It can be difficult to captivate teenagers' attention when you want to talk about the traditional conservation methods and all they seem interested in is staying on top of the coolest trends. ArtCorps Artist Andrea Shigeko Landin is doing just that. But let's back up a little bit.
Like much of rural Guatemala, people who live in Totonicapán heavily rely on the land for their livelihoods - carpentry, forestry and farming. Unlike most of rural Guatemala, the forests of Totonicapán are managed communally and have been for over 400 years. In Totonicapán there are 48 cantons and each canton elects a mayor each year. From the 48 mayors, 9 are selected to form the Junta Directiva de 48 Cantones (Board of the 48 Cantons) or 48 Cantones. This board is responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the forest via a set of very particular rules that prevent the cutting down of trees without permission or polluting the water. The problem is that local youth are not as interested in traditional conservation methods as in previous generations and 48 Cantones is concerned that these methods will be lost.
So, how do you captivate teenagers' attention when you want to talk about traditional conservation methods and all they seem interested in is staying on top of the coolest trends? Andrea is bringing technology such as video and radio into the mix. Not only is technology attractive to youth and likely to get them engaged, but it's also an excellent tool for documenting and sharing the history, knowledge and stories behind the conservation methods in Totonicapan. In addition she will be introducing performance art such as music and theater as an engagement and education tool. Andrea will begin her work with 50 youth leaders, 5 youth from 10 communities. This year she will train them on how to create and share compelling stories. Her workshops will include training in storytelling, creative methods of communication, how to conduct an interview, theater and music.
With Andrea's help, the youth in Totonicapan will soon be convinced that traditional conservation knowledge is chido. It's cool.