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Storytelling for Healthy Seas and Communities!

Emi Koch, Nicolás Landa Tami, Beyond the Surface Co-Founders & Directors

This is a story from our Ocean Challenge partner Beyond the Surface. Your participation in the Ocean Challenge has helped to support their work!

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Festivals bring people together in celebration of a culturally significant shared interest. For artisanal fishing villages, the ocean is one of those. However, the marine environment faces extreme challenges and along with it, the people who depend upon its health for their own.

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As a participatory, community-based audiovisual arts festival for healthy seas and communities, Festival Somos Mar celebrates the relationship these vibrant fishing villages have with their marine environment and in sequence, seeks to establish stronger, collaborative conservation management strategies among local stakeholders, marine scientists, and policymakers. Festival Somos Mar is traveling along Northern Peru’s Humboldt Current, stopping in local schools in historical fishing villages where students participate in photography, stop-motion animation, street art and storytelling workshops that transmit our interconnectedness with the marine environment.

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After some months of pre-production, we kicked-off our festival this February in Lobitos. At the local school, students joined Peruvian artists and a crew of international volunteers to paint two murals illustrating the historical rich biodiversity of Lobitos’ coastal ecosystem and the nurturing, maternal spirit of the sea. In the community, households supported four additional murals that each illustrated a different keystone species: Mero, La Lisa, Bonito, and Ojo de Uva. Noted below each fish is their scientific name and legally catchable size.

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In the ocean, we facilitated an underwater photography workshop within a surfing class for 30 local youth. Kids took turns exploring their nearshore environment with waterproof cameras, documenting their aquatic playground. With Lobitos Limpio, students also participated in a beach cleanup and photographed the plastic waste.

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We also facilitated several photography sessions engaging youth around culture through Martes Foto, a photography club started by one local student who we’ve mentored with training and provided with audiovisual equipment for his own students. Several workshops were specifically for girls, documenting women’s relationship with the sea. Women’s contributions in the fisheries sector are underrepresented despite their key involvement economically and administratively. This issue was deconstructed through girls’ images to address fisheries management holistically. Select photos were printed and mounted on the school’s walls.

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We also hosted three outdoor cinema nights with our partner’s Mi Primer Festival where we screened animated films about the ocean for 120 kids and participants showed their work to their families. With the local fishermen’s guild, we facilitated a community-engaged mapping project, documenting traditional fishing grounds. Fishermen face challenges as industrial size fleets often illegally take what is zoned for small-scale fisheries within 5 miles from the coastline. A team of professional audiovisual producers assisted the fishermen in transforming their story into a stop-motion animation as part of a campaign for stronger enforcement.

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Organos is the next stop on our tour and then, Cabo Blanco. Activities will take place at the local schools where students will explore their relationship with the sea through their photography, document traditional fishing practices through stop-motion animations, celebrate marine biodiversity through murals, and participate in audiovisual technology workshops for ocean literacy, in the spirit of citizen science.