Urban Gardens of Caracas, Venezuela - Swords Into Ploughshares
Carmen Victor presented these documentary photographs of the communal gardens in Caracas, Venezuela at the DeLeon White Gallery, accompanying the exhibition is a text written by Richard Rhodes, editor of Canadian Art Magazine. August 6th - September 18th, 2004.
Carmen Victor was born in 1974 in Toronto and grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. She received an M.F.A. from the University of Victoria, B.C. and has exhibited recently in Toronto, New York and Vancouver. Currently she is Curatorial Assistant at the Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto.
Swords Into Ploughshares
Venezuela is the world's 5th largest oil-producing country. Despite being an oil-rich country, 80% of its people live in abject poverty. This is due to generations of socio-economic oppression imposed on the average Venezuelan by the elite minority who had grown accustomed to siphoning off most of the revenue generated from the sale of oil. Hugo Chavez was democratically elected President of Venezuela in 1998. As part of the progressive social reforms President Chavez has been implementing in Venezuela, a system of communal and hydroponic gardens has been developed in the inner cities, in the slum areas and on army bases.
Victor visited Calle El Tamarindo in El Valle during a visit to Caracas in August 2003. She was shown the communal gardens in this area by community leaders and by an army Major whose post it was to educate the people and promote a program of sustainable, crop yielding gardens. In addition, she visited Fuerte Tiuna (Fort Tiuna) a large army base located in the centre of Caracas where much of the land is used to grow organic produce. The produce grown there is used to feed the soldiers who also work in the fields, any surplus is sold in open markets. This is a new and unusual role for the military in Venezuela, instead of waging war or subduing a population, the Venezuelan army is engaged in feeding its country.
Since the US-government backed attempted coup and the illegal lockout of 2002 (it was described as a 'strike' in mainstream media, however, it had none of the characteristics of a strike as North Americans would define it), the development of urban crop-yielding gardens has started to empower and enable the people to become self-sufficient and less reliant upon the supermarkets owned and operated by the elite minority. During the illegal lockout, supermarkets were deliberately closed by the elite, but open markets in poorer areas were lively and functioning.Ê
All images below are credited thus: Carmen Victor, c-print, 2004
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