We came to this life to be happy
By Chris Kiseno

"Absence" necklace, 2018. Ongoing work. Photo: Chris Kiseno

I arrived in Bogotá in 2016. The city was new to me and had awakened all my senses. In 2018, my environment and my conscience made me question my work. I understood that my jewelry should become an historical account and honor the memory of the victims of political violence so that we know what happened and so that the past is no longer a blurred image.
At the end of that year I began to make my most important and dearest piece. It is a necklace; its beads are skulls placed in chronological order. The necklace comes with a record: the name, surname, date, and place of death for each social leader or activist assassinated in Colombia after the peace process of 2016. I decided that I would not finish it before these killings stopped. Sadly, I had to add 111 more beads in 2019; and, this year more than 120 political leaders and activists have been assassinated.

"True Colors" brooch, 2019. Photo: Chris Kiseno
A few months ago, I heard Uruguay's former president, Pepe Mujica, say that we came to this life to be happy and that we had to fight for it - and I totally agree.
I would add that we cannot, we must not, remain still in the face of injustice wherever it comes from. It is the obligation stemming from our profession or social position to do something against this injustice.

In Colombia we call social leaders those people who defend human rights, territories, the environment, education, culture. Colombia has been classified by the United Nations as one of the most dangerous countries to be a social leader or human rights advocate.
There are several types of leaders depending on the community or organization: community leaders; peasant leaders; indigenous leaders; LGTBI leaders; Afro-descendant leaders; environmental leaders.

Chris Kiseno Photo: Chris Kiseno

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