Quiet Conversations: February 27, 2024

Ana Luisa Ramírez Flórez, Jenry SernaCórdoba, Daniel Ruiz-Serna and Catalina Muñoz Rojas speak to sound, listening and collaboration as reparative practices in the lower Atrato region in Chocó, Colombia; a region wounded by multiple forms of violence more recently affected by paramilitary violence and other extractive practices.

Quiet Conversations: February 27, 2024


Quiet Conversations are a series of conversations with artists, architects, researchers and thinkers working in and with the south, as a conceptual site and geography. Curated by Catalina Mejía Moreno and Huda Tayob, editors of this issue of Ellipses, the conversations work towards a methodology of shared sites, sounds, objects and practices through a turn to acts of remembrance, recall and repair. In this series we invite a close and intimate listening of meandering conversations; to stay with the words, silences and utterances that through conversation share entangled and implicated relationships of site, objects, people and places. Drawing upon sound and the act of speaking and listening as affective and political, together we ask, how might located and grounded practices enable us to draw out relational histories? How might creative research and associated methodologies of critique generate ways of listening, speaking to and engaging with the built environment, architectures, land and violence beyond extraction? And how might we share and build collective methodologies for working and thinking together? 

In the series of 6 excerpts shared here, we invited each conversant to share an object as a prompt for a wider conversation around methods, materials, and practices.

Jumoke Sanwo speaks to the mirror as entangled with the trans-atlantic slave trade, and her work as curator of Dúna Dúrà - A Portal of Reimagination; 

Felipe Arturo shares an Iraca palm fan, as a form of technology that exists within and outside of colonial and neo-colonial economies, material and embodied practices; 

Marcelo Ferraz shares the throne of Òsùmàrè as an entry point into a wider conversation around his immersive experience of designing with the Terreiro de Òsùmàrè, in Salvador, Bahía;  

Zara Julius speaks to the entangled geographies and soundscapes of the machete as an object that speaks to entangled layers of labour, oppression, violence, resistance and liberation. 

Sibonelo Gumede speaks to the temporalities and cartographies of Black sonic geographies in Southern Africa and beyond.

Russel Hlongwane speaks to the ‘Black interior’ as a practice of negotiating comfort and home in post-Apartheid suburban South Africa.

Ana Luisa Ramírez Flórez, Jenry Serna Córdoba, Daniel Ruiz-Serna and Catalina Muñoz Rojas speak to sound, listening and collaboration as reparative practices in the lower Atrato region in Chocó, Colombia; a region wounded by multiple forms of violence more recently affected by paramilitary violence and other extractive practices.

As Françcoise Verges writes, ‘To dare to imagine is to reject time’s opposition of past, present, and future’ [1] in the search for an alternative temporality of repair. Across sites and methods, these conversations recall extreme violence and “quieter forms of abjection” [2] alongside numerous seemingly “small” acts of making and re-making place and space. For as Tina Campt argues in her framing of ‘quiet photography’, the possibilities of other futures are ever–present, yet “we must not only look but also listen for it in other, less likely places.” [3] In each of these four conversations, there is the consistent awareness of ongoing and ever-present violence, an engagement with structures of complicity, and an expansive generosity and commitment to sharing ways of being, voices, stories, knowledge and time.

[1] Françoise Vergès, 2022. A Feminist Theory of Violence, London: Pluto Press, p. 98
[2] Elizabeth Povinelli, Economies of Abandonment, Durham: Duke University Press
[3] Tina Campt, Listening to Images, Durham: Duke University Press, p. 17 

Launch Project


Ana Luisa Ramírez Flórez, Jenry Serna Córdoba, Daniel Ruiz-Serna and Catalina Muñoz Rojas speak to sound, listening and collaboration as reparative practices in the lower Atrato region in Chocó, Colombia, 27 February 2024

Catalina Muñoz (CM) is a historian and university lecturer. Daniel Ruiz Serna (DRS) is anthropologist, scriptwriter, and co-producer of la colectiva normal. Ana Luisa and Jenry are afro-Colombian social leaders from the lower Atrato region in Chocó, northeast Colombia, and members of two community councils: ASCOBA (Asociación de Consejos Comunitarios y Organizaciones del Bajo Atrato) and ACAMURI (Asociacion Campesina del Municipio de Riosucio, Chocó). They are co-founders of ‘Ronca el Canalete,’ a transmedia dissemination platform through which they share their passion with younger generations, and work towards the consolidation of a social and media dissemination in their territory. ‘Ronca el Canalete’ is named after the sound the river makes when their elders rowed using the canalete – an oar. Ronca translates to snore, to a flirting sound, or to a danger alert. It was a way that elders used to communicate; Ronca el Canalete honours and dignifies those ancestral practices.

Bogotá, D.C. y Riosucio, Chocó - Colombia

Fort this Quiet Conversation the authors and collaborators of ‘Nuestra Orilla’ speak to sound, listening and collaboration as reparative practices in the lower Atrato region in Chocó, Colombia; a region wounded by multiple forms of violence more recently affected by paramilitary violence and other extractive practices. As collaborators of ‘Nuestra Orilla’ podcast series, Ana, Jenry, Daniel and Catalina offer a counter-history that challenges linear conceptions of time and geographical space, of past and present, and other dichotomies that have not only placed Black and indigenous communities ‘outside of history’ but reinforced forms of violence that they have been subjected to. Speaking from an aqueous and very much-loved territory, and narrated through the voice of Ana Luisa Ramirez, this quiet conversation is an invitation to immerse in a hybridity of landscapes, bodies, and multiplicity of voices as they return to and honour their now community owned and legally recognised territories.

[00:50] (ALR) If you’ve had the chance to listen to the podcast ‘Nuestra Orilla’ (Our shore) you can decipher my name. I am Ana Luisa Ramírez Flórez, a community leader in Chocó (Department along the Pacific Ocean and north-west of Colombia). I am mother of three and working towards the wellbeing of our communities and relatives since a very young age in this territory that has seen so much violence (…)

[02:15] (JS) My name is Jenry Serna Cordoba, from Riosucio, Chocó. I was born in 1984 in the basin of the Truandó River. Together with Ana we are speaking from Riosucio, in the northern part of the Chocó department, and part of the lower Atrato river region. It is commonly known as ‘lower Atrato’ as it is the last stretch of the river before it flows into the sea. This is a very humid region, and the Atrato river usually floods. Our livelihoods and our ancestors' have relied on fishing, wood and agriculture tied to the river.

I am a father of four (…) and passionate about transmedia communications since I was 16, when I also became a community leader in this territory.

[04:37] Riosucio, a territory we call home, is also a territory both Ana and Jenry had to forcefully leave and a territory to which we later returned to. A distinct form of violence – paramilitaries - arrived in Riosucio on 20 December 1996; different to the presence of guerrillas, the FARC, the ELN, and other illegal armed groups and actors that preceded. In Riosucio we are agents of change; it is a territory where there is no presence of the state. We are not ‘formally’ educated people, nor have access to health system. We love our territory and everything we do is out of love.

[07:15] (DRS) I am Daniel Ruiz Serna. I have been lucky to have worked and keep working in the lower Atrato region with Anita and Jenry, in a time when forcefully displaced communities were making enormous efforts of returning to their territories. Territories, understood etymologically, means solid ground. But working in the lower Atrato, a region that has so much water – water in the sky, in the air, in the rivers, everywhere – I realised how notions of territory are traversed by an aquatic element and by its amphibious peoples, therefore offering distinct ways of relating to the territories and amongst themselves. To return home, after forced displacement entailed a reconnection of livelihoods inextricably tied with all watery beings, presences and more than human entities (…)

[11:20] (ALR) Our struggle for land and territory dates from the time our ancestors started to fight for a territory of their own, which triggered a community led process demanding action from the local and national government. With the new National Constitution of Colombia (1991), Black populations’ right to land was recognised (though it is important to mention that it was a fight that our Black community, together with indigenous communities) (...) What I am talking about here, is the ley 70 (law 70) which recognises our rights as Afro descendant peoples and established the legal tools and frameworks for the recognition and legitimation of our collective lands and territories (…) This recognition in the early 90’s also prompted us to ‘speak louder’; stronger, as a way of honouring the struggle led and initiated by our ancestors.

[13:00] We have always approached and owned our territory collectively, from generation to generation. But this ancestral inheritance wasn’t legally recognised. For us our territory is not for sale. It is for conservation and stewardship. To speak about our territory is to speak about ourselves. We live in a territory wounded by endless violence. But regardless, we honour its memory, its ancestral memory as Afro descendants living in this beautiful land, and the way we do so is by sustaining, nurturing, and safeguarding our territory. This is how we see our leaderships.

[15:33] Nuestra Orilla is a referent of how to engage and ‘do’ memory differently (…) through story-making and storytelling and narrated by multiple voices that relate to each other. We foreground what memory wants to be for those voices; we recognise each other in the multiple stories shared; in those lives and livelihoods that characterise our territory. It is a question of collective memory for younger generations to continue these processes.

[16:37] (JS) It is very meaningful for us to talk about the territory in this podcast. I’d like to refer to episode 7, where we expand on this as it relates to legal frameworks mentioned: the law 1745 and the Law 70, 1993. To be able to own, to obtain our territory, many things happened: kidnappings, killings, forced disappearances (…)

In episode 3 or 4 you can hear how we were ligados (tied) to our territory, or how our ancestors nos ligaban (tied us) through la ombligada: most of the people born up to the 90’s or 2000’s would have their ombligo (umbilical cord) seeded our in our territory. We belonged to it, we learnt from it, and we would always be tied to it. As we worked on the podcast and talked to our people, we realised this is one of the things that are getting lost due to the ongoing violence our territory has been affected by; this is important when thinking about memory.

[20:50] (CM): I would like to add something about time, and the role it plays in the podcast series. How to craft repairing histories. In different parts of the world, the uses of the term 'past' for reparations has assumed that the ‘past’ is gone and that the present is different from it; as for instance the way it is used within truth and reconciliation commissions. The hegemonic way of thinking about time as progressive, in the case of Colombia and probably many other places, leaves Afro diasporic communities like Ana Luisa's and Jenry's, ‘outside’ of that history – represented as ahistorical beings, pre-political. In the podcast we are interested in breaking this dichotomy (…) the ‘past’ is not in the past (…)

Reparation therefore implies rethinking temporalities: past, present, and future. Rethinking time but also space – the space where in this case this history takes place. In Colombia we live with spatial suppositions of here, as modern, and ‘there’, far away, the territories are ‘savage’ and violent. For the podcast we intentionally foregrounded and disrupted these temporal and spatial assumptions. Our challenge was then how to capture the territory sonically, and to take bring our listening audience up close to the lower Atrato and its people – as a spatial and social entity that is not distant. But also, to foreground narrative strategies that navigate time not through conceptions of past and present (or chronological time) but, as mentioned, encompasses different understandings of time and space.

[26:00] (JS) We decided for Anita to be the protagonist of the story, as someone who could tell but also narrate her story. For all the other voices we didn’t decide beforehand who would we be talking to. We shared ideas, wrote scripts, went to the street, and started talking to people and including voices that were in synchronicity with Anita’s story. It wasn’t easy – we have 180 interviews recorded, all done in agreement with those collaborating; for us selfcare practices have always been at the core. Due to the violence we have endured, many of us were not willing to share, not even to speak. Many were sceptical of interviews, as so many interviewers have come here to extract our testimonies alone. Also, many interviews done in the past have focused on the harm done and mobilising our pain for their purposes or judging us– we have always stood against that. We took this into consideration – we unsettled those practices.

[30:46] (DRZ) The reasons for voice multiplicity are many. The first one is methodological (…) The idea was to be able to engage in multigenerational conversations as we noticed that there is a disconnect between the generations that fought for their land, and the new generations that are born and bred here who take for granted that the land where they live has been theirs and will be theirs for perpetuity. The second one, a gender component (…) there are many Anitas in the lower Atrato. Everyone is affected by violence, but there is a differential aspect to it – not everyone is affected in the same way.

We worked on multiplying voices inhabiting these lower Atrato territories as it is a collective history. For children and younger generations that have not faced forced displacement in the same way Anita did, this kind of violence is ‘historic.’ However, the effects of these wars on the territory do not end once there is a peace accord or because an armed group disarms. The memory of this violence stays; it inhabits these lands; it is perpetuated through people’s bodies and spirits.

[35:40] (JS) Does this podcast has an aspect of reparation to the victims? It has been a reparative process for all of us involved as well; even to the extent of identifying the need of a psychosocial accompaniment. When I started working on the podcast, we didn’t know exactly what was happening across our territory. I knew I had two missing family members. But then I realised that there were families who had five or more. And those people had never shared that either. Listening to our own people was the most beautiful therapy for all.

(…) For Anita her memories where so strong and came back in such overwhelming manner. Some memories she had not shared with anyone. But talking about them did give her some relief.

(ALR) Yes, and in Jenry’s case, it was the first time he talked about his father's disappearance. So, working in this way also enabled us to think of ways of working in the territory as leaders generating ways of working that foreground sharing, and this is what we want to transmit to others too.

[40:10] (ALR) To start concluding, everything that we have done is very simple and short but has been narrated and possible because of the territory we inhabit (…) If you ask me about an object to reflect on, it is the river. For us the Atrato river is life, we are river, and the river brings life to us as food, drinkable water, mode of transport. Where we live there are no roads – there is just one that is the only entrance to the Riosucio urban area, but all other transport is through water. There is something for me very important and it’s that all communities that live by the riverfront do not have clean water infrastructures – aqueducts. And from those needs very important and special practices emerge. For example, we wash our dishes and clothes in the river. We go together to the river with our girlfriends and in doing so we share our problems, stories. So those are beautiful things that happen. From a very early age we teach our children to swim, as swimming is our number one priority and need for survival.

The river is that thing I missed the most when I was forcefully displaced to Bogotá, and to Medellín; I was not feeling well (…) we do not have a gym, but we have the joy of jumping, splashing in the river (…) it is also the place where we could decompress from all the horror that the conflict brought to us.

The river is life, the river smells like all the flowers and trees that live by its shore. Its smell is sensational, romantic, soft.

Co-producing the podcast, from a Colectiva Normal: Daniel Ruiz Serna, script writer; Seluna Fernandez, graphic and visual designer; Andrea Diaz, journalist and editor; Paula Peña, musician and audio design and producer. As well as Helga Moreno Collantes and Fernando Alberto Gálvez Rodríguez with whom they have developed accompanying pedagogical material and can be found here.

Excerpt from a Quiet Conversation with Ana Luisa Ramírez Flórez, Jenry Serna Córdoba, Daniel Ruiz-Serna and Catalina Muñoz Rojas.


This conversation series is supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, The Space for Creative Black Imagination and a University of Cape Town URC grant. It was developed in conversation with Raél Jero Salley at The Space for Creative Black Imagination, based at MICA in Baltimore, and James MacDonald. 

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