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The Libertadoras - Engaging and empowering audiences and communities


Principle Investigator Professor Catherine Davies presented the key research findings of the Libertadoras project along with its image bank and database, to the directors of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) in London, the Women’s Museum in Buenos Aires, the New Art Exchange (NAE), Nottingham, and Southwark Council. A range of cultural and public engagement activities were subsequently developed with these partners, including readings, workshops, photography exhibitions, theatre performances and language exchange groups. These activities not only stimulated considerable discussion, but also had profound personal impact on many of the attendees.

The Libertadoras May 2013 - Picture Credit Pablo Allison

4,040 people attended the exhibition Empowerment through Art: Photography and Latin American Girls, at the NAE in March/April 2013 and at Southwark Council premises in May/June 2013. The exhibition featured 11 portraits of young Latin American Women and their own photographs on the theme of women’s independence. The women were photographed in the pose of ‘heroines’ having seen the images of ‘heroínas’ in the image bank. Visitor feedback attested to the effect of the work in raising awareness about Latin American culture, and the role of women within the Latin American community, including the following comments - ‘I learned about new depths and richness in terms of Latin culture, history and identity’ and ‘I had no idea there were so many Latin Americans in the UK and that the girls need support.’ Southwark Councillor and cabinet member for communities and economic wellbeing, Claire Hickson, said: ‘We are thrilled to have supported such an imaginative and inspiring project. I hope visitors of all backgrounds will be encouraged by the stories and go on to fulfil their own potential in a way that positively impacts upon the local community’.

Southwark Council also identified a need to improve communication with Latin American migrants to their community, and invited Dr Maria Thomas (a researcher working with Davies on the project) to run a series of workshops for its employees. The aim was to help them better understand the culture, language and social profile of its Latin American community. Southwark is the London borough in which most UK Latin American migrants live and is the first UK council to formally recognise Latin Americans as an ethnic minority.

Feedback from council employees demonstrates the wide-ranging influence of the talks, which they praised for bringing together local residents and council staff in a new way, providing opportunities for improving language skills, and improving access to the council services, as the residents gain a better understanding of how the council operates: – ‘The sessions have definitely helped with my job as I now have contacts with South American organisations that I can refer some of our private tenants to… [they] have helped my team to build networks with the South American community in Southwark’. Local community groups have been so pleased with the sessions they have requested that the project continues.

Gateway to Research Project Links: Women and Independence in Latin America: A New Multimedia Community-Contributed and Community-Driven Online Resource (May2012 - May2013)