Liliana A. Romero, also known as Lilophilia, is a Colombian graphic and visual artist based in London. Her artwork, marked by her activism and her identity as a Black Afro-Colombian woman, addresses issues such as LGBTQ+, refugee communities and self-identity. Marie-Louise Stille spoke with Romero about her artistic vision and current projects.
Liliana A. Romero, left: I Don't Want to Die a Hero, 37cm x 58.5cm, 2021, 20 de.; centre: Peas in the Pot, screenprint on Somerset satin (6 colours), 100cm x 70cm, 2020; right: My Blood Runs through/in the ground, screen print on Fabriano No. 4 (4 Colours), 54.9cm x 42cm, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.
Liliana A. Romero, International Union for Truth and Justice, silkscreen on Somerset satin, (3 colours), 16cm x 16cm, 10. ed. Courtesy of the artist.
Liliana A. Romero, Stop Glorifying White Saviours, 70 cm x 100 cm, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.
C&AL: How did you end up in the art world and what are some of the issues you address in your work?
Liliana A. Romero: In a country like Colombia, making the decision to be an artist is both a privilege and a risk; something which, unfortunately, many of us don’t realise from the outset. During my studies, I began to question the rules and laid-out tracks along which my life had moved so far and that had pigeon-holed me into a reality that violated my physicality and mentality as a Black woman. Once you start realizing that the world is made up of various perspectives and diversities, your reality is altered; it is as if you were being lifted out of a deep sleep.
I began to dedicate my art to call attention to the history I had lived through, questioning the conditioned reality for Black people in Colombia.
C&AL: Which role does activism play in your work as an artist?
LAR: Activism has become an intrinsic part of my work. At this point, I couldn’t say where my artwork ends and where my activism begins. As a Black artist, you are forced to become politically active and to want so much more. It also forces you to look for ways to find more people like you, who feel the way you do, and who are searching for the same things as you. A desire begins to grow in your heart to call the attention of people who ignore the situations that affect your wellbeing and that of many others. My art is a cry for help, a call to action and, a tribute to those who fight to defend their existence and wellbeing. Activism is not an isolated part of my art; rather, my whole art is a form of activism.
C&AL: Which role does your own identity play?
LAR: Actually, the beginning of my artistic practice as Lilophilia coincided with the search for my identity; my identity is the prism through which my art is propelled into existence. The “Black” label , guided by a hierarchical imaginary, was a way of identification that I carried on my shoulders for a long time. Once I shed that association, I found myself in a place “beyond identification”, or so I thought. And an overwhelming need to belong started to grow inside me, transforming my art into a sort of justification of my identity, and leading me to understand that identity is never constant or static, but rather a dynamic process that grows, flows and mutates each day.
C&AL: How has moving to London influenced your work and the way you see things?
LAR: Coming to London was a transformative process. Like any transformation, it involves phases of recognition, deconstruction, construction and then all over again; recognition, deconstruction, construction and so forth. Through this process, you become aware of the limitations in your previous context and you begin to challenge those limits. London’s pluricultural pool led me to refine and reconsider aspects of my identity that I thought were essential to my personality. But as this notion of challenging the boundaries for identity grows, so does a nostalgia for roots, for provenance as well as an urgency of representation in the face of this tremendous city. London has allowed me to be more authentic in my work without abandoning the awareness of who I am: a Black indigenous Colombian woman.
C&AL: Can you tell us about the projects you are currently involved in and some of your plans for the future?
LAR: I am currently involved in several creative groups of the Colombian diaspora, where we encourage artists, musicians and all kinds of creators to develop projects that help visualize their identity in relation to the problems that the Colombian people are facing today. The national strike, the civil war and the resistance that my country is experiencing, caused by a government hidden under a cloak of corruption, deserves the attention and support of all nations. I see it as my responsibility as an artist to bring this struggle to light.
Among these groups are MAFAPO UK, a collective organised to reveal the struggle of women whose loved ones have been executed by a negligent government. NEW TRIBE and Gaitambo are art collectives that seek to establish a network between artists in order to create a sense of belonging for Latinos in London.
My goal is to create an Afro-Latin American political-activist art publishing house here in London.
Through my work, I have become acquainted with a number of print houses in London which, while open-minded and progressive, remain white-centric. This creates a shortage of support for Black or indigenous Latin American communities within the print market. Latin American print culture is not only one of the most struggling and resilient, but – due to the lack of access to the printing industry and printing machinery that existed for quite some time – also one of the most beautiful and experimental. Here in London, I want to create a platform for presenting a culture of resistance.
Marie-Louise Stille is a cultural project manager, journalist and contributor to C&AL. She lives in Berlin.
Translation from Spanish by Zariga Mohamad Petersen