Afro-Uruguay: Forward Together
Our March article for Being Latino focuses on Afro-Uruguay: Forward Together, a documentary film dedicated to capturing the Afro-Uruguayan experience.
Through the lens of the video camera, two U.S. filmmakers immerse themselves and their family in Uruguay, capturing history as a small country tackles a big issue.
I have a deep fascination and profound interest in Afro-Uruguayan culture. Perhaps, this desire to know more is because I know so little about the country many call South America’s best kept secret – Uruguay.
Through pure serendipity, I stumbled across a beautifully written blog entry, “Uruguay, Mon Amor” by Carolina de Robertis. As a Californian of white Uruguayan parents, Carolina expressed her sorrow about the recent beating of an Afro-Uruguayan activist Tania Ramirez by a white Uruguayan. The violent exchange has sparked a national discussion in Uruguay regarding race.
Carolina, author of two critically acclaimed books and her spouse, African American filmmaker Pamela Harris, have relocated their family to Montevideo, Uruguay. The couple is dedicating 2013 to chronicling through the film the wide-ranging Afro-Uruguayan experience. The genesis of the film, Afro-Uruguay: Forward Together was sparked by the California couple’s 2004 honeymoon to Uruguay and an introduction to Candombe during a Llamada (The Call). Candombe is a musical experience originating from the Bantu people of Africa who were enslaved in Uruguay. Percussionists play three large curved, barrel shape drums (repique, chico and piano).
During a Llamada, percussionists, artists, dancers and people from the community drum rhythmically moving from one neighborhood to another, responding to “The Call.”
Today, Candombe has moved mainstream and become synonymous with Uruguayan culture. But this growing acceptance was years in the making. Candombe’s roots date back more than 200 years to Afro-Uruguayans who were enslaved and prohibited from practicing their religion and culture. The drum became a medium of connection, communication and resistance. Carolina explains the magnificence of witnessing Candombe during a Llamada, “Sixty or 70 drummers together, walking on the street, people spilling out into the streets following the drums with incredibly interlocking polyrhythms. So many people drumming together, on the streets, under the sky, it’s unbelievably powerful.” In the film, Beatriz Santos, an Afro-Uruguayan defines Candombe as “… a way of opening doors; a way of life, a unique world, a voice, a memory.”
Read the full article on Being Latino.
You can also help fund the creation of this documentary by donating any amount you can over on Iris Films.