Afromexico: Children of the moon

Originally published by laphoenikera.com written by 

 

Afromexico: Children of the moon

Queen Muhammad Ali and Hakeem Khaaliq, two local visual anthropologists have made it their mission to demystify preconceived notions about black and indigenous communities around the globe.

This is no easy feat since they’re against a historical propensity to blaze inaccurate information about communities of color (at this point we’re all misinformed about everybody else, really), erase or undermine their cultural relevance and contributions to humanity. In our good ol’ AZ we even banned the study of said groups. But they have two powerful tools: art and technology.

A few days ago I was walking down Roosevelt after getting some grub at one of the eateries and inside MonOrchid there was an awesome photograph of a girl’s face, a huge print of one of the most piercing eyes I’ve ever seen… a future Bruja if you will. These eyes have a story, a history. I went in, Invisible Mexico was the title of the exhibit and to its creators, it’s an anthropological portrait of the African Diaspora of settlers in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Chiapas, Michoacán, and other Mexican states.

A crowd was already hurdled around the artists, it was almost inappropriate not to eavesdrop on their narration. It wasn’t just an explanation, they had some techie stuff –augmented reality–, which blew my mind immediately.

My thoughts exactly when I saw the first picture. Photo credit: Jimaral Marshall.

Queen and Hakeem have been going back and forth to Mexico since the 90’s for different projects (some we can mention, others not so much). They’ve traveled all over, too many places to list in this poor excuse of a paragraph. However, it is important to mention that their voyages have taken them to places with large Afromexican communities, which are sadly unknown.

Hakeem, originally from South Central L.A. and Queen from L.A. (her ancestry is actually American Samoan royalty), would tell an anecdote behind the picture, where it was taken, the context. With their tablet they would create an interactive environment that immediately connected with the audience, establishing a learning space for everyone.

Attendees get mind-blown with the experience! Photo credit: Jimaral Marshall

The actual explanation of augmented reality is quite techie but for the purposes of detailing this exhibit, it means that when you hold your mobile device over one of the photographs, the pictures become animated and provide further information about the image hanging on the wall. This is ain’t magic stuff, though ancient curanderos would freak the f out! This augmented reality experience is a collaboration between Queen, Hakeem, the University of Arizona and Associate Professor Bryan Carter. This effort produced an app for mobile devices which could expand the experience of a gallery to a much broader space, immersing the audience into a different kind of reality: the subjects’ realm.

But beyond the augmentation of an experience, its bi-dimensional reality has a unique depth and behind the photographs displayed, there is a history that has been ignored for a minute or deux. I was confronted with my own ignorance about Afromexican communities in Mexico and here in the U.S. (there’s a large population of Afromexicans in Califas as depicted on this  awesome short).

Hakeem says it is rare for Afromexicans to be photographed because they consider themselves ugly. Photo credit: Hakeem Khaaliq

Hakeem explained the history behind Yanga (Nyanga or Gaspar Yanga), a man from the state of Veracruz whose photograph hangs on a wall of the exhibit. He awoke a whole town and lead them to resist their oppressors. The sound of his name resonated with me, then it hit me. There’s a region in Bolivia, Los Yungas, in the state of La Paz. I’m Bolivian, and my heart has a special place for Saya, a dope Afrobolivian beat. So naturally when he said his name I was curious. There has to be some connection, especially when this Andean tropical forest extends from northern Peru and Argentina, passing through Bolivia and all the way up to Colombia and Venezuela.

What is known about Yanga is that he was apprehended somewhere in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana and disembarked in the coast of Veracruz in the 1500’s. He was briefly enslaved until he escaped and lead a 30-year crusade against the Spaniards…¡toma! Actually, he was the first great liberator of the Americas. Way before El Libertador did his thing in South America, Nyanga sealed a treaty with the Spaniards that would allow freemen to live in a sovereign, gachupin-free land in the early 1600’s. Also, the meaning of the word Nyanga will blow your mind, but I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Nyanga, the first libertador in the Americas. Photo credit: Hakeem Khaaliq

Queen and Hakeem were really impressed with his story, but also realized that a lot of African descendants felt a void in their roots, their history; that there wasn’t an accurate representation of them.

“If we don’t change these stories and the perception people have, no one will,” Said Hakeem.

That is the main reason why they’ve put up this show, a collection of photographs made over a decade of travels through Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Tepoztlán, and Costa Chica. Queen explains how the perception that these communities have of themselves has affected their collective self-worth in respect to other Mexicans. I mean, it wasn’t until an internal census in 2015 that they could self identify as Afromexicans. Up until then they didn’t have a box to check. This is precisely why there isn’t a knowledge of the prevalence of African cultures settled in Mexico, because everything was focused on indigenous people or mestizos. Also, Afromexicans aren’t even a considered a minority because, according to the government, they don’t have a native language or dialect. As a consequence, their history has vanished.

Some Mexican archaeological sites have shown the presence of African descendants. Photo credit: Hakeem Khaaliq.

The good thing is that there is a new found pride in being Afromexican and now they can identify with their blackness and own it like the woman in this short-doc. Also there are visual artists and anthropologists that constantly travel to these regions and others in the Americas where there are large populations of African descendants and their stories aren’t represented.

Queen and Hakeem’s Invisible Mexico will be at MonOrchid located at 214  E Roosevelt St. until this First Friday 4/7. Check out the space, approach the artists, ask them questions. They’re awesome at sharing knowledge and have a truly keen eye for stories.

Now, are you ready for the meaning of Nyanga? Well, the short answer is witch-doctor, but it’s too generic and whitewashed. Now, Occult Zulu has an interesting interpretation and we kinda like it better. It basically means moon-ritual-person. It turns out that some plants’ properties react to the lunar cycles and in ancient Africa there were special humans that knew when to conduct rituals based on this to increase effectiveness. These special people were viewed as saviors and they called them Nyanga.

You can pay a visit, check the exhibit and feel a little less ignorant about the world you live in. In this case, ignorance is not bliss, it is a sin. Also check this jam, it’s pretty awesome!

Do you really want to know the real Columbus?

Christopher Columbus is and was one of the architects of white supremacy. A system employed by europeans upon kind, helpful indigenous, black aboriginal people thru out the world. Nation19 Magazine / APDTA

Do you really know who Columbus was? Every second Monday of October in the US is marked by a national holiday called Columbus Day. But surprisingly most don’t know this day was conceived by the Knights of Columbus which is a secret Masonic organization. Also most Americans know nothing about what Christopher Columbus did to the original people of the Americas. So today Nation19 researchers have prepared the uncut pure facts about Mr. Columbus. The facts we uncovered are so bad we ask that you brace yourself while reading them.


Columbus’ first meeting described the original people as beautiful and not warlike, and naive:
“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things… They willingly traded everything they owned…  They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”


To paint a different picture of the people, Columbus, who had originally described the Natives as gentle people he wrote:
“(they are) evil and I believe they are from the island of Caribe, and that they eat men.” He also described them as “savage cannibals, with dog-like noses that drink the blood of their victims.”
This made up cannibal story is taught as fact in some of today’s schools in the US.

After his first trip Columbus later returned to Spain leaving behind 39 men who began the process of killing the men and rapping the Native women. When Columbus came back 1,200 (or more) of the native men were killed. Columbus returned with more soldiers, and rape and pillaging became rampant as well as tolerated by Columbus.
1280px-Primer_viaje_de_Colón.svg


Michele de Cuneo journal excerpt (a close friend to Columbus) wrote the first disturbing account of a rape and torture between himself and a Native female sex slave given to him by (Lord Admiral) Christopher Columbus.

“While I was in the boat I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me, and with whom, having taken her into my cabin, she being naked according to their custom, I conceived desire to take pleasure. I wanted to put my desire into execution but she did not want it and treated me with her finger nails in such a manner that I wished I had never begun. But seeing that (to tell you the end of it all), I took a rope and thrashed her well, for which she raised such unheard of screams that you would not have believed your ears.”


Columbus also raped 9 and 10 year old native girls and gave them to his men as sex slaves.
In addition to putting the Natives to work as slaves in his gold mines, Columbus also sold sex slaves to his men—some as young as 9. Columbus and his men also raided villages for sex and sport. Aside from rape Columbus and his men gave the women Syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In the year 1500, Columbus wrote: “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”


columbus_was_evil2_APDTA
Christopher Columbus presents Native Americans to Queen Isabella.

Gold ruled everything around him. 
Upon returning to Spain Columbus told Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand about all the gold. So what did they do? They sent him back with more ships (17 ships) and he was given more men to go steal the gold for Spain.

Columbus forced the Natives to work in gold mines until exhaustion. Those who opposed were beheaded or had their ears cut off.

In the provinces of Cicao all persons over 14 had to supply at least a thimble of gold dust every three months and were given copper necklaces as proof of their compliance. Those who did not fulfill their obligation had their hands cut off, which were tied around their necks while they bled to death—some 10,000 died handless.

In two years’ time, approximately 250,000 original native people on Haiti were dead. Many deaths included mass suicides or intentional poisonings or mothers killing their babies to avoid persecution.

According to Columbus, in a few years before his death, “Gold is the most precious of all commodities; gold constitutes treasure, and he who possesses it has all he needs in the world, as also the means of rescuing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise.”


Columbus feeding a child to Dogs
Columbus feeding a child to Dogs

Columbus’ men fed Native People to dogs regularly.

In the early years of Columbus’ conquests there were butcher shops throughout the Caribbean where Indian bodies were sold as dog food. There was also a practice known as the montería infernal, the infernal chase, or manhunt, in which Indians were hunted by war-dogs.

These dogs—who also wore armor and had been fed human flesh, were a fierce match for the Indians. Live babies were also fed to these war dogs as sport, sometimes in front of horrified parents.


So from all of us at Nation19 we pray his descendants suffer from every disease on this planet for all the evil he did to those beautiful giving original native people. Lastly,  …F^@! Columbus Day. APDTA!