Memory of Water

9 images Created 12 Apr 2018

In Chile, on September 11th, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte seized power in a military coup. According to Amnesty International, under Pinochet’s dictatorship some 40.000 people were incarcerated, tortured and interrogated, and over 3200 were executed, out of which 1400 were disappeared by the DINA, Pinochet’s secret police.
During his dictatorship, Colonia Dignidad, a German farming community and religious sect led by convicted serial pedophile and ex-Nazi medic, Paul Schaefer, served as a clandestine detention and torture site for the DINA. Over 300 men and women are thought to have been incarcerated and tortured there, and some 100 to have been disappeared.
In 1978, by order of Pinochet, Operacion Retiro de Televisores, was set in motion across Chile. The operation consisted of the illegal exhumation of the bodies of those executed by the military junta, the cremation of their remains and the disposal of the ashes in the sea or rivers across the country. Its objective was to prevent the surfacing of any forensic evidence which might help identify the victims.
In Colonia Dignidad, the victims were exhumed and incinerated by the colony members, and their ashes tossed into the river Perquilauquen, which runs along the German compound’s southern border.
The river retains the memory of those whose ashes were tossed in its waters, and remains a living memorial to all those executed and disappeared.

Abuse of State Power and the grief it inflicts on those who have none, is not new and the ability of perpetrators of crimes against humanity to hide behind sluggish judicial systems is still prevalent today.
Even after 45 years, with no clear answers as to the final destination of their loved ones, from either the Chilean or the German governments, the relatives of the disappeared stand firm in their quest for Truth, Justice and Remembrance.

The Memory of Water, is photographic investigation into the disappeared linked to the German enclave known as Colonia Dignidad. The multi format project consists of a text/photo book containing portraits, landscapes, historical images, memorabilia, personal testimonies and official statements by leading experts associated with the ex-Colonia Dignidad and its role during the Pinochet regime. Video montages of testimonials are made accessible in the book through QR codes so as to offer the reader a more immersive experience.
An exhibition, to include a video/sound installation, and a separate series of photographs will enable the project to reach a wider audience. The first exhibition of this work is due to be shown in the Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos, in Santiago de Chile mid April 2020 - mid July 2020.
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