Spiders growing native corn and saving the seeds to avoid growing genetically modified varieties, native birds shredding power lines meant for Big Business, bees getting kicked off land owned by the World Bank, and tadpoles running a community radio station. These are just a few of the images you'll see in the new educational graphic, Mesoamerica Resiste. The graphic is the product of several years of work by the Maine-based Beehive Collective.
The collective hopes to distribute half of their anti-copyright posters to groups in Mesoamerica, where they spent many months working with people who would be affected by Plan Puebla Panama*, a trade agreement that activists worry will strip much of Latin America of its natural resources. Recently, several collective members (referring to themselves as "the pollinators") sat down to tell WireTap about their humble origins, the challenges they've encountered, and their hopes to take what they call the "complex, overwhelming realities of our time" and make them accessible and engaging.
WT: Can you explain the idea behind the Beehive Collective? How did you get your start? What is your core philosophy?
The Beehive Collective Pollinators: We say our mission is to cross-pollinate the grassroots by creating images for use as educational and organizing tools. Popular education is part of our core philosophy. The posters and banners we put out there are part of a bigger process we call graphics campaigns. Months of research, travel, and relationship-building goes into the campaigns, and we continue the conversations throughout the illustration process. When the graphics are done, we take them on the road to present and distribute them. Each one has become more collaborative than the last and we're working to document the model we've been developing as we go. The first posters were about biotechnology, and then we started a trilogy about corporate globalization in the Americas. The first two are done and are about the Free Trade Area of the Americas and Plan Colombia. The third one will be finished this summer and is about the resistance to Plan Puebla Panama. After the trilogy is complete we want to make a coloring book and teacher's curriculum. And we have a new food systems graphics campaign in the works.
We are working to illustrate the complex, overwhelming realities of our time in an accessible and understandable format. People are craving healthier ways to deal with the bad news out there. The graphics campaigns are an alternative communication strategy, and reach out across boundaries of language, age, knowledge levels, and learning styles. And, oh yes, the insects! ... we don't use humans in our graphics. Instead we use images of insects, animals and plants to be able to talk about biodiversity, to avoid stereotypes of people, and to create engaging metaphors.