Archive for the ‘Culture’ Tag

Other (continued)   1 comment

The following photographs represent a continuation of the previous post “Other,” a series of images that represent simple moments in the lives of women, children and men who are often narrowly defined:



Lima, Peru – Peruvians position themselves to view the procession of Senor de los Milagros.



Mock State Burial

Nairobi, Kenya – Kenyan activists gathered at Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner for a march to the parliament building, where they held a mock state burial and burnt 221 caskets, which represented each member of parliament. The mock burial symbolized the public’s rejection of hefty perks that the members of parliament were demanding.


Mysterious and Devastating - Nodding Syndrome

Lapul – Ocwida village (Pader district), Uganda – Nodding Syndrome patient, John Kitanya, 16, waits outside for his name to be called at the Lapul – Ocwida Health Centre II.



Bor County (Kondai Village – Makuach Payam), South Sudan – Wal Garang Dhiek, 42, (background) uses a stick embedded with a stone to keep birds from feasting on his sorghum field, as his family relax (left-to-right: his mother Nyaroor Kok Ajok, 70, wife Ayen Nhial Piel, 25, holding their son Nhial Wal Garang, 7-months, a young neighbor and his son Bil Wal Adhik, 5).



Nairobi, Kenya – Pedestrians in the city center.


Nairobi's Mathare Slums

Nairobi, Kenya –  A young boy waits for friends in the Mathare slums.



Nyakahama Village (Katoosa Parish), Uganda – After placing a pot of food under a flame, Rose Mbabazi, 20, sits quietly outside her kitchen with her children and a neighbor.



Tocana, Bolivia – A worn and faded hand-drawing, created by Dayana Rene Ballivian, 9, hangs outside her family’s home reads: “My mother is negro, my father is negro and so am I. I am proud.” In 2009, Afro-Bolivians won a moral victory when the Bolivian government – which had always denied their existence – formally acknowledged them.



Ntarama Sector, Bugesera District, Rwanda – Students read during class at Nyirarukobwa Primary School.


Early Childhood Development In Nairobi

Nairobi, Kenya – Stephen Maina, 2-years-9 months, falls asleep during a baby class, while 3-year old Isaac Muriithi works; teacher Nancy Vivian Obanda, overhead, prepares to wake Stephen.



Adjumani district (Ayilo Refugee Camp), Uganda – Achiek Agok, 6, observes as his brothers play soccer. They are a family of 12 from Jonglei state (Bor town) in South Sudan. After being forced to flee because of the war the family arrived in Uganda in January 2014.



Esmeraldas, Ecuador – Ariana Renteria, 6, peers at partygoers while her sister Nahiffer Renteria, 9, dances to the music.


Unexpected Faces   2 comments

See “Afro-Latinos in the Andes:”

From colorfully dressed Afro-Bolivian women in bowler hats working in coca fields to Afro-Colombian children toiling in small-scale gold mining pits, Afro-Latinos exist actively, if not always visibly, in the Andean region. Their history has been cloaked by a legacy of invisibility as governments often fail to mention the participation and contributions of Afro-Latinos to the region; racism is common.

Their numbers in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay are small. Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador best represent the reality of invisibility and racism because they have significant percentages of Afro-Latinos in comparison to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. In Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador Afro-Latinos make up approximately five, two and ten percent respectively of their country’s populations.

Many people are quite familiar with Afro-Latinos in Colombia or Brazil, but often are unaware of Afro-Latino communities elsewhere in South America. I recall speaking with an American journalist in 2008 and mentioning my interest in documenting Afro-Bolivian and Afro-Peruvian communities. He responded, “I didn’t know there were blacks in Peru and Bolivia.” Afro-Latinos represent the ‘Unexpected Faces’ of South America.

While Latinos in the region will praise the musical and culinary contributions of Afro-Latinos, they often revile dark skin. My arrival to the Andean region, in February 2009, was the start of a journey into the lives of Afro-Latinos who were struggling to have their problems and, in some cases, their very existence acknowledged. This was perhaps best symbolized in Bolivia where the government had always denied the existence of Afro-Bolivians. It was in 2009 that Bolivian president Evo Morales formally acknowledged the existence of Afro-Bolivians. It was also in 2009 that then Peruvian president Alan Garcia held a public ceremony to apologize to Afro-Peruvians for centuries of “abuse, exclusion and discrimination.” Hitherto, the Peruvian government had a policy that proclaimed the equality of all its citizens was written into the constitution, and consequently racism did not exist. By stating everyone was equal it permitted Peruvian policy-makers to deny historic discrimination and the resulting differences in status and development.

Although my work has concentrated on Afro-Latino communities in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, I’ve also documented blacks in Argentina and Colombia. I’m based out of Peru so I’m most familiar with Afro-Peruvians. While Afro-Peruvians can be quite vocal about the stigma associated with being black, seemingly there’s no consensus on how to collectively respond to it. In the Andean region the fact that racism was never institutionalized, as it was in the United States during the Jim Crow era, ensures that Afro-Latino’s fight for equality is unlikely to ever be confrontational, as experienced by African-Americans.

The reality of Afro-Latinos recalls that of African-Americans who challenged racism during the civil rights movement. Unlike the situation in the U.S., the struggle in the Andean region is devoid of protesters engaged in lunch counter sit-downs (although it’s not uncommon for Afro-Peruvians to be denied service at high-end establishments), or confrontations with police officers armed with batons and attack dogs, which were aired nightly on the news. Although it’s a different place, people and era, it’s the same battle – overcoming racism.

Generally speaking there is a lack of sensitivity in South America to negative depictions of Afro-Latinos. From dolls with exaggeratedly dark black skin and big red lips to a young white-Latino girl in black face masquerading as a prostitute, while she solicits tourists for money, Afro-Latinos are often the source of mockery. Racial stereotypes are reinforced daily in the media and on television, e.g., in Peru there’s a popular comedy show character called ‘Negro Mama.’ He’s a grotesque caricature of a black man who’s ignorant and dishonest, played by an actor in black face with a false nose and lips. I document these negative stereotypes to serve as a counterweight to the general South American denial of race as an issue; the lack of an open dialogue on race has contributed to Afro-Latinos being visible in a negative manner. Sadly, in the 21st-century the present generation must overcome images that could impact heavily on their self-esteem.

While race can be used to exclude it is also used to symbolize servitude: Afro-Peruvian men are highly prized for jobs as hotel and casino doormen – in elegant colonial uniforms with top hats – and as pallbearers (a vocational identity known as Camalenque) – dressed in formal attire at upper-class funerals – under the belief that their dark skin adds an aura of elegance to such occupations. In May 2010 Peru’s Ministry of Culture denounced the practice of the Camalenque as racist and requested, to no avail, that the mortuary business end the service.

When the idea for ‘Unexpected Faces’ first came to me the intention was to document the existence, uniqueness, and diversity of Afro-Latino communities in the Andean region. Early on I recognized the problems Afro-Latinos faced and that the issue of discrimination was integral to their story. Theirs is a multifaceted story on the complexities of race, cultural diversity and the embracing of traditions which create a sense of pride and self-awareness.

‘Unexpected Faces’ is an ongoing documentary project that hopes to show how the treatment of Afro-Latinos raises questions about the intellectual, cultural and moral refinement of civilization in South America. The people, governments and media of the region need to understand they will never attain an advanced state of social development until they become an inclusive society.

Photos from Unexpected Faces (and related pics) can be viewed at

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