Artist creates 'grief party' to raise awareness of Venezuelan crisis

Ania Varez Image copyright Ania Varez
Image caption Ania Varez says artists in the "Venezuelan diaspora" have a "responsibility to speak up because Venezuelans over there can't"

A Venezuelan artist who lives in Bristol has created a show to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in her homeland.

Ania Varez said her show Guayabo - Venezuelan slang for heartbreak - was a "grief party" connecting people in England with her family in Venezuela.

She said it was a "love letter to my family" and "invited people to gather around their pain and pain of others".

The UN says more than three million people have left Venezuela since 2014.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters against the government clash with police in Caracas

Ms Varez, who moved to Bristol in 2015, said: "Half of my family are still in Venezuela. I left at a time when it was still an option. Nowadays, things have got so bad people feel they have no option but to leave."

The 28-year-old wants to bring the focus back on to what she thinks matters the most: the lives of people in Venezuela.

"It's a humanitarian crisis and people are dying. That fact is beyond political ideologies," she said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many Venezuelans are experiencing chronic food shortages

Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the world; electricity shortages; bare supermarket shelves; and a collapsed public health system.

Ms Varez said: "Venezuela is a failed state - no structure works. There are power cuts every week. People leave their homes every morning to go to work, not knowing if they'll come back alive but people carry on - out of dignity, out of resilience."

She said: "I want to inform people about the crisis from the point of view of a family, who's experiencing it. So, 'what is my grandmother thinking before she goes to bed?' Mine is just one of the many stories.

"This is my way of going to people and asking, 'what shall we do about this?'"

Image caption Ania Varez said: "We do need the international community to intervene, without violence..."

Ms Varez said: "I was lucky, I left on a plane with a Spanish passport. All these Venezuelan people are walking out of the country with nothing."

She said: "We need to have better conversations about what shall we do when we learn about the suffering of others.

"Here in England, when I have a terrible day, I can still go out of the house and get food. If my mum has a terrible day, she can't.

"In Venezuela people don't get the chance to grieve, be scared, to feel these things, they are busy surviving."

Guayabo is an immersive performance and includes film, spoken word and WhatsApp messages to exchange rituals of grief and connect the audience with Ms Varez's family.

It will be performed in London next month, South Korea in July and in Bristol in November.

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