Take part - call for artworks

The Ríos Solidarios project is for people from anywhere in the world to create artwork which sends messages of love and solidarity from their river to the communities of the Atrato river in Chocó, Colombia. The project aims to raise awareness of the socio-environmental devastation affecting the Atrato and the communities who live there. Through the creation of artworks, the project will forge and strengthen networks of solidarity, centred on an understanding of rivers as the lifeblood of communities across the globe.

Background to Chocó and the Río Atrato

The Río Atrato is the main river artery of the Chocó region in north-west Colombia. Chocó is a global biodiversity hotspot. Its rainforests hold an estimated 2,000 species of flora and fauna. For local Afro-Colombian and indigenous riverine communities, the Atrato is fundamental to their way of life. Socio-environmental devastation caused by illegal mechanised gold mining and ongoing conflict threatens the survival of the Atrato and its communities.

Despite Colombia’s 2016 peace accords, river communities continue to suffer at the hands of the various armed groups in the region, which include guerrillas, paramilitaries and organised crime. Large scale, illegal gold mining in the river fuels the conflict, as different groups fight for control of the lucrative trade. The communities live in the shadow of violence. Their social leaders are systematically targeted by armed groups.

The worsening situation has led to forced displacement and the loss of traditional, sustainable livelihoods for these diverse communities due to pollution, destruction of river channels and deforestation. The people are the heart and soul of the river but they struggle to make their voices heard nationally due to a long-history of systemic discrimination. For example, Chocó is the poorest region of Colombia and many of its people lack access to basic infrastructure, such as clean water. This marginalisation is reflected in the river itself, whose voice has been silenced due to the severe lack of environmental monitoring data on the Atrato.

In 2017, a landmark Colombian Constitutional Court ruling (T-622) confirmed the Río Atrato as a bearer of legal rights. The ruling recognised the inextricable relationship between the communities and the river. It aimed to empower these communities by establishing 14 River Guardians. The Guardians of the Atrato represent the communities as they struggle for the implementation of the ruling, the rights of the Atrato and their own ‘biocultural rights’. Despite these achievements, though, the communities remain marginalised. Illegal gold mining continues to destroy the river and progress on implementing T-622 is painfully slow.

View of the Atrato river from a plane             Environmental destruction from mining on the Quito river, Colombia

Image on the left, area of the Atrato unaffected by mining; image on the right (credit Steve Cagan), the Río Quito - a tributary of the Atrato - devastated by mining 

Aims of Ríos Solidarios

Ríos Solidarios/Peace Rivers stems from the research project Colombia River Stories (ESRC-Newton Caldas Fund: ES/S001883/1). Colombia River Stories is a collaboration between the universities of Glasgow, Nottingham and Portsmouth, as well as SCIAF, the Diocese of Quibdó and ABColombia. It works closely with the communities of the Atrato to map the socio-environmental harms associated with illegal, mechanised gold mining and conflict. Research findings aim to support the communities as they pressure for the implementation of T-622.

Scottish artist, Jan Nimmo, is collaborating with Colombia River Stories to create a body of work relating to the Atrato. As part of this work, Jan is coordinating the participatory art project, Ríos Solidarios. The aims of Ríos Solidarios are as follows:  

  • To raise awareness of rights granted by the Colombian Government in 2016 to the Atrato river in Chocó, Colombia and the situation facing its communities;
  • To create solidarity between the Río Atrato and other river communities around the globe, highlighting the need for rivers and their communities live in peace and be free from conflict;
  • To explore the fundamental importance of rivers to human survival;
  • To illustrate both the diversity and the fragility of river ecology; and
  • To raise awareness about conflict and our right to exist in peace.

Details of the call for artworks

Ríos Solidarios is open to everyone. Participants don't have to be professional artists, although professional artist are welcome to contribute too. We are asking people living by rivers around the world to create artworks, which serve as messages of peace, love and solidarity, sent from their local river to other rivers, but especially to the Río Atrato and the communities who live there. We will create an online gallery of the artworks and stories from rivers around the world, and there will also be opportunities for the artworks to be exhibited.

  • Artworks/messages can be in any 2D medium or combination of media: painting, collage, recycled materials, embroidery, prints, photographs; or they can even be words/poems simply written on a piece of cardboard, for example.
  • The image should be square.
  • The artwork should then be photographed with your chosen river in the background.
  • A scan or close-up, good quality, photo of the artwork should also be taken so we have a detailed record for exhibition purposes.
  • Artworks should be removed from locations after the photographs have been taken of the works in situ, as we don't want to contribute to the litter polluting rivers and riverbanks.
  • Contributing artists retain the copyright for their images


Artwork of a Raven at the Clyde        Artwork in front of the River Clyde

Example: ‘I am the River Clyde and I stand in solidarity with the Río Atrato - Jan Nimmo, Scotland.’

Requirements for photos

  • Please take a selection of good quality photos picturing the artwork message at your local river. The camera on a modern smart phone should be fine for this purpose.
  • You may also choose whether to share additional photos of you and your group.

Sending in your artworks

Before sharing your artworks with us, please read the Privacy Notice below. The photographs of artworks/visual messages should be emailed to Jan at the following address: Jan.Nimmo@gla.ac.uk. You can also discuss your ideas for the artwork with Jan using this email address.

Please include the following information in your email:

  • Your name or the name of your group and website (if relevant)
  • The name of the river and your location
  • Background information about you, your river and why you think it is important to create solidarity between communities who live along rivers: you could include information about plants and animals, environmental issues, stories and poems.
  • Your consent form: available here.