Photographer:Johanna Alarcón
Continent: South America
Country: Ecuador
Project Title: Cimarrona, I am black because the sun looked at me
Project Continent: South America
Project Country: Ecuador
Nominated By: Beth Wald
Seconded By: Simon Newton,

Cimarrona, I am black because the sun looked at me is a photo documentary essay that explores the story of the daughters and granddaughters of black women who survived slavery in Latin America.This project aims to remarks women empowerment for black liberation through spiritual legacy that remains alive through the preservation of ancestral practices as a way of cultural resilience, protect their territories, and resist racism.
This project started when one of my friends told me: ¨You are lucky to live with your mother, my people were deterritorialized. I never got to meet my mom, Africa. The only way for us to get back to her is through our spirituality.¨ Karla Viteri. Since that day, I began this journey documenting my friends, their families, neighborhoods, and the ancestral territories in Ecuador where the black spirit expresses itself.
Cimarrona refers to the wild female spirit that holds an African essence and expresses it in all forms of resistance against racism. The diaspora’s cultural migratory reconfiguration in their new territories renewed the African legacy in the so-called “new continent.” Black people arrived in Latinamerica in the XVI century. Thousands of enslaved bodies reached Colombia to be distributed in Ecuador and around the region. Black women planned cultural and military strategies for their liberation. Each expression and all spiritual rituals- currently combined with religious syncretism- are keys to reverting their forced deterritorialization.
In Latin America, one in every four people identifies as an Afro-descendant. Roughly 50% are women. These communities have more than five centuries of black resilience and one of the biggest bio-diversities in the world: mangroves, tropical forests, and mountains are protected by them. The continuance of traditions is fundamental for defending their territory, which, today, is menaced by illegal mining, timber extraction, and pollution by mercury. New cultural influence and mass migration of the new generations challenge their ancestry with the risk of losing it to globalization.
In a world where violence against black people grows, their ancestral rituals and cultural migratory reconfiguration have been adapted to their new territories to settle down as a way to reaffirm their identity into new generations. Cimarron's legacy is also the legacy of the new femininity and humanity liberation.
Actually, I finished a photo essay in Ecuador and I am working on a photographic and multimedia body of work of Cimarrona routes in Colombia. The history of the diaspora is told through orality, stories, songs, and poetry of new generations of Maroon women assembled into a short multimedia piece that you could check in this link:

Strength of her blood

Nicole Gudi o 19 plays with a cotton plant in her hair The black slaves who came to Ecuador were forced to work in cotton fields and coal mines For Nicole cotton plants represent the strength of her ancestors and the strength of their blood La Loma 2018 Johis Alarc n


The nighttime sky along the mountains of Ecuador s Chota Valley where enslaved Africans arrived in the 16th century Santa Ana 2018 Johis Alarc n


Alba Pav n a community leader at Caminos a la Libertad a neighborhood in the northwest of Quito She emigrated to the city in 1970 from the Afro community of el Chota Valley Alba represents Yemay the mother of all the Orishas Alba feels identified with this Orisha because the memories of her ancestors and territory are linked with water the river is enrooted with her childhood Quito 2018 Johis Alarc n


Rosa Mar a Torres Carcel n 78 is one of the oldest midwives and healers She learned about childbirth at the age of 9 helping her mother and sisters in childbirth La Loma Ecuador 2018 Johis Alarc n

African Mass

Afroecuadorian women are celebrating La Virgen de la Merced with songs and candles during the afro religious mass in Playa de Oro 2019 Johis Alarc n

Only the river knows

A girl takes a bath in the estuary of her community Playa de Oro The Ayovi family keeps the legacy of ancestral practices and protects the tropical forest of more than 700 000 hectares Playa de Oro 2021 Johis Alarc n


A woman carrying a statue of the Virgen de la Merced during a pilgrimage of Catholic and African ancestral rituals Quito 2019

African Seeds

Nancy Placencia keeps the seeds of the red pigeon bean in her hair These seeds were brought from the African continent in the braids and the hair of women and are the main source of the diet of the of Afro-descendant peoples in Ecuador Chalguyaku 2018 Johis Alarc n


Relatives and friends arrive at the marriage of the Chal -Pav n Juncal 2018 Johis Alarc n

Roots Shining

Melani Ayovi poses for a portrait at her home She paints her face with symbols that African tribal warriors used for combat Playa de Oro 2021 Johis Alarc n