Full Frame: African rhythm to a Latin American beat


Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field. See more Full Frame galleries here and here.

I spent more than 10 years documenting the indigenous roots of Latin American culture. One assignment covering the Santeria religion in Cuba opened my eyes to another rich aspect of the history and culture of the Americas: the Afro-American peoples. Like the cultures of indigenous groups, the Afro-American cultures and traditions are poorly documented and underappreciated.

My hope is that by documenting these cultures, their record will be preserved for everyone, and the descendants of slaves will be encouraged to maintain their traditions for future generations. Through the creative means of documentary photography, I hope to provide these cultures with a platform for their own life testimony and a way for them to share the richness of their diversity with each other and the broader world.

My documentation of the descendants of Africans who were dispersed throughout the Americas by the slave trade includes images of carnivals, rituals, traditional music and dance, as well as portraits and scenes of everyday life. In this era of globalization and mass communication, the cultures and traditions of once isolated ethnic minority groups are being diluted by dominant cultures.

I have been working for five years on my project “Africa in the Americas” with the idea of producing a book that shows the heritage of the African culture on the American continent. I have never seen a book that gives a global views of this important issue and with Barack Obama's election as U.S. president, I feel more than ever that it is important to do this work. My main objective is to awaken respect for them and to create a consciousness of the value of their presence as a treasure of the continent and of humanity.

About the photographer:

Sebastian “Suki” Belaustegui is a photographer who for the past 18 years has embarked on a mission to document the indigenous cultures that still survive in Latin America. His book, "Guardians of Time: Portrait of the Spirit of Latin America," is a testament to his experiences in 10 countries while living with 25 indigenous communities. Currently he is working on his new editorial project called "Africa in the Americas," documenting the heritage of the African culture in the American continent. His work has been published in magazines such as National Geographic, Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, and he has held numerous exhibitions of his work in museums and art galleries throughout the continent.

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