News and Opinions  –  2023

ART, BACTERIA AND THE MICROBIOME – A book launch in Ecuador

Share the article


The World Microbiome Day in Ecuador was marked with the launch of the book "Reflections on the tiny and living: Art, Bacteria and Microbiome", a collective project aimed to make the beauty and importance of bacteria visible, for the sustainability of planetary health.

Opening the release of the book Reflexiones. The day also included music and dancing. Photo: ReAct Latin America

In this meeting researchers, scientists, educators, musicians and academics, came together to visualize the fascinating, vibrant and diverse world of microbes and their important role in our health, that of animals and ecosystems. Artistic and musical interventions marked the event that also included presentations by experts who discussed art, education and the microbiome.

The meeting was organized by ReAct Latin America, with the support of the Health Council of the Municipality of Cuenca-Ecuador and the Ecuadorian Federation of Nurses.

Recognizing the importance of bacteria

Cover of the just released book Reflexiones. Photo: ReAct Latin America.

The book “Reflections on the tiny and living” is a work of simple prose and academic rigor, that focuses on the need to re-establish our link with bacteria through music, art and dance. Recognizing that life is not possible on the planet without the contributions  of bacteria.

“This book is a kind of life manual where science, spirituality, art and common sense are integrated”,

pointed out by the Chilean poet María Alicia Pino, who participated in the book launch event.

The book consists of essays and chapters written by:

  • the artist and pharmacist Mary Murray
  • Dr. Silvana Figar, director of the Epidemiology Council of the Argentine Society of Medicine
  • Satya Sivaraman, communication advisor for ReAct Asia-Pacific
  • Dr. Arturo Quizhpe, Director of ReAct Latin America
  • Dr. Nicolás Campoverde, co-ordinator of the SOLCA Cuenca Tumor Registry, Ecuador.

One of the chapters of the book develops the proposal for “Dancing with Bacteria”, a new metaphor to replace the metaphor of war, which is currently used widely in medical and health literature to describe  human-medicine – microbe relations. The new metaphor, according to its proponents, allows us to connect with bacteria from an ecological, ethical and aesthetic perspective.

Why dance with bacteria?

There was dancing during the release. Photo: ReAct Latin America.

Because bacteria are the artists of the life process. Although invisible to the human eye, they populate all environments and most extreme corners of the earth and of our bodies. In this regard, Fernando Vega, defender of the rights of nature and guest speaker at this meeting, pointed out that:

“we are not the ones who invite bacteria to be part of our lives, but we are the ones who have accepted the invitation to be part of their world. A world that has always been present, despite our ignorance”.

Health is born from the collective approach that involves care and respect for all forms of life, including bacteria. This book invites us to recognize the enigmatic and profound world of bacteria through art – as a way of reaching our consciousness through the senses.

Art is a great tool to visualize the beauty of the bacterial world  and allows us to see all dimensions of planetary life, linked to our senses.

In her intervention on “Education, art and microbes” the educator Eliana Bojorque expressed the importance of cultivating children’s knowledge of microbial life, to make them aware of the need to respect these organisms. That will help achieve a conscious and active society in future, which can face its health problems.

And what does it mean to dance with bacteria?

And there was music during the release. Photo: ReAct Latin America.

Dancing with bacteria means feeling and experiencing the microbial world as the heart of all ecosystems. Living, feeling, singing and dancing with bacteria is an essential part of our existence. Currently, learning to “dance with bacteria” is a challenging task for all; researchers, academics, health workers and artist.

To help understand the concept better Alexis Zapata, the director of the musical presentation “Dancing with bacteria”, depicted bacteria at different times in our life. He used the musical language to express with harmonic sounds the way bacteria integrate into our life, from the air, the environment and even in our words.

This artistic representation was followed by the musicologist Jacinto Aguayza, through the “song of the Jaway”, which showed the symbolic and spiritual meaning of wheat harvesting and the life of the Cañari indigenous community.

According to him the spiritual and material being merges with the elements of nature in all the actions we carry out in the world, and in which bacteria play a vital role, since they live in our body and move around inside. So we must learn to deal with the disease that bacteria cause in a wise and ecological way, understanding the true nature of the interaction between the human, the microbial, the animal and the environment.

More from "2023"