Afro-Colombians: Roads of Freedom

a cultural exhibition in partnership with the memphis in may international festival and the national museum of colombia

Showing May 6 - 31 • Included with Admission

Afro-Colombians: Roads of Freedom is a traveling photography exhibition from the National Museum of Colombia depicts everyday life and most important passages and places that Africans traveled and settled on their way to freedom from Colombia’s Pacific Coast to the country’s interior. 

Slavery was officially abolished in Colombia in 1851, and yet time has done little to erase its marks on the Afro-Colombian population, and on the rest of the nation. The ramifications of this domination, humiliation, and exclusion have permeated the everyday lives of Afro-Colombians and their forms of social organization. The shadow of enslavement remains rooted in the collective unconscious and is embodied and expressed in the profound economic asymmetries and unequal opportunities for Afro-descendants who forged and reaffirmed its own forms of life, government, and social organization 

Afro-Colombians: Roads to Freedom is a series of photographs taken by Brazilian photographer André Cypriano in 2010, that delves into the life of the inhabitants of iconic places of the Colombian Pacific coast where their insular lifestyle, ancestral pride, customs, religious practices, and language clearly differentiate this ethnic group from the rest of Colombian society.  The photos document Afro-Colombian communities in San Andrés, Providence, Cartagena, San Basilio de Palenque, Quibdó, Cértegui, Unión Panamericana, Tadó, Buenaventura, Cali, Ladrilleros, Juanchaco, Guapi, and Bogotá. 

After an initial itinerary sponsored by the Colombian Ministry of Culture’s Populations Office, the National Museum of Colombia is taking the exhibition on the road to different parts of the country, as part of its traveling exhibitions program. The aim of the program is to introduce national and foreign audiences to Colombia’s cultural heritage. 

San Basilio de Palenque, Bolívar;
This young man, perched on the goal posts of a soccer field in San Basilio de Palenque, represents the present and future of a community that in 2005 joined UNESCO's list of World Cultural Heritage Sites.​​​​​​​


Traditional Mining; Artisanal mining remains an important economic activity among Afro-Colombian families in the Pacific region. In this photo, artisanal miners in Tadó, Chocó labor in an alluvial gold mine.


The Torres Family House in the Village of Sansón; Members of the Torres family have been among the greatest marimba players in Colombia’s southern Pacific. ​​​​​​​Their family home is typical of Afro-Colombian constructions, built to accommodate extended families, and the place to listen to music and dance ​​​​​​​


Nohemí Cetré Camacho (left) and María Ángela Caicedo (right); Pots and pans and other kitchen instruments must be kept clean, bright, and visible. The same applies to clothing. Afro-Colombian women living along the river are adept ​​​​​​​in walking perfectly balanced with large containers on their heads with laundry or other items.


Cartagena, Bolívar; Slaves arrived at the port of Cartagena de Indias, where they were sold and forced to labor in territories throughout South America.​​​​​​​ This young man makes his living selling drinks atop the walls of the fortress-city built with the labor of enslaved Africans during the 16th and 17th centuries. The walls were built primarily as a defense against pirates.​​​​​​​