For fifteen years, I have been photographing the different truths that exist in the “parallel states” of a Colombia fractured by war. It has been my goal, in fact my obsession, to break the blindness that is imposed in a country that has had its memory kidnapped.

The Macondo photographic project recognizes the polyphony of experiences and documents the countless truths—the many cultural and historical perspectives—that have lived at odds for more than half a century and which form the basis of the Colombian civil conflict. There is not one Colombia; there are many. Yet they all have one common denominator: war.

Colombia is the victim of the kidnapping of its memory. There has been a metaphoric loss of sight—a “blindness” or a lack of awareness about the different truths of the war there. This has made it impossible for Colombian society to overcome a monologue characterized by fear and confrontation; it has rendered a polyphonic dialogue of understanding and sympathy difficult to achieve; it works against forgiveness and reconciliation in the country.

The broad Colombian territory is divided by invisible but very real boundaries. These, in turn, define the parallel states of the country, where the State itself often barely has a presence; it has been replaced by the different armed groups fighting in the conflict. This condition—of parallel realities amidst armed warfare—keeps alive very deep wounds, seemingly irreconcilable hatreds, and competing truths that are considered unquestionable dogmas; and, worst of all, this condition results in the kidnapping of the memory of the conflict.

In the context of an open conflict like Colombia’s, memory cannot but be essentially controversial: memory is and will remain a field of tension within society and between society and institutions. When memory is institutionalized as a hegemonic narrative, it becomes metaphorically akin to totalitarianism; it becomes a story sanctioned and distributed by those in power. But when memory is recognized and valorized in its diversity, when it represents competing narratives and competing truths, it can stand as one of the most democratizing practices.

Macondo aims to contribute to the knowledge of a legacy of violence, hatred, and despair. It is more necessary than ever to overcome the single narrative, the monologue of fear and retribution. It is necessary to support a dialogue of sympathy and understanding, ultimately leading toward forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano has written elegantly on processes of erasure. His words, which I paraphrase and adapt, reformulating them for the Colombian context, offer a valuable lens through which to consider this situation: The wind erases the traces of seagulls. The rain erases the traces of human steps. The sun erases the traces of time. A photograph seeks traces of lost memory, of love and pain, which are not seen, but not deleted.


This gallery show is part of Álvaro Ybarra Zavala’s larger Macondo project, which entails multiple elements, including: a book (forthcoming in early 2017) that showcases a broader selection of Ybarra Zavala’s Colombia imagery; future gallery shows of Macondo: Memories of the Colombian Conflict, both within the United States and internationally; the donation of Ybarra Zavala’s photos for the creation of a new archive, open to the public, for research and educational purposes; collaboration with the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano Gabriel García Márquez in Cartagena, the guarantor of the physical archive.


We will celebrate the opening of the Macondo: Memories of the Colombian Conflict photography show with a panel discussion.

Please join for a conversation with:

  • Alice Gabriner (TIME Magazine’s International Photo Editor)
  • Marie Cruz Soto (NYU Gallatin Professor of Latin American Studies)
  • Álvaro Ybarra Zavala (Photographer).

The panel will be moderated by Keith Miller (Curator of The Gallatin Galleries and NYU Gallatin Professor) and Lauren Walsh (Curator of Macondo and NYU Gallatin Professor).

The panel will be followed by a reception in the gallery as Ybarra Zavala’s show officially opens to the public.

The panel is free and open to the public and begins at 6:30pm in the Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts

Both the theater and the gallery are located at 1 Washington Place @ Broadway


Please contact Lauren Walsh for any other information and/or press photos.

Lauren Walsh, curator and professor



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