Guest post by Maria Carla Cella, Graduate Liberal Studies Program. She curated the exhibit of prints currently on display on the Perkins Library Student Wall about the Beehive Design Collective.
In our multimedia world, we are constantly seeking a good way to tell our story. From cave paintings to blog posts, generation after generation of storytellers try to find the most emotive way to record history and pass it on. As a student of Latin America and the Caribbean, I have delved into many mediums in my efforts to understand the complex relationship between the global south and north. Despite the availability of information on the internet, innumerable academic journals, countless books and documentaries on the topic, it is difficult to find a comprehensive examination of what globalization really entails. Transmitting the information in a way that resonates with the widespread population is an even harder task.
Enter the Beehive Design Collective. Founded in 2000, this non-profit, all-volunteer, activist arts collective creates collaborative, anti-copyright images for use as educational and organizing tools. With its mission of “cross-pollinating the grassroots,” the cooperative uses intricate graphic illustration in the form of giant pen and ink posters that communicate stories of resistance to corporate globalization, free trade, militarism, resource extraction, and biotechnology. The Bees spread their art across the Americas, wielding it as an educational tool and aiming to help communities conceptualize alternatives to a globalized economic model based on exploitation. Funding the printing costs with donations, the Bees distribute 50 percent of each print run (full run averaging 20,000-30,000 prints) to communities in the global south free of charge, giving away prints to frontline communities, educators, and organizers actively working on the issues featured in the posters.
The Beehive Collective’s use of imagery and symbolic art ties the local to the global, providing microscopic detail on the interconnected nature of global issues and compiling the images into, literally, a bigger picture that is both overwhelming and hypnotizing. Using a word-to-image approach, the Bees are translators of complex global stories, which they learn and share through conversations with affected communities. The first time I unfurled and laid eyes on their massive poster, Mesoamerica Resiste, I knew I had found a gem that begged to be shared, and that its message would flourish and proliferate in the minds of the Duke community. If you want to dive into the Beehive’s art and see the epic story for yourself, stop by Duke University’s Perkins Library, where four of the Beehive Design Collective’s epic works are on display. You can also learn more about the Beehive Design Collective at their website: beehivecollective.org.