The rivers of Colombia
have been called the largest graveyards in the world, favored places to dispose of the victims of that country’s internal armed conflicts. Out of this tragedy, Erika Diettes has created a powerful body of work about loss and memory in her photographs of personal articles once owned by The Disappeared. Printed life-size, the images comprising Diettes’ Río abajo produce an effect that evokes an immediate association between the translucent glass on which the photographs are printed and the water which carried the bodies.
Ileana Diéguez Caballero, Ph.D., of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, writes “what happens in the absence of the body for which there are frequently established rites of farewell; or given the uncertainty if the person is alive or dead, with not even having a confirmation of death or identification of the body, of not having witnessed the death, when only pieces of the body have been received as doubtful evidence of loss?”
Diettes’ Río abajo, as with her previous body of work Silencios (2005), about the men and women who survived the Nazi concentration camps, lacks unnecessary dramatization. The images are presented simply and without adornment, framed upright and freestanding in metal—not unlike the tombstones they could readily symbolize.