By Katherine Burns
At the heart of the Coast 2 Coast Movement is Festival Somos Mar. Launched in 2019, it is a blended creative and audiovisual arts festival that engages primarily with small-scale fishing communities on the northern coast of Peru. This festival is the creation of Coast 2 Coast founders Emi Koch and Nicolás Landa Tami. It’s a traveling festival in which Koch, Landa, and their colleagues and partners engage in creative transmedia workshops with rural students from local schools.
“We’re combining stop-motion with photography, with murals, and also with science to talk about the greatest challenges facing our oceans and the coastal communities that depend on healthy seas,” said Koch in a 2019 video reflection.
The schools and programs that participate in Festival Somos Mar exist alongside the Humboldt Current or the Peru current. It is an incredibly rich and diverse marine ecosystem that accounts for a large portion of worldwide fish catch. However, there is a significant environmental threat to the Humboldt and the coastal communities that interact with it. This is going to impact future generations, and that’s what makes engagement with local youth so key. They need to interact with their social and marine environments, document them so they are better equipped to understand and protect them.
The creative liberties that the students are encouraged to take allow them to explore and connect with their surroundings. It has an overall positive impact, not only on how they see their environment, but how they see themselves as human beings.
Kat Goicochea who ran the 2019 photography workshop saw firsthand how valuable it was for the students.
“The kids connected with photography very well, and many of them told me they never had an experience, even being so close to the fisherman. They learned new things about the beach and biodiversity.”
Engaging with their natural community as a work of art itself, helped the students to feel more connected to it. As one student beautifully said, “When we took photos, the photos of the sky, the sea, and the land, the plants…We felt as if we were taking care of them.”
When it came to navigating Festival Somos Mar in the wake of COVID-19, Landa and Koch had to get inventive. They were able to offer limited in-person workshops at their home base in Lobitos, Peru. They had to change course when it came to some of the other schools that they visited so that all COVID-19 health protocols could be maintained.
Koch and Landa also used WhatsApp to facilitate learning with groups of students. This allowed for increased connectivity and for larger amounts of kids to be reached. That’s a goal for the Festival Somos Mar in the future. It also aligns with what Coast 2 Coast personally values the most about this experience. For Koch, it is the embracing of the natural elements and cultural heritage, the giving value to resources that these students are surrounded by. For Landa, it’s the sheer excitement on the students' faces as they discover the value of their own ideas.
Festival Somos Mar is the tangible embodiment of what Coast 2 Coast strives to do, which is to celebrate small-scale fishing communities while bringing awareness to the realities that they face. There isn’t a better way to do this than by fostering creativity in local youth, as they are the best equipped to caretake their own communities.