Wounds of violence

Adél Koleszár

2017 - 2018


When starting the series titles Wounds Of Violence, I have experimented with a metaphorical representation of violence through photos of landscapes, and nearby residential areas. Meanwhile, almost unconsciously, my own personal experiences made me take pictures of women, who exposed to this environment, but are trying different methods to leave this reality.. After a while, I started concentrating on the issue of contemporary mass graves, because they present an extreme encapsulation of violence in natural lands. I have started looking for open mass graves in Mexico, filled in majority with innocent victims due a very present problem of the country, called forced dissapearence. Huge amount of people are vanished by different forces and due to various interests. In lack of institutional support, these graves are explored by groups formed by locals, who look for their lost loved ones in their free time and by their own resources.

My work continued this theme by focusing on one specific case: the lives of a women's group searching for the remains of their lost loved ones at the sites of mass graves found near Veracruz, Mexico in 2016. These are the largest mass graves found in the history of Mexico, and most likely, in Latin America. This specific search group consists of almost 200 women, working independently to identify the remains. They are self-funded, making the money required by selling food and used clothes.The issues of violence, femininity, and self-help have intertwined in their story, so I have decided to explore their story in a larger depth.

I found a way to contact the head of the group, Lucy, in a local paper. The position of the graves is peculiar: they are not situated in a deserted place, far from houses, but about a 15-minute walk from one of the suburbs of Veracruz, Colinas De Santa Fé. Lucy put me in touch with Celia, who lives in that particular suburb, and spends eight hours of every workday by excavating the graves, with the help of a few other women. Celia welcomed me to her home, we woke up and had coffee together, then walked to the entrance of the graves, watched the sunrise, and met the other members of the group at a designated meeting point. I had not received authorisation, so I was officially unable to enter the site. I was snuck in once with the help of the group.

I focused on getting to know and illustrate their everyday lives by relying on their confessions, emotions, and our shared conversations. Where hope can be found, I felt that this distant reality, could be brought the closest to the spectator in an emotional sense by showing its day-to-day happenings in the most humanistic way possible. Providing this world with faces, emotions, and voices, to show how the survivors feel, live, and think as well as to present an environment outside the statistics and tragedies of newsreel footage.

I first arrived in Veracruz on August 3, 2017, on the one-year anniversary of finding the graves. I worked with the group for another year, until the proposed closing of the site.

There were 731 missing persons registered in the state of Veracruz in 2018. The Colinas de Sante Fé site was fully excavated, with only 16 of the 300 dead bodies identified. There was another mass grave found in Veracruz on September 8, 2018, with the remains of 166 people.

Interwievs: Pedro Omar, Adél Koleszár

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  • Only have faith - Solecito Veracruz

  • Veracruz ’s beautiful. It is filled with life, with light, with warmth, with the tropic.

  • The sun rises every day. If you have a problem you shall smile to life.

  • When I open my window I always sit up so I can breathe in and feel the air. I feel life. It was given to me to live it, to enjoy it. They took everything away from me, but they can’t take this joy away from me. The sun, the air, the sky, nature: they can’t take away these things from me.

  • I am broken hearted mother. I put a “clown`s face” because that’s what we are, clowns, always wearing makeup because inside we are crying. Suffering has no “date of expiry”. It is inside all of us since the day they took our sons away. We always remember that day.

  • I want to be an eagle to fly in the sky and look for my son from above.

  • There we relax. We laugh, although we are in a clandestine cemetery. There, among laughter and sadness if we find something, there is only silence, only silence. If we happen to find “something” we pour holy water and we do a prayer. Only then we feel good abot having unburried someone. It is only a grain of sand, but it is a contribution that saves a soul form being buried in a clandestine grave. We want them to go back home with their families. They tell me, “hey, look at you, ¿what are you doing?, but I feel well. This is my life.

  • I have been going out during the whole week. We are going to the site, we are taking the tools, the axes, machetes, but also umbrellas because there is a burning sun. We also take water. So, we begin to open the ground with the metal tube. If we feel a smell, that’s where we begin to dig; if there is no smell, we continue opening holes with the tube. We hit the tube, we take it out and we begin to feel the smell, that’s when we begin to dig the soil out.

  • I had never seen human remains before. I wish I had never seen them. Like it was asleep. It gave me hope that this person did not receive so much violence. Was only sleeping. Whenever we realise we have foud human remains we say a couple of words. We like to say them. “Welcome back, we welcome you with love and appritiation” Why do we say this? The last thing this person went through in life was violence, hatred, darknes. That we, mothers are there whenever that grave opens once more. This way they feel welcomed and can see the light again.

  • They try to prepare us emotionaly, with theory, but nothing can prepare you for this. Here, the horror, the death has turned into a space, into a sanctuary where many souls rest. They rest because we have unburried them. After seeing the horror of death you beging seeing something beautiful.

  • I will make myself a tatooI just with my son. With the sentence which we used for With the sentence which we used to recognize his corpse “you shouldn’t be afraid of going anywhere you will die where you have to”

  • You can see the house, the furniture. Any boys lived there, they studied and worked. Friday afternoon around 10 or 11 something happen. They say some armed people came and took the boys by force. All of them were taken. From that day on, that house has been “open”.

  • They took them alive, we want them alive.

  • When I wake up I think about my son and I don´t feel like getting up. I feel like sleeping endlessly with no thoughts. And I say to myself, as if it was someone else talking “come on, wait, hope must never give up.