“¡Negra! Si. ¡Negra! Soy. ¡Negra! Negra.” (Black! Yes, Black. I am. Black! Black.), Victoria Santa Cruz declaratively shouts her performance, Me Gritaron Negra, which is an excerpt from the documentary Victoria – Black and Woman (1978). Here Santa Cruz stands, her shoulders back and head up high, with an ensemble of individuals as they collectively claim their blackness in 1978 Peru, a place that, like many Hispanic countries, has denied the existence of blackness in its population, culture, and history.
Victoria Santa Cruz was born in 1922 into a large Afro-Peruvian family that consisted of artists, musicians, and intellectuals. Along with her younger brother, Santa Cruz in 1958 co-founded Cumanana, the first black theatre company in Peru. During the course of her prolific career, Santa Cruz studied theatre and choreography in Paris and became a sought-after costume designer, performer, director; near the end of her life, she became visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Her work was based on ancestral memory and surfacing black narratives via performance, writing, dance, music, and art in an effort to celebrate forgotten black rituals and cultural practices in Peru and beyond. In 2014, Cruz died in Lima and was laid in state at the Museo de la Nación. Today Santa Cruz’s work reminds us of her valuable contributions in the arts and a lifetime dedicated to scholarship and the empowerment of black consciousness.
Me gritaron negra (They Shouted Black at Me), 1978
Excerpt from the film "Victoria. Black and Woman", 1978, directed by Torgeir Wethal, produced by Odin Teatret
Courtesy of Odin Teatret Archives