Roxana Barba Examines the Past, Confronts the Future in ‘Apuntes Americanos-Kanay’

Written By Rebekah Lanae Lengel
October 12, 2023 at 2:58 PM

Performers Briana Mendez, Carlos Fabian Medina, Dayna Maldonado and Roxana Barba in “Apuntes Americanos-Kanay.”  The multimedia work will be performed at the Koubek Center at Miami Dade College on Friday, Oct. 27 and Saturday, Oct. 28. (Photo courtesy of Paulo Cezar Alves)

The origins of Roxana Barba’s latest multimedia work “Apuntes Americanos-Kanay” are rooted in ancient history—  3,000 years before Christ history, on pre-Incan civilizations, cultures that had a deep study of cosmology and intricate relationships with the natural world.

“The cosmology really explains their view of the world and their existence and how the natural world, meaning their ancestors, their family and themselves, they were all interconnected,” says Barba after returning to Miami from an intensive month-long residency in the Peruvian rainforest.  “I found that understanding was powerful and very relevant to me personally now, during these times where a main crisis has to do with the environmental crisis and our disconnection from the world around us.”

Sculpture by Marco Herrera. Performers Briana Mendez, Carlos Fabian Medina, Dayna Maldonado and Roxana Barba in the multidisciplinary work ‘Apuntes Americanos-Kanay.’ (Photo courtesy of Paulo Cezar Alves)

With support from the Knight Foundation, Barba began the research and development of the work in 2019 and created an early version, which she presented in 2021 in Peru with support from Alliance Cultural Française de Miraflores and Correlación Contemporánea.

Using archeological research of 19th-century French explorers as an entry point, “Apuntes Americanos-Kanay” has Barbra reimagining the Eurocentric vision of ancient Peruvian culture, excavating and sifting for truth among the long-held European archetypes of indigenous cultures and how they impact present-day thinking.

“The French explorers presented the image of this indigenous savage man, woman. For me, that was also particularly interesting because you know when we come to understand how we see race, how we see social classes, all these things are very rooted in historic events.”

Mixing movement, iconography, text and music that is informed by the past with a vision of a future, represented through an augmented reality video projections by artist Leo Casteneda, audiences are invited to enter an archeological excavation into a world of surprises.

Performer Briana Mendez at Alianza Cultural Francesa de Miraflores, Lima, Peru, 2022 in Roxana Barba’s “Apuntes Americanos-Kanay.” (Photo courtesy of Paulo Cezar Alves)

“We take the liberty to make a little bit of fun of the French gaze towards what was observed through dance, through text,” she says, “with the idea that we reflect critically on our past, but also, use that —  use what we learn to also decolonize the way that we envision our future as better embracing our place in the world.”

The piece also plays with the idea of time, borrowing from how it was viewed by ancient cultures.  “One of the main things of the ancestral cosmovision is the way that time is viewed,” says Barba.  “It is so unlike the way that we see time, which is linear  — past, present, future.  They see time as cyclical, so that’s why there’s a life and an afterlife. When I started thinking of these cyclical phases, perhaps like personal phases, while also looking at the world and what cycles we go through now, I felt that I understood what was happening in a larger dimension.”

The observation of these cycles and how early colonial framing of indigenous cultures continue to be portrayed in the present was further reinforced for Barba during the 2022 social and political protests in Peru, political violence that Amnesty International ascribed to systemic racism ingrained in Peruvian society and its authorities for decades.

Performer Briana Mendez at Alianza Cultural Francesa de Miraflores, Lima, Peru, 2022, in Roxana Barba’s “Apuntes Americanos-Kanay” (Photo courtesy of Paulo Cezar Alves)

“Watching this from afar and having just presented an early version of the piece in Peru . . . it felt terribly upsetting, and felt I had to respond to these events somehow through the work.”

The resultant multi-sensory experience ultimately is meant to invoke curiosity, understanding, joy and a deeper connection to the natural world and humanity.

As Barba says, “It includes some unexpected surprises where we hopefully make people laugh, but then also, walk out with a sense of . . . that they may have had a profound experience.”

WHAT: “Apuntes Americanos-Kanay,” a multidisciplinary and multimedia work created and directed by Roxana Barba

WHEN: 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 27 and Saturday, Oct. 28

WHERE: The Koubek Center Theater at Miami Dade College, 2705 S.W. 3rd St., Miami

COST: $15 online in advance

INFORMATION: (305) 237-7750 and is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at

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