Meet Chipo Kandake: Cultural Historian + Ethnographer Cultivating Afro-Mexican Dance History

The conversation of the African Diaspora is one that needs more attentiveness and consciousness across various mass media platforms. The nature of preserving many of its traditions and cultures has a vital impact that exists all around the world. There are so many narratives of Afro-descendants that need to be heard. Many of us have heard stories of the oppressors but the real authentic stories come from the oppressed. The native tongue understands what it feels like to be in the shoes of a Black person. Blackness is truly universal no matter where you hail from your experience matters. 

Whether you are a Black Creole from Louisiana or an Afro-Mexican, we are bridging the gap that once separated us. This is the work being done by Cultural Historian, Filmmaker, and Musicologist – Chipo Kandake. She utilizes her spiritual dancing and ethnography to raise awareness about the Afro-Diaspora heritage. As she breaks barriers her work highlights the customs that roots back to the motherland. Chipo firsthand experiences the culture and everyday life of the Afro/Indigenous natives in Quintana Roo, Mexico. One could live vicariously through her content. Whether it’s her spiritual vibrations and dance to the beat of the African drums on the beach. 

Her Afro research will cover connections that root back to the Southern,United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Chipo hopes to unify Black Americans and Mexicans looking to connect back to the diaspora. This Women’s History Month, we honor Chipo Kandake for her contributions. 

Photography By: @Cozmoblackmagic

Talk to me about your upbringing and growing up as a Black woman.

I mean I grew up in a single-parent household with only me and my mom. She always had multiple jobs and was in school to get her Masters Degree. She worked hard like most Black mothers but never made any excuses or ever showed she was sad about it. Through all of that my mother was very eccentric and always had friends from all over the world! Russia, Senegal, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico! 

She really influenced me to be open minded. I spent most of my childhood in the projects but I never had a project mentality. My mind was always outside my environment. By the time I was in high school my mom moved us to the suburbs because I was weird and she didn’t want me to get beat up. Growing up poor has kept me humble and appreciate of a lot of things. It has also taught me how to survive and to preserve even when it seems like you got nothing.

Did you ever experience any challenges as a Black woman? If so how did you conquer these obstacles ?

Yes of course, you know the same old story. I’m darker skinned so that was always the thing that people made fun of or disregarded me for. Even in my travels throughout the Caribbean. I also feel I get misunderstood by people who are not of the “Black experience” because my expression is strong. They may think I’m too aggressive or angry. I think this is so funny because I’m just saying what I feel. But as Black Women we express ourselves with great force because we hold great power. How do overcome it, I just simply do me.

How much did the culture and music in Louisiana contribute to your passion to explore deeper ?

I grew up on Zydeco music and came into bounce and second-line later in my life. It’s the the backdrop music to my life so its always on my mind. Naturally, when I travel or read about another place, I make comparison when something’s rings a bell in my brain. And when it came to dance, that bell has been ringing off the hook.

Photography By: @Fotografi.ando

At what point in your life did you begin connecting to the article on dance and music?

I’ve been dancing since I can remember my earliest memories are of me performing on the porch for my great-grandma. I didn’t like playing games with other kids outside. I’d rather sing and dance for my granny till the sun went down. It was what my family and school mates knew me for.

As far as music, I just had an unusual yearning to hear and discover many types of genres and artists from all over the world. I spent most of my childhood going to the library researching, checking out books, CDs to gain a deep appreciation and knowledge of the music and the culture that surrounds it.

What is your cultural background and how has it influenced your passion for spiritual dancing?

My people from Louisiana, the country. Creole on both sides! but I grew up in Houston Texas. People in my family are disconnected from our roots so our culture didn’t influence me but my mother loved to sing and dance everything from ballet, jazz, crumping! So that was always the center of my life. We never had a proper living room in the house. No couches or tables. Only a dance floor and a wall mirror.

When did you begin feeling connected to the Afro-Latin dance community?

Always, I feel connected to Black people all over the world

From your research thus far within the Afro-Latinx community. What comparisons can you draw between Louisiana’s musical influences and the Afro-Latin dance community?

Well that’s what you’ll have to wait to see in the documentary! I will say that because of Louisiana’s unique history we share similar colonizers and native history.

Why was it so important for you to explore the African Diaspora of dance in specifically Mexico?

It’s important because they are right there! So close to us. The African Diaspora is real, it’s everywhere but it isn’t talked about much publicly when it comes to Mexico. So let’s talk about it!

Do you feel like there is a lack of light shed on the Black influences that have impacted Mexico’s culture and traditions ? 

Absolutely! That is seen in most non-African countries in the world because as I said earlier about some strong spirit be like suppress it’s kind of the NADAW by Jess as you will see in the documentary that I’m working nine people in I generation are trying to connect SPHONEX or the route so you got only suppress their information for so long.

What do you hope to gain from the Afro-Mexico expedition and journey? 

Not only do I want to make connections with Mexico and Africa but more importantly would like to build that bridge between Afro-Mexicans and Black people in the United States because we have a shared history but have been disconnected for so long. I’m using the medium of dance to do it!

Photography By: @KeikenMedia & @Thetribetulum

How do you use your platform to educate others on the African Diaspora in Louisiana and Latin American countries?

I use my platforms, my social media to talk about things that I like things that I am interested in and that’s a big range of things. People like it and find what I’m saying interesting. I never really try to educate people but I love sharing information or my thoughts on places around the world, their cultures just to subliminally show we are the same. that’s just how my brain sees things and if people are enjoying it that’s great like that’s perfect!

Photography BY: @Laneslense

Check out Chipo work here: ChipoKandake Instagram

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