Hermosa Intervención (Beautiful Intervention) is a group of Afro-Uruguayan women who are reconstructing the history of Black women in the Americas, thereby founding and sharing a historiography that is not taught in school. Raquel Villar-Pérez talks with the artists about their work and about how it is received by the community.
Museo Afroviviente (detail). Courtesy: Hermosa Intervención.
C& América Latina: When and why did you form Hermosa Intervención?
Hermosa Intervención: Hermosa Intervención came about in 2019, when Valeria Vega proposed working on a project with her colleague Lucía Martínez within the context of the commemoration of the Day of the Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean and Women of the African Diaspora, 25 July. Using body paint and photography, we represented five female orishas. In 2020, we designed a performance in homage to Mariquita and Encarnación, two enslaved women in 1880 Uruguay who sentenced to death for killing their abusive mistress. Following those two projects, we formalized the Hermosa Intervención collective because we realized it was necessary to continue intervening and telling Afro-women’s stories.
Their colleague Johanna came up with the name. “Hermosa” (Beautiful) refers to how we visualize ourselves as Black women in contrast to the fact that beauty is never associated with Black bodies. The word “intervención” (intervention) has to do with our projects, which are designed to take public spaces by surprise with our Black bodies.
C&AL: The third project, Museo Afroviviente (Museum of Afro-Living), is a performative piece which revives Afro-women from the American continent. Can you tell us about the project?
HI: It is a guided tour that reconstructs the history of 13 Afro-women from the Americas. Through that, we try to give visibility to our black corporality, distancing ourselves from the white Eurocentric discourse. The idea of plurality has marked this project from the beginning; the 13 women who are part of the Museum are from different places. It is about highlighting the diversity of bodies, gender, sexual identities, as well as work, etc. For this project we invited Black women from inside the country as well as outside Uruguay, who could give voice to the Black characters of their respective countries.
What unifies us is that the life experience of each and every one of them is intertwined with their militancy against racism from different fronts.
C&AL: How do different audiences respond to the Museo Afroviviente?
HI: In general, the majority of people who have attended any of the Museo Afroviviente’s performances have supported the work. Particularly women activists and militants have left the performance very emotional. In Cerro Largo, a department in the north of the country where the Afro-descendent population lives with a deeply rooted structural racism and homophobia, a large white population attended the performance and, to our surprise, they recognized that more interventions of this kind are necessary to dismantle prevailing structures.
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C&AL: How do you think the Museo Afroviviente contributes to global debates and social movements around social justice, anticolonialism and antiracism?
HI: Perhaps at this time, our intervention is more local. Mainly it brings us to ourselves. We women all nurtured each other and grew as we got to know the characters we played, and so will the rest. There is also a great contribution at the community level, since Museo Afroviviente raises awareness in the people around us about what the Afro-feminist anti-racist struggle is.
C&AL: What does the future hold for Hermosa Intervención? Are you working on other projects?
HI: Well, at the moment we are not thinking of any new project because we are still working on and adjusting the Museo Afroviviente. We received a regional grant that will allow us to give two more performances this year and we are open to more coming up so we can reach more people and branch out to other places, like schools, for example.
Hermosa Intervención is a collective of Afro-descendant women based throughout the Americas who use their bodies and voices to reconstruct and share the history of Black women.
Raquel Villar-Pérez is an academic, art curator, and writer, interested in post and decolonial discourses within contemporary art and literature from the socio-political Global South. Her research focuses on the work of women artists addressing notions of transnational feminisms, social and environmental justice, and experimental formulas of presenting these in contemporary art.
Translation: Sara Hanaburgh