¿acaso no es claro que este mundo simplemente necesita más sonrisas?

With this kite, we want to go beyond the critique of the discourse behind traditional health campaigns, and to try to re-think how mosquitoes and dengue are understood to interact with people and how the kite interacts with people.
the mosquito-kite projecthttps://www.flickr.com/photos/alejandrovalenciat/sets/72157643540657844/
PhD bloghttp://www.anthropologyartscience.blogspot.com/shapeimage_5_link_0
main websiteinicio.htmlshapeimage_7_link_0
Horniman Museumhttp://www.horniman.ac.uk/get_involved/blog/art-attacks-with-a-mosquito-kiteshapeimage_10_link_0

A general overview of the idea

In the particular case of the mosquito-kite project, I wanted to engage the public with the ideas that are at stake in the construction of knowledge about dengue through playful collaboration in the creation of a series of kites that reproduce the form and movement of the mosquito in the daily consciousness of people in Medellin. Following George Marcus (2013-2014), this ethnography by design provided a different field for the negotiation of public understanding of dengue.

The kite as an objet that embodies people’s stories

The geographical distribution of dengue has widened. The mosquito is spreading again to areas where it was previously eradicated, generating periodic outbreaks. It moves in cycles, similar to the wave-like movement of a kite in the wind. That is why mosquito-borne diseases have normally been treated through vector control and the elimination of breeding sites, particularly after the Second World War, as a response to the outbreaks in Southeast Asia and the Americas.

Until 1960, the use of DDT allowed the virtual eradication of Ae. aegypti in many places of the word, including most of the countries in Latin America. However, DDT was banned in most of the world by 1970 and by 1980 the vector control discourse was replaced by a discourse of sanitation, in which health authorities tried to ‘educate’ populations and ‘teach’ proper hygienic habits to avoid mosquito-human contact (Suarez, et al., 2005).

At present, these practices are changing again. The WHO considers that incidence of dengue could be reduced at least 50% by 2020 by applying behavioural and social interventions to control dengue outbreaks (WHO, 2012a,b). The goal is, in essence, to stop the ‘mobility’ of dengue and the infections or deaths causes by it. These will be based on Communication for Behavioural Impact (COMBI), a strategy that integrates communication and marketing theory to obtain behavioural results in public heath campaigns (WHO, 2012c).

What would happen if we used anthropology, science and art to change ontological meanings and re-think the educational strategies that are developed by public health promoters? In other words, can we use the same idea of ‘mobility’ to engage these different ontologies? With the mosquito-kite, I am proposing an ontological change of the objects of science –mosquitoes– and by doing so, a change into the nature of dengue control. An anthropological study is an effective way to understand what people think about dengue fever.

The mosquito-kite is not only a unique element for reproducing the form and movement of mosquitoes, but it is also the perfect tool to collect stories by walking all around the city. It is, then, an object that embodies these experiences. The mosquito-kite is a ‘non-conventional’ approach to health issues and this is the reason that this project differs from the other initiatives developed by the WHO.

Kites can break down cultural and linguistic barriers. If we consider that mosquitoes have been seen as symbols of disease for thousands of years, we can easily use a mosquito-kite to establish dialogues between peoples from different academic backgrounds, and to think about dengue in different socio-cultural contexts. With the kite, we decided to produce ‘mosquito art attacks’ in different places across the city. With this idea, we wanted to go beyond the critique of the discourse behind traditional health campaigns, and to try to re-think how mosquitoes and dengue are understood to interact with people by observing how the kite interacts with people.


I firstly would like to thank the kite-flyer Andrés Ramírez-Valencia, co-author of this project. I am extremely grateful with the subjects of this ethnography. Special thanks go the entomologists Jovany Barajas and Manuela Herrera.

I would also like to thank the rest of the people that helped during the mosquito-art attacks: Lucía Tobón, Sara Ibarra, Susana Valencia, Hernán Marín, Mario Valencia, and Gustavo Ramírez.

I would finally thank my supervisors, Dr. Rupert Cox and Prof. Maia Green, for their permanent support; and COLCIENCIAS, the Colombian National Science Foundation that provided me with the scholarship for my studies.

This project would not have been possible without the economic support of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and the Horniman Museum & Gardens through the “Horniman Collecting Initiative.” Many thanks to them!