Quinamayó is an Afro-Colombian community located in the south of the Valle del Cauca department. During the slavery trade period (the 16th century to 1851), their ancestors were not allowed to keep and celebrate any cultural expressions they had brought with them. Many traditions had to be adapted and resignified as a way of expressing dignity and resistance.
For Christmas, they transformed the celebration, which takes place 45 days after the traditional date for the birth of Jesus Christ — representing the time it took the Virgin Mary to rest after she gave birth. Quinamayó celebrates Christmas in mid-February as a form of their African descendants’ cultural resistance and religious syncretism.
It’s a tradition that still persists in the community today, through a celebration in which the children dress up as biblical characters, the matronas — women leaders — wear their traditional dresses, and the people dance the juga, an autochthonous rhythm of Quinamayó.
I began this ongoing project in 2019. At that time, I only documented the parties. Now, my main goal is to focus on how Quinamayó conceives spirituality in everyday life.
I believe this story is important because Colombia has a deep-rooted history of racism. We were raised under the idea of “improving the race,” as if Afros were a population that had to be fixed. Today, racism manifests in discriminatory remarks in the street or on social media. The people of Quinamayó fight against that by taking pride in their roots, and by manifesting a syncretism that invites us to reflect on our racial and cultural diversity in Colombia.
Jaír F. Coll (1997) is a Colombian documentary photographer focused on how culture transforms society. His work has been published in Terre des Hommes (Swiss edition), Vice, Rural Week, and El País. In 2021, Coll exhibited at the Photo Vogue Festival in Milan, Italy, and was selected for the ninth edition of the New York Portfolio Review. His awards include the Snapshots of Peace by the Colombo-German Institute for Peace (CAPAZ) in 2020, and the Best Photography category of the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón Award in 2018.
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Black Baby Jesus was born in February
Featuring: Jaír F. Coll
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