Artist and activist Julio César Montaño, a native of Tumaco, Colombia, spoke of his efforts to preserve Afro-Colombian culture at Quinby House yesterday evening in a lecture that highlighted his political activism in the Afro-Colombian community of Tumaco in the late 1980s.

Montaño's campus visit is part of a series of events honoring Black History Month and aims to generate awareness of Afro-Caribbean culture and political issues.

"As culture leaders, it is our role to have culture not be something passive," said Montaño. "Through our cultures we can persuade our communities. [It] has a very important part of instituting change in many countries."

Montaño's talk was followed by a dance recital featuring Bowdoin's Afro-Colombian Marimba Ensemble, in which Montaño performed Afro-Colombian dances traditional to the community of Tumaco.

Montaño works to promote Afro-Colombian culture nationwide, a cause he has been dedicated to for decades. While living in Colombia he and his wife, Martha, started an organization called Ecos del Pacifico Afro-Colombiamo (EPA!) in 1991, which aims to promote cultural expression among youth. EPA! offers Colombian youth in Tumaco a dance academy, marimba school, cultural studies center and radio station.

Montaño's efforts to promote Afro-Colombian culture together with his involvement in multiple festivals advocating for civil and human rights have contributed to movement toward tangible change in Colombia.

As part of this initiative, Colombian citizens won newly paved streets, improved water quality and functioning electricity. With the institution of a new constitution in 1991, Colombia recognized the existence of blacks in Colombia.

"It was like the second abolition of slavery," said Montaño.

Despite his efforts, Montaño could not escape violence in his home country and after receiving death threats in 2005 he was forced to move to the United States. He continues to work for peace in the U.S., using art as a vehicle for his political beliefs.

Director of Chamber Ensembles Roland Vazquez reported that in addition to his participation on the lecture circuit, Montaño also performs and creates art of a variety of mediums.

"[Julio César Montaño is] not just an activist but a painter, sculptor, poet, dancer, musician, folklore instrument maker, and a true renaissance man," said Vazquez.

Montaño's work relays not only his own stories but also those of black communities around the globe, and is inspired by cultural myths, anecdotes and popular culture.

"When we present our culture we're only doing it in a romantic way, and we end up presenting our own culture in a preserved, mummified way," said Montaño. "So for us in the [southern] part of Colombia we have a culture that moves you."

By telling the stories of African history, he hopes to educate people about African cultures and help fight against political injustice and inequality.

Montaño's lecture and dance resulted from the collaboration of multiple multicultural organizations on campus, including the African-American Society, Africa Alliance and Latin American Student Organization (LASO).

"With culture you have to enjoy and appreciate it but you also have to look under it to see what's inside because nothing exists without a function," said Montaño. "Culture is like life."