Nicaragua, war, revolution, art, murals, paint, photography, mogens stryhn, moesgaard museum, ethnography, collections, camera, ethnography

Nicaragua, war, and pictures – what is Mogens trying to show us?

South America

This last month, we have had the pleasure of having Maria Grilo intern at the Ethnographic Department at Moesgaard Museum. Maria is a Portuguese journalist, who came to Denmark to attain an MA in International and Global History at Aarhus University. During her internship, she has worked with the photographs of Danish globetrotter and photographer Mogens Stryhn. In today’s blog post, she writes about some of the pictures, she found


When I opened the box ”Nicaragua War” I expected to see armed men dressed in military green uniforms, perhaps in combat situations, or maybe soldiers walking around in some unknown urban landscape. I also expected to find a lot of images (armed conflict is a theme so frequently covered in the media, that a multitude of possible war-like scenarios pops-up in my mind whenever the topic is mentioned). To my surprise, I found only four pictures – and those were depicting street art.

(Well, at least that is how I, instinctively, interpreted these images, probably due to the experience of growing up in a society still echoing an ”ongoing revolutionary process”. Murals with political and ideological messages were everywhere to be seen during my childhood and teenager years in Portugal; they are, now that I think about it, such a fundamental part of my visual memory.)

So these four powerful murals (lets call them that, I can see a bit of a closed window in the second photo), charged with ideological messages that I do not fully understand due to the lack of cultural context; so this is what Mogens chose to keep as a memory of his encounter with the war in Nicaragua. Interesting.

I can tell that this was an important topic to him, because he devoted one box and one label to it. But what is Mogens trying to tells us with his choice? Is it that war is nothing but a human construction? That we can find solutions to conflict through art? That understanding the other’s point of view is essential to work towards peace?

Or is it that what he saw was simply propaganda and he wanted to draw our attention to the dangers of ideology and indoctrination? To how important – and, sometimes, how difficult – it is to read in between the lines and to keep a critical mind towards authority figures? Is this a comment on intergenerational solidarity or the lack thereof? On perception and heritage?

What Mogens’ real intention was I really do not know, one can only speculate about it. But what I do know is that several heads think better than one (or, at least, that tends to be the case). So, my dear reader, I would love to read your take on it. What do you think Mogens’ intention was? And what do you think of, when you look at these images? Are you reminded of a personal experience, as I was, or does your imagination takes you somewhere else?

//Maria Grilo

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putting thought to things

2 thoughts on “Nicaragua, war, and pictures – what is Mogens trying to show us?”

    • Hi Erik! Thank you for your question. I think Mogens considers himself a travel photographer, author and globe trotter. He was never really a journalist. We have acquired some 2-3.000 slides from Mogens, and have only just begun scanning them. So far, these four images are the only ones from Nicaragua that we have come across, but there is no knowing what we will find, when we make our way through the many boxes of slides. But digitalising slides is a time consuming process, so it might take a while. Mogens has also kept many thousands of photographs, so perhaps they are still in his private collection. I certainly have a hard time believing, that he didn’t take more than four photographs, having travelled all the way there 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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