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They are terms that embody the historical association of blackness with self-liberation. They are affirmative social constructions that deny an identity rooted in slavery. We find, in many indigenous stories, legends and celebrations, not a contrast between black and indigenous people, but rather a continuity of representation from indigenous to black. The late Nina S. Representations of blackness in Pacific and Amazonian mythologies are also enacted in Andean indigenous performances. The central performers refer to themselves as Quito Runa. In Salasaca, Andean Ecuador, indigenous festivals transform the figure of the black from one epoch to the next.

Dana Michel's Mercurial George: Illegibility, Identity, Blackness

The polar meanings of blackness in much indigenous mythology—of oppressed slaves and strong soldiers—emerge in two different Salasacan festivals: the soldier image of the festival of Caporales, celebrated in February, and the slave into self-liberation imagery of pre-lenten Carnival. The fiesta of Caporales is associated with the Catholic feast days of the Three Kings and the baby Jesus. In this representation the blacks represent soldiers who guard the treasures brought by the Kings for the sacred infant. Images of different black peoples from both Spanish Catholic and Salasacan historical experiences are fused.

The historical experiences include recent economic transformations such as the s oil boom that sparked a migration of coastal Afro-Ecuadorians through the Andes to the Amazonian regions. The portrayal is often that of a soldier in the army of Eloy Alfaro Delgado during the time of the great Liberal Revolution of the late nineteenth century—the alfarada, as it is sometimes called, of —that caused a national social transformation.

Eloy Alfaro is considered in Salasaca, as elsewhere in Ecuador, to be a liberator of black and indigenous people. The negro in such performances fuses the imagery of black and indigenous liberation. According to oral history, Salasacans collaborated with the black coastal soldiers to disguise President Eloy Alfaro as an indigenous woman so that he could safely travel northward through the Sierra to arrive in Quito—where, despite these efforts, he was assassinated.


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Many Salasacan people share a consciousness of the common struggle of Afro-Ecuadorian and indigenous people against white and mestizo oppression. The protector role may extend into the afterlife, as well, as the negro soldiers from the festival of Caporales accompany the sponsors through or around purgatory, which is on the processional trail.

Using Contemporary Performing Arts to Express Identity - Akhmal Aiman - TEDxGadong

They use their swords to hold back the trickster devils—diabloguna—who try to capture their souls at certain crossroads. The portrayal of the liberation of blacks from slavery in indigenous historical consciousness is dramatized in other Andean cultural enactments. In Oruro, Bolivia, during Carnival, indigenous actors represent blackness through the Morenada from moreno, a dark, or black person , a performance that preserves the memory of African slaves brought to work in the mines of the highlands.

One drama of the Morenada enacts a rebellion against the caporal, the black slavemaster. Throughout Andean Ecuador the image of blackness in the context of indigenous festivity and indigenous artistic portrayal fuses images of different black personages across many centuries.

Understanding Blackness through Performance

One of the best known and most publicized of these is the Mama Negra Black Mother festival held in the city of Latacunga in November. Among other events celebrated by Mama Negra is the liberation of black slave miners in Cotopaxi by indigenous people from that province. The sixteenth-century Spanish image of the Moors is also represented, as are nineteenth-century black troops of the wars of liberation. He emerges from this entanglement with a different kind of drum, which he beats to attract children to him.

Wayalumba is self-liberated. By his drumming and by his dancing he emerges as another force, called zambo, or negro.


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The spirit supai in Quichua is of the various epochs of cultural time and dimensions of cultural space. He may come forth in beginning times and places, times of revolution of Eloy Alfaro, times of the grandparents, or present times. His imagery is of the forest—spiritual, dangerous and libidinous—but he resides near indigenous settlements. Wayalumba is of the forest, yet he is intricately connected to the history and legacies of the Spanish conquest, to the people of today and to the emergence, within history and destiny, of blackness as associated with self-liberation.

Blackness is a social construction, a set of images built up—in Europe and the Americas—of historically transmitted symbols that recognize and represent people of African descent from the s to the present. Symbolic constructions generate images, patterns of thought and emotion that influence the way people see themselves and others.

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Representation is the way by which people are signified by others. Signification often involves a word that names the object of representation. Representations constitute, in part, the world in which we live. Rather, blackness is fused with imageries of self-liberation. Real people create new modernities; to listen to them and to understand their messages requires considerable reflection. The reflexive effort begins with a reading of the texts and listening to the voices of those who survived their socially constructed banishment to the racialized antipodes of society.

There can be no doubt about the affirmation of the identity of blackness in his poem—negro soy, negro voy black I am, black I go —it is first person, publicly personal, declarative, poetic, and moving:. NOTES 1. Rout, Jr. Forbes, Africans and Native Americans, 2nd ed. Kelley, Jr.

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