Where people who have committed different crimes converge, without exclusion and without any kind of recrimination. Since this space is a space for intellectual freedom, bars do not exist in the mind of the human being. Being the human is the reason for this project, not the crime, not the institution, only the re-socialization of it.
After a while and with the need to expand the capacity of the prison, the direction of the institution chose to use the space that some inmates had used in musical practice, as new cells. This generated a need to relocate the musical activities. In order to permit the continuity of these activities became, for me, a great opportunity to bring music to the project “Trazos de Libertad.” We received news of the closure of a food preparation area for the inmates and of relocating it to the place where we held the workshops, while it was being remodeled. At first I took it as bad news, this provoked a search and acquisition of new spaces that had been abandoned and unused for many years. After a few months, the space was given to us, and a new idea emerged, the idea of creating the first exhibition hall within a prison center, which would have the quality level of any exhibition space in the country and would be the first cultural center in the penal system for activities such as: drawing, painting, sculpture, theater, poetry, literature among others.
Thus, in September of 2017, I inaugurated “Trazos de Libertad” in the exhibition space that bears my name. The initiative of the people who, with the support, collaboration, dedication, sacrifice and responsibility, made a dream come true that today is a source of pride: for their families, for them, for the EPC The Peace, for INPEC and me personally, since it demonstrated that artistic practice generates changes from within people and can be a means for the true re-socialization of people deprived of their freedom.
It began with four people receiving drawing classes, there are now 60 prisoners [in the prison in Itagüí) who are transforming their lives with artistic practices (music, theater, painting, sculpture, audiovisuals, literature, etc.)
NO MORE CEMETERIES OF LIVING BEINGS
CARLOS H. ROJAS NIÑO 2020