Suyay

“I went outside, screaming, carrying my daughter in my arms, calling my husband. Somebody said, ‘Stop calling him. They’ve taken your husband away.’”

Adelina García, wife of Zósimo Tenorío Prado, disappeared in 1983, in Ayacucho.

Thousands of people in Peru are in limbo, waiting for news of their missing loved ones. They are suspended between life and death, unable to mourn or move forward. For these families, absence is a suffocating presence. Twenty or thirty years may have passed since they last breathed freely.

Laia Abril’s work in Peru digs deep into what it means to long for, to search for, and to wait for a missing husband or wife, father or mother, sister or brother. This exhibition makes their painful resistance visible, exploring the memories, resilience, and persistence of families with a missing relative.

More than 70,000 people died during Peru’s 1980–2000 armed conflict. Today, almost 20,000 families are still looking for their relatives who were “disappeared” during that period. Those relatives are just some of the hundreds of thousands of people missing around the world as a result of conflict, migration or natural disaster.

“In my dream, I was walking up above, and when I looked down I saw my husband. ‘Is he dead?’ I wondered. ‘Have they shot him?’ And I made my way down to look for him. When I reached him, he looked as if he were unconscious. I asked ‘What happened to you?’ He replied, ‘I called you, but you didn’t see me. They left me here, a long time ago, and nobody has seen me.’ Then I led him away and took him home, and I told him he had argued with his family. He wanted to go out into the street to resolve the argument, but I told him not to go outside because the soldiers would take him. I held him back by his cream-coloured pullover, the one he’d been wearing the day they took him away. When I woke up, I was clutching at my blanket.” — Adelina at “La Hoyada”, where over 500 people disappeared in the early 1980s.

“When we arrived at the Los Cabitos military base in Huamanga, we had nothing to eat or drink. We didn’t even have a plate for the little food they gave us. A soldier secretly gave me this bowl, inspired by the last spark of humanity he still possessed. It was very useful to us, because we could use it to pick up the leftover food the soldiers brought us. I found out later that this plate, which was encrusted with dirt, was the one that the guard used to feed the dog.” — Edwin, who was imprisoned in Los Cabitos Barracks, Huamanga, from 1993 to 2005.

“I won’t be able to stop until

I find his remains and can bury him.

Adelina García, wife of Zósimo Tenorío Prado, disappeared in 1983, in Ayacucho.