Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A copy of the mural "Pan-American Unity" by Diego Rivera - printed from the Internet.
- Handout 2, Pan-American Unity - Panel 2
- Handout 3, Pan-American Unity - Panel 4
Preparation for Activity
- Visit the Diego Rivera Mural Project to familiarize yourself with the mural.
- Print "Pan-American Unity" and post it on the wall, or hand out copies to participants.
- Make copies of Handouts 2 and 3, one for each group.
Description of Activity
This activity uses images of freedom in Diego Rivera's mural "Pan-American Unity" to explore parallel freedom movements in North and South America and encourages participants to relate it to their own experience of parallel freedom movements. This is a good activity to follow Activity 4, Liberalism and Liberation, which introduces liberation theology and its connection to Unitarian Universalism.
Draw the group's attention the mural. Explain that it is called "Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent," but is more commonly known as "Pan-American Unity." The artist, Diego Rivera, painted it in 1940 because he believed that "in order to make an American art, a real American art, this will be necessary, this blending of the art of the Indian, the Mexican, the Eskimo, with the kind of urge which makes the machine..."
Rivera was one of the most prominent Mexican painters of the 20th century, and was strongly influenced by the Mexican Revolution (1914-15) and the Russian Revolution (1917). He believed that art should empower working people to understand their histories, and should be accessible to all, which is why many of his murals are painted on public buildings, like this one, which is at the City College of San Francisco. Rivera's art is informed by liberation theology.
Tell the group to focus in particular on Panels 2 and 4 of the mural. These two panels include images that represent freedom and liberation as well as oppression and violence.
Divide participants into two groups, and assign one group Panel 2 and the other Panel 4. Distribute Handout 2, Pan-American Unity - Panel 2, to the first group and Handout 3, Pan-American Unity - Panel 4, to the second. Invite them to look closely at their panel and discuss the role of freedom and oppression in the images with the following questions:
- What is depicted in this panel? Freedom and liberation? Power and oppression?
- Who is depicted?
- Where do you see representation of North America, and where do you see South America represented?
- How does the historical content of this mural empower people?
- How can art be used as a tool for liberation?
Spend time with participants, helping them identify images. This mural is very complex and it is likely that they will have questions.
After 12 minutes, invite the groups to share their panel and explain its significance. Ask the groups what parallels they see between the different freedom struggles represented. Conclude by saying that, as this mural demonstrates, there have been and continue to be many parallel freedom struggles in different communities throughout history. Invite participants to continue reflecting on the freedom struggles they experience in their lives and communities, and how they relate to each other to achieve freedom for all.