Building Capacity For Peace Through Art

Se Young Yoo / CONF 340 / October 21, 2019


When talking about conflict resolution processes in culture, artistic tools and strategies have the ability to be successful. People feel touched unconsciously from the artworks. For peace to replace violence, broken relationships are re-created using an array of processes that address trauma, transform conflict, and do justice. These processes give people opportunities to create long-term, sustainable solutions to address their needs. Therefore, this article is aimed to provide a guidance that educating and building capacity for peace through art for people who are dealing with the conflict.  

Moreover, this article can be used for diverse groups of people suffering from conflicts and art therapists. The art in education can encourage and support people to gain new perspective about conflict and its transformation through movement, creative expression, and embodied experience. Such approaches seek to increase awareness of non-verbal communication, generate fresh perspectives, and enact behavioral change in the midst of conflict, chaos, uncertainty, and rapid change.

Mexican Muralism Movement

Like most countries in Latin America, Mexico has a painful history of conquering immigrants. Independence sent all of Latin America into delight, but the ensuing era of chaos brought them to despair again. Confusion has naturally led to the tyranny of the powerful. In Mexico, the famous dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz has long groaned Mexico. This was ended by the revolution began in 1910, but the revolution was only the beginning. The multi-racial population composition, the extreme gap between the rich and the poor, and the serious confrontation between the social classes, remained an urgent issue after the revolution. Those who succeeded in the revolution needed to unite Mexico, and the model presented for this was the “Mestizo.” The term Mestizo refers to the mixed race of a Spanish American and an American Indian, but from now on it describes as an ideal race for the Mexican. Thus, the movement of research began to be carried out in order to push aside an old-fashioned heritage what is now Spanish, and to emphasize the ethnic identity of other civilized European countries, especially Britain and France.

The Mexican government began the mural movement by reducing the need to create an integrated Mexican culture and providing the walls of public buildings to revolutionary artists in order to integrate the mestizo, which emerged as a new class, into the national culture and establish social homogeneity and ideology.

Mexico’s mural movement centered around Diego Rivera in 1921. Diego Rivera faithfully followed the Mestizo nationalism suggested by Minister of Education, Jose Vasconcelos or anthropologist Manuel Gamio, glorifying the Indio past as the starting point of a new national history, and portraying the mixed race, Mestizo, as the center of a new identity. Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros are known for three great artists of muralism. Specifically, Diego Rivera faithfully promoted the achievements of the Mexican revolution by presenting the country, the organizer of the mural art movement, as the new leader of unity. Diego Rivera interpreted Mexico’s history as a dichotomy between internal and intruders, a hostile structure advocated by Mexican nationalism, and painted murals that faithfully embodied the dichotomy of the people against the landlord oligarchs and upper-tier Bourgeoisie.

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) – one of three great painters in Mexico

Although the mural movement is strongly initiated by the needs of the government, but it cannot be seen as simply a government-led movement. Because the artists who participated had their own firm ideology and became an art movement centering on them. Thus, this mural movement is not just a political propaganda but an example of formative arts that harmonize the beauty of content and form. With the historic mission of leading the people, the artists tried to actively participate in society instead of just staying as a painter, recognizing that walls are not personal and can be a powerful mass mediator. Given the circumstances of the time when the majority were illiterate, the use of murals may have been a natural choice. It is also a reflection of the times that they have come to use a method of realism that is easy to reach the people rather than a Western modernity inclined to abstract trends. Once the purpose of mural painting was to serve as a text to the people, the realistic and descriptive way of expression would have been very effective. The goal of mural painting was to bring national unity from ancient Aztec civilians to memories of brutal conquest to independence from it and subsequent trials, and eventually hope for a new society that was acquired through revolution. Such a total history is well illustrated in one of the three great artists of the mural movement, Diego Rivera’s “History of Mexico.” The vast historical trend in Diego’s murals would have allowed Mexicans looking at the murals to look back on their ancestors and feel that their minds are connected to their present state, tying themselves and other compatriots on a single line. This creates one strong ideology, or nationalism. Also, the heroes of the revolution painted in murals would have offered them a sense of pride that was daunting and hope for the future.

The History of Mexico-mural in the National Palace in Mexico City

The Influence of Mexican Mural Movement

The Mexican muralism was an art movement that sought to popularize art which was owned only by the privileged class and, on the other hand, a nationalist and cultural movement that sought to find traditional Mexican culture by advocating anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. Also, the mural movement itself was for the public, so in some murals it served as a spokesperson for conveying the needs of the public. Furthermore, it serves as the cornerstone of the mural movement not only in the United States but also in Latin America and African countries in the 1960s. Among the American painters who participated as assistants in the making of murals at the time were Ben Shahn (1898-1969), best known for his works of social realism, and Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), who later became a pioneer of abstract expressionism with “action painting.”

The mural movement in Mexico visually symbolizes the value or belief, history, culture and vision of Mexicans, and members of the community identify their community-related identities through symbolic works. In this cyclical process, unconscious emotions toward mural paintings are shared among community members, creating a sense of community, such as belonging and unity. After all, the mural movement serves to unify the members of the community.

Ways to use this source

In order to use this source effectively,

  • This article only provides a case of the Mexican mural movement and its effect to the society. If you are willing to explore more about Mexican muralism, you need to research about the history and background information of it.
  • Furthermore, you can discuss about the fact that limitations of artworks. Since murals painted in realistic form to make it easier for the people to understand. In other words, the artist’s subjective thoughts can be conveyed on to what people almost perfectly. In this case, the viewer becomes a passive object that simply accepts the artist’s ideas. Thus, the values and ideas that the artist possesses are very powerful. From this point, you can have a debate whether to what extent should political intervention or social reflection be allowed in art?
  • This article might be useful when discussing a non-violent social movement.

You may share this article or questions below to your students or colleagues:

  • How to find strategic ways of incorporating the arts into the conflict resolution and to create a space where people in conflict can reconcile themselves through arts?
  • Should art remain in its own area, not in any way related to politics?
  • In order to succeeds non-violent social movement such as Mexican Mural Movement, what is the most important aspect?


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