Victoria Santa Cruz Gamarra (1922–2014) is clearly the most influential representative of Afro-Peruvian culture, though her legacy is not well known and has yet to be properly examined. She made outstanding contributions to the arts as a composer, anthologist, researcher, designer, and choreographer. Her earnestness, attention to detail, and skill were aspects that pervaded every stage of her career.
Her artistic work began with Cumanana, a theater and dance company that she joined in 1959 and left in 1962, when in November of that year she traveled to France to study theater on a French government grant. At the end of 1966, she returned to her native Peru after deciding to form her own company, which she called Teatro y Danzas Negras del Perú (Black Theater and Dance of Peru). The troupe performed their first show in 1967. In 1973, she became the director of the Conjunto Nacional de Folclore (National Folklore Group) and in 1982 she traveled to Pennsylvania to teach at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1999 she returned to Peru and settled there permanently.
Excerpted from Las palabras de Victoria, an autobiography edited by Luis Rodríguez Pastor and published by the Museo Afroperuano, 2016
- The images by various photographers presented here form part of the Victoria Santa Cruz Family Archive and were placed in the album by the artist herself.
- The video performance Me gritaron, negra (They Called Me Negra) was produced by Odin Teatret Film Video in 1978.
This selection of images belonging to various collections of the Instituto Moreira Salles features photographic documentation of the black community in Brazil by seven artists, most of them foreigners. The photographs depict the tropical landscape, the countryside, and its inhabitants. Made using large-format cameras on tripods, the images have an iconic, pictorial, dream-like character.
Photography arrived early in Brazil. By the late 1860s, it already had keen enthusiasts, including Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II. On the other hand, the country was one of the very last to abolish slavery in the West. The confluence of these two realities means there is a wide and diverse range of visual records of slavery in the country.
Whether they appear in casual snapshots or purposely posing as exotic models ―in some cases, they are even meant to provide a typology for scientific analysis― enslaved Afro-Brazilians were photographed in a gamut of situations, sometimes as a part of the scenery and sometimes as the main figures of the tableau.
In cities, nineteenth-century photographers revealed the rationale and characteristics of urban slavery, working in the streets and documenting everyday characters such as porters, vendors, bootblacks, and barbers, whether they were free or enslaved. Pictures from the countryside display more of a documentarian aesthetic, with their factual records of chores and farm work. The photographs were often posed, precise, embellished: everything in them is in its proper place, reifying an imaginary construct of slavery as something peaceful and unchallenged, although this was clearly a barefaced lie.
Nevertheless, these same photographs also reveal the precarious living conditions of the enslaved, their defiant attitudes and their overseers’ relative permissiveness, at least in the cities. In a sense, the mostly foreign photographers maintained a critical perspective ―inspired by the humanist ideas embraced at the time in more educated circles― and voiced how urgent it was for the country to eradicate slavery as a system of economic production.