Quipu (2015)

Quipu is a Quechua word meaning knot. In the ancient Incan system of Quipu, brightly colored and knotted strings were used to keep official records and tell stories over the millenia, across the Andean mountains. In the 2015 web-based online documentary Quipu Project, audiences click on colored-dot icons, each representing testimonies of more than 100 women from remote mountainous locations across Peru. The women contribute their anonymous stories by leaving voice messages after dialing a free phone number. In recording after recording, they recount being among the nearly 300,000 women (and thousands of men) who were brutally subjected to sterilization under the government of the former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s. The national program targeted poor, remote, and indigenous communities, who were forced into surgeries without their informed consent. In Quipu Project, the co-creators elegantly fused low-tech phone technology for recording with a high-tech digital interface for the user experience. They first gathered audio recordings of oral histories directly with local women, and then employed open-source VoIP technology to allow participants of the project to listen back to all the messages, and to be notified when a listener had responded. Local human rights activists found this process helped both to forge a broader mutual support network amongst the survivors, and also to build the larger national movement. For the survivors, sharing their stories functioned as a rehearsal for potential court testimony, another way in which co-creative media-making could serve as an artistic and meaningful tool in the fight for justice. For audiences and listeners, the Quipu Project digital interface presents an interactive, visually impactful and emotional engagement through the story, landing on a clear call to action to support the survivors.  

For brilliantly weaving together low-, high-, ancient and new technologies in a powerful and poetic online collection of co-created, participatory oral histories which contribute to a movement for justice, Quipu Project wins a Peabody.