Storymaking and Storytelling: Afro-Descendant and Indigenous People Shape Public Dialogue

This series on storytelling for justice is guest edited by Deji Olukotun.

AJWS’s grants department supports organizations in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Most grant recipients are marginalized people struggling to realize their human rights related to natural resources, health, self-determination or sexual diversity. These groups have been denied the ability to tell their own stories or even control their own recorded histories. In the following piece, program associate Luis Diaz-Albertini presents examples of two grantees in Latin America that use the creative arts to explore their own identities and advocate for their rights.

Creating and sharing stories are powerful ways of shaping understanding. Where historically disenfranchised groups face deep societal prejudices, legacies of physical and symbolic violence, and the devaluing of their cultural identities, storytelling serves as a powerful method to challenge mainstream cultural norms. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Indigenous and Afro-descendant people in particular confront stories that reinforce stigma and discrimination. These stories take many forms and influence various audiences. AJWS’s partners Wayna Rap in Bolivia and LUNDU Centro de Estudios y Promoción Afroperuanos (LUNDU Center for Afro-Peruvian Studies and Promotion) in Peru are using innovative storytelling methodologies to define their communities’ cultural memory and express their reality on their own terms.

Racism and sexism in Peruvian media are pervasive, contributing to social exclusion and gender-based discrimination. From July 2009 to July 2010, for example, LUNDU produced a series of reports that revealed that print media contained 350 racist news items during that period, an average of little less than one news piece per day. LUNDU is responding through innovative cultural initiatives that seek to better understand racist and sexist ideologies and develop strategies to systematically dismantle them. By producing poetry, art, and radio programs, Afro-Peruvian youth shape understandings about their heritage and are increasingly able to voice their political and cultural concerns in public spaces.

Currently, LUNDU is organizing an essay contest to raise awareness throughout Peru about the United Nations International Year of the Afro-descendant. Topics include culture, identity, racial justice and Afro-Peruvian women. The initiative aims to increase visibility of Afro-descendant human rights and encourage action from a new generation of activists, and has already garnered significant support from different governmental sectors.

Participant in Wayna Rap hip hop program

In Bolivia, Wayna Rap uses hip hop to enable youth to promote the collective rights of Indigenous youth, contest corporate rights violations and fight political corruption. The organization records original music, stages concerts, produces authorized graffiti, and celebrates Indigenous Quecha and Aymara culture. By using Quechua and Aymara in their hip hop lyrics and images from Indigenous sources in their graffiti, youth also define their cultural heritage. They influence public conversations around critical issues that affect them with stories about Indigenous rights and environmental justice. To interact with a broad audience, Wayna Rap produces videos featuring its music, including a video presented at the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Through their lyrics, Wayna Rap members also analyze the social and economic status of Bolivian women. Youth develop an artistic and political voice while publicly advocating for increased awareness about gender issues.

Making a story and the act of telling a story allow youth to question themselves and society. Through creating art, youth in Wayna Rap and LUNDU’s programs personally analyze the impact of exclusion on their lives. They create images and cultural identities that allow them to internally dismantle stereotypes produced by the mainstream. They publicly “activate” this process of deconstruction when they tell their stories through their art. The act of sharing a story is an act of civic and political participation that offers the potential to engage others.

“detesto las miradas que me echan en la calle / solo tú tienes la capacidad de entender / por qué hay lagrimas en mi mirada / entre nosotros, todo es intencional”

“I hate the looks they throw me on the street / Only you have the capacity to understand / Why there are tears in my gaze / Between us, everything is intentional”

– Monica Carrillo, Director of LUNDU

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3 Responses to Storymaking and Storytelling: Afro-Descendant and Indigenous People Shape Public Dialogue

  1. I am not surprised. As her Tourst director said about Angie she is Betty Davis and Marylin Monroe in one. She is breathtakingly beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor was once- the most beautiful actress alive and one of the best actresses working today. And we have not seen the best of her. She is popular because she is an enigma. Look which directors are lining up to work with her . I read that EVERY script now in Hollywood is now sent first to her and she turn them down or accept. And she is the only one without publicist or agent. Because every time even if the film is not that good she does a great job. Even in Alexander all was bad but even the critics who openly hate her agreed whe does a good job.. I watched an interview with Robert de Niro last year and when asked which actress he wants to work with, he said :Angelina Jolie because she was great in The Good Sheppard. Clint Eastwood praised her as an actress and person with incredible work ehtics and for her directorial debut he said she is so smart and intelligent that he expected her to do great . The critics smashed the Tourist and evern Johnny and the Oscar winning director but most of them praised her performance which I thought was great as usual and new and fresh and different/ The American public did not like the film much because it is elegant and European, far cry from the American version of comedy or romance. IN Europe farting/belching/vomiting/yelling is considered bad or lack of manners, in America it is called humor and funny. The film was made by and European and it i s pleasant and interesting and the chemistry I think is great, and they both are great. If you Google box office mojo you will see that only in a month the film in Europe earned 122mln(in US only 65) and they call it flop!!??! In 6 months it will be 300mln as is Salt for only 5 months it earned 118 mln in Us but 175mln (from end of July till end of NOv and by now 2 months later it is pass 200mln mark for sure). An they rated the film 2 1/2 * and Angie not a bankable star!! The press smash her but people love her and are inspired by her beauty, talent, their love story, beautiful family, her compassion, humanitarian work-everything this is SOMEBODY to look up to. Look what she did in 10 years and how she turned around her life.

  2. Free says:

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions

  3. Obama, like Bush, Clinton, Bush Sr etc are pawns in this game. They do what they are told or they find themselves 6 feet under. We are under attack by the the Bank of the World financiers. Why do you think the cabinet positions in the past 5 presidents were made up mainly of people from Wall Street & the Federal Reserve? Treasury Secy Geithner is the past President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Prev Secy Henry Paulson Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs. Dont trust me You check it out.

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