Despite having played a fundamental role in the anti-slavery struggle and identity construction of the African diaspora in the Americas, marronage is still poorly understood.
Marronage created communities that wrested themselves free of slavery and proclaimed their sovereignty in the New World. These communities of runaway slaves were found throughout the Americas, from Louisiana to Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Brazil and the Guianas. Some of the descendants of these societies continue to exist today. They are the gatekeepers of a little known self-emancipation narrative. This is the story of the Maroons of the Guianas, also known as Businenge or Bushinengue.
The Obia photographic project ―undertaken in the historical Maroon territories of Saamaka and Maroni, in both Suriname and French Guiana (1)― seeks to examine the links between the exceptional magical-religious legacy of Maroon people and the new challenges that stem from modernity: the ongoing acculturation among new generations and the counterweight produced by deculturation. Additionally, Obia calls for a rethink of the connections between historical marronage and challenges pertaining to contemporary immigration and, not least, between the memories of the colonial past and accommodations with the postcolonial present.
Nicola Lo Calzo
Nicola Lo Calzo has focused his photographic practice and research on issues of identity, colonialism, and inter-sectionality. His images show how minority groups interact with their environment and devise strategies of survival and resistance. Over the past seven years, Lo Calzo has been engaged in an ambitious research project, entitled The Cham, about memories of the slave trade and slavery, which includes various series of photographs taken in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Under the Kehrer Verlag imprint, he has published Regla (2017), Obia (2015), and Inside Niger (2012). He is a contributor to Le Monde, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
1. This region, known now as the town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maronio, is located on the Maroni River, between French Guiana and Surinam.
I have been interested in portraying the young people who live in Tumaco ―a rural area on the Colombian Pacific coast― and yet are influenced by the eclecticism of the globalized world. These young people’s existence serves as a metaphor for adversity, as does the geography they inhabit, where marginalization coexists with beauty and hope.
These pictures were taken in one of the regions with the greatest prevalence of coca plantations in Colombia. It is also an important transportation hub for cocaine to other parts of the world. The town’s geographical location, as well as its residents’ low incomes, their lack of access to education, and a deficient healthcare system are factors that have led to the rise of armed guerrilla groups, violence, and drug-trafficking, whose victims are most often young men. The town is currently a refuge for dissident guerrilla groups that used to form part of the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
They Are Watching Us is a series that explores the identity and context of teenagers who survive in the unpredictable context of one of the regions most affected by armed conflict. They are young dancers and musicians who challenge with dignity what would seem to be their fate: being drafted into the war or forced to join criminal gangs, owing to the widespread belief that they have no other opportunities in life.
Portraiture is the central theme in the work of Carolina Navas, which highlights the singularity of human faces, as well as the objects and clothing that surround the body. Navas has directed documentary series for Colombian public television and produced still photographs for the feature films Los Hongos (2014), La Sirga (2012), and Calicalabozo (1997). Her series of photographs Nos miran (They Are Watching Us) was awarded a stimulus grant for the visual arts by the city of Cali in 2017. She is the author of Tumaco (2018), a volume in the Pewen Cuadernos Fotografía collection published by MUGA. In 2018 she received a Gamleby Photo Grant to complete an artist’s residency in Sweden and premiered Fullhachede, her first feature-length documentary, which she directed and photographed in collaboration with Catalina Torres.