Reflections on Guerilla Art

Manuel Francisco Viveros

Manuel Viveros was born in Cali, Colombia. His single mother worked as a teacher in a rural school for over 25 years. His family was part of the Afro-Colombian migration to the cities in search of better living conditions. He grew up dreaming of being a professional soccer player, but theater was the space where he found himself. He studied theater at the Universidad Del Valle, where he was the first Afro-Colombian to star at the Teatro Colón de Bogotá, Colombia’s National Theater. Within seven years, he oversaw the program ​Jóvenes Creadores del Litoral​, through which he opened the first university theater program at the Universidad Del Valle in Buenaventura. He later became the director of that theater program where he promoted the arts in the community and helped young people out of violent communities. He served as the Artistic Director of Corporacion Telon de Chonta in Buenaventura, a space for community leaders to transform the reality of the Afro-Colombian community. He has a Master’s degree in Government from ICESI University, and a specialization in Arts Education (Culture and Citizenship) from the Organization of Ibero-American States.

doi: 10.18278/aia.2.2.38

Guerrilla fighters are characterized by being atomized and scattered soldiers who use the element of surprise as a weapon. They fight on a small scale and in most cases for ideological rather than material struggles.

Undoubtedly we must abandon weapons as a method for the transformation of our society, but we must not abandon the fight. Is there anything art can learn from guerilla tactics?

I come from Colombia, a country with guerrillas. One of them, the oldest in Latin America1. These guerrillas have appeared since its inception as an opposition to the status quo—usually armed. However, lately the guerilla values (at least in my country) have been contaminated with the rise of drug wars and illegal mining. Many guerrillas have been born of social movements. The current governments know that, and they are moving to remove the legitimacy of this social protest, treating it instead as a problem of public order.

Art and the guerrillas are similar. Admittedly, armed guerrillas are outdated, inefficient and easily corruptible. But it is necessary to create a new guerrilla force, a guerrilla of the art. A movement of art for social change that promotes a new culture war.

A few days ago, another hate crime was perpetrated in the United States. A man killed two others, after verbally attacking two women about their “Muslim” appearance in Portland, Oregon. In the country of freedoms, tolerance is a losing battle. It is known that one of the most effective tools to reduce rates of hatred is art.2 But in the same country of crime, months earlier, its President threatened to substantially reduce the budget for the arts, while increasing security. The nation’s security has become more important than education. The concept of preventive war completely destroyed the right for the world’s most vibrant democracy to claim ethical superiority in never being the first to attack. Subsequently the term Allied has become a diplomatic way of referring to a minion.

How do we move forward in the arts without violence? It is necessary to end prejudices instead of ending the lives of people, and instead of burying bodies, bury hatred and corruption. From art, we must continue to be a guerrilla, infusing a revolutionary idea into every action of art. Organizing arts intakes, facing the hegemonic power of corporations with our ability. The artistic creations are among the few weapons that truly touch the spirit. With art we are facing barriers that policy and borders have been imposing for decades. We assume a commitment against this cultural homogenization that imposes on us. As artists we can witness, as we do not interpret reality by caprice or pleasure. We make art because we have an obligation to the world and to ourselves. Rather than denouncing every environment, we confront, we confirm; it means being involved in the writing of the history of mankind, but writing our own version.


  1. The group FARC Colombian Revolutionary Armed Force (in Spanish) recently has signed a peace agreement with the Colombian Government. One of the most hardly part of the peace implementation is the drugs traffic about the guerrilla´s zone.

  2. Sin duda, el arte y la creatividad dan fe de la profundidad y plasticidad de las relaciones interculturales, así como de las formas de enriquecimiento mutuo que éstas propician. También ayudan a luchar contra las identidades cerradas y promover la pluralidad cultural.  United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2009) Invertir en la Diversidad Cultural y el Diálogo Intercultural. Informe Mundial de la Unesco. < > (Accessed 20 June 2017).