|Gendered Memories of Peru’s ‘Internal War’ as Recounted through Art|
|In 2003, a consortium of NGOs held an art contest in the department of Ayacucho as part of their efforts to establish a collective memory project about the internal conflict (1980-2000). In total, 177 people participated in the contest, submitting works in the categories of poetry, stories, song, and paintings. The success of this original contest led to similar contests in other communities in the following years. From this corpus of artworks, distinct memory patterns emerge along the lines of age and gender. The war affected men and women differently, as did it affect them differently in their in their age.
The Rescate por la memoria entries express gendered differences of the armed conflict. One of the “truths” of the violence upon which the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) and art converge is the gendered experience of the violence. Men and women were affected differently by the internal war: over 75% of the victims were men over 15 years of age (most between the ages of 20 and 49) and were local leaders targeted by Shining Path or “disappeared” by the military; most women who died were the victims of indiscriminate violence and massacres leveled against the communities. Because of their gender, women were subjected to rape and forced domestic duties (such as cooking and tending to injured members of the armed opposition and the military). Sexual violence by the armed forces went underreported to the CVR, a taboo truth made explicit in several of the entries to the Rescate por la memoria contest. But Rescate por la memoria submissions also demonstrate that women were not passive victims alone: women participated in Shining Path membership and also in the organization of communities against Shining Path and military incursions. They searched for their disappeared relatives and cared for their surviving families.
Gendered differences are evident in the choice of contest categories. Interestingly, while women only made up a quarter of the participants in the original Rescate por memoria contest in the province of Ayacucho (2003), they accounted for nearly half of the entries in the song category and many also submitted pieces of poetry, perhaps reflecting the strong oral and lyrical tradition of the region. The following year, poetry accounted for more than a third of women’s entries (36%) in urban Ayacucho where women made up a fifth of the participants. In Huancavelica, poetry accounted for just under a third of the entries by women, who represented a quarter of the participants. In all three contests, men disproportionately outnumbered women in the “narration” category.
This presentation wishes to consider these artworks across the categories of analysis of gender and age in order to draw comparisons with the findings of the CVR, and to advance the argument that historians and social scientists need to include art as part of their archive.|