Resilient Cities

Mexico City: Artists Breaking Apathy

Mexico City, a massive, sprawling metropolis and home to over 21 million inhabitants, is the capital of a country that has become notorious for drug-­‐related violence. The ‘drug war’ as it is widely known, officially launched in 2006, had initially the support of communities who were tired of gun battles, execution-­style murders and police corruption.

However, it has since spiraled into one of the world’s deadliest conflict after the Syrian war, with 200 000 people murdered since 2007, hundreds of thousands of people displaced by violence, a notable rise in human rights abuse, femicide and violence against women. So widespread and brutal is the violence that it has become almost commonplace, paralyzing the inhabitants of Mexico City into apathy. But a major turning point came about after the disappearance and killing of 43 trainee students. The city’s artists decided that enough was enough; it was time to break the climate of helplessness.

In this episode, we follow Canadian photographer François Pesant and three Mexico City artists: Andrea Narno, a graphic artist who is part of a women’s art collective, plastering her message on the walls of the city’s streets; Edgar Olguin and Sara Juarez, a group of performance artists denouncing femicide and violence against women; and Alfredo Libre Gutierrez, a sculptor whose oversized installations address the struggles of South American migrants.

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Medellin: Art As Remembrance

After two decades of violence and corruption under the reign of the largest cocaine drug cartel operation in history, Medellín, Colombia awakens to the sights, sounds and colors of an urban renaissance crafted by a group of creative entrepreneurs, artists and visionary city planners defying street wars.

Moscow: Expression in the Face of Suppression

Moscow is a city where dissidents live in fear. After emerging from a decade of post-­Soviet economic and political turmoil, the country, under Putin’s rule, is a place where authorities have tightened control over the media and stifled the opposition. The government maintains a narrative that insists on the country’s unique power in contrast with the rest of Europe. In 2011, thousands of protestors gathered in Moscow to protest electoral fraud – it was the biggest show of protest since the fall of the USSR.

Jerusalem: Artists Fighting for Their Own Truth

As one of the oldest cities in the world and of significance to followers of all three major religions, Jerusalem is constantly on edge. It is segregated into two distinct parts, East and West. In the streets, 18-­year-­old soldiers patrol the city with guns. Artists in both parts of the city are using art to find and fight for their own truth and bring about peace amid the regular eruptions of violence.

Lagos: Artists Provoking Debate

Lagos, the largest city in Africa and an economic powerhouse, is characterized by extreme social inequalities, frequent power cuts and a rapidly increasing population. In the rest of Nigeria, political upheavals, including the militant insurgency of Boko Haram and a drop in oil production in the country’s oil sector, are among some of the challenges facing the government of Mohammadu Buhari, elected in 2015. Lagos, and its exploding art scene, is where these realities are brought to the fore of people’s consciousness.

Havana: Art from a Disconnected Island

Cuba is a multi-layered, complex, culturally-rich island, known primarily for the 1953 revolution of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. The revolution, America’s subsequent trade embargo and the economic struggles that the island faced has had a notable impact on the kind of art that was created. Much of it was inspired by a sense of cohesion and unity, with Cuban artists promoting the belief that socialism would work. More recently, and in the context of renewed normalization of relations between the U.S.