Awilda Polanco: Promoting the presence of Afro descendant in the cultural industries of Latin America and the Caribbean
©Courtesy of Awilda Polanco
Awilda Blanco is a young independent performer, teacher and choreographer of Contemporary Dance from the Dominican Republic. For more than 15 years her works have maintained a critical view of colonial and discriminatory narratives, as evidenced by the pieces in her SMOG series, where she reflects on raciality from her condition as a black and Caribbean woman.
Aside from her work as an independent artist, Awilda directs the unit that fosters and develops the university outreach of the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC), where she has done a remarkable job at the head of its Dance Group for 20 years.
Awilda participated in the Story Laboratory held from 4 to 17 December as part of the First International Meeting "Afro Women on Stage 2020", a joint initiative of Ebony Theatre of Peru, Nosotras Women Connecting, Fábrica de Historias, the UNESCO Cluster Office in San José, Costa Rica and Transcultura: Integrating Cuba, the Caribbean and the European Union through Culture and Creativity, a Programme implemented by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, funded by the European Union.
As a beneficiary of the Story Laboratory, led by Costa Rican playwright Denise Duncan, Awilda was able to develop new storytelling skills about women of African descent who are prominent in the performing arts in Latin America and the Caribbean. Today she tells us what that experience has meant for her creative process and her life.
The Laboratory, fertile ground for stories
“The Story Lab turned out to be an ideal virtual space to break with the impasse and fragmentation that the artistic community has experienced as a result of the pandemic.
The dialogue generated through this space among Afro-descendant creators from Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and the Dominican Republic allowed me to rethink, based on the new version I was writing, the original story I presented in the initial call for the Laboratory.”
Undoubtedly, all the methodological tools masterfully shared by playwright Denise Duncan nurtured that rethinking. The knowledge and mechanisms transferred to the group by Marysela Zamora, one of the coordinators of the space, made it easier to approach each story as artistic projects that seek the support of cultural organizations interested in financing, promoting and disseminating works on Afro themes.
Alongside this creative process, it was wonderful to experience that automatic solidarity that the democratic territory of art provides us as creators of African descent, amidst the questions and problems we all face in our countries as cultural managers.”
A new vision of our work
Awilda brought the fourth stage of her SMOG series to the Laboratory. This is a video performance titled KNOCKOUT that defends the thesis that every black woman who stands up is a KNOCKOUT against discriminatory practices. Through dance, it tells the story of Rafaela, a girl who grows up "with the unsustainable weight of living in a society that forms, informs and deforms based on established stereotypes", as defined in the synopsis of the piece. Its creator is confident that the work will become a reality and appreciates the reflections she received in the space generated by the Story Lab.
"I want to share this story with every human being in our regions whose self-esteem, self-validation and self-empowerment are affected and limited by situations of discrimination and exclusion due to racial stereotypes".
Genuine meetings to promote the recovery of the culture sector
"The Dominican Republic and the world are facing a radical health crisis caused by Covid-19. Virtually promoting this First International Meeting of Afro Women on Stage and the Story Lab has been an invaluable and genuine opportunity to find ways for the culture sector that we Afro Women support to recover, whose structures and means for stage production are permanently limited and flawed in our societies.
Generating structural changes implies being critical and uniting through all possible means to keep alive the audacity to continue promoting our artistic discourse, to be able to say, to be able to do and be resilient using the body, dance, theatre, music, in short, all expressions that enable us to increase the representation of women of African descent in the cultural industries in our region".
Thank you, Transcultura, for this incentive!