IN CONVERSATION WITH ARTIST & ACTIVIST PATRICIA ENCARNACIÓN
The Dominican Republics Diaspora arrived in waves, due to economic hardships in the 1970s and onward in mainland United States.
Afro Dominican activist and artist Patricia Encarnación who resides in New York City along with many women in the Dominican Republic have been fighting for decriminalizing abortion through legislation known as “Las 3 Causales" (The 3 Exceptions) which would allow women and girls to terminate a pregnancy under three exceptional circumstances. 1) In case of rape or incest, 2) when the life of the mother is in danger and 3) when the fetus is not viable. This is relevant today because The Dominican Criminal Code (from 1884) is being updated. Several women have been left to die in the Dominican Republic by being denied a life-saving abortion.
Encarnación also uses her Artworks to explore the perception of being the Caribbean, through quotidian objects, landscapes, and aesthetics she was exposed to growing up in her homeland. Her work intends to dismantle impositions of social roles and biased history by showcasing their effect on herself and her surroundings.
The 3 Exceptions has been met with resistance from government officials, and the Church.
Protestors have installed a camp in front of El Palacio Nacional in the Dominican Republic stating that they are going to stay put until Las Tres Causales are included in the Criminal Code.
The Church & Government Are Silencing & Bullying Dominicans
IMAGE PLAYS JOURNAL: How did you become involved in this type of work?
PATRICIA ENCARNACIÓN: From the moment I was told for the first time that "I couldn't do certain things because I was a woman", maybe I was 9-10 years old. Since then, I have always used all my skills and tools available to change that narrative. As a teenager, I always tried to participate and collaborate in spaces that many called "rebellion." I called it questioning the system. Later in my life, being part of the diaspora, I understood the responsibility we have as an immigrant community to amplify and internationalize the injustices that happen in our motherland.
IMAGE PLAYS JOURNAL: Why do you think these problems exist?
PATRICIA ENCARNACIÓN: Precisely this problem lies in the same initial idea that I presented in the previous question. The idea of the binary gender and the conservative ideas fixed the social behaviors of women and men. The same concept of saying "you can't do x because you're a woman" is the same that motivates those "prolife" to dictate over the life and body of a woman. In the end, everything is on the patriarchal capitalist system we live in, which sustained itself by the established hierarchies of gender and race. This is why we see that the most affected are always women of color, those vulnerable ones that the
system needs to keep in a permanent cycle of poverty.
In "El Negro Detrás de la Oreja" - (The Black Behind the Ear) aims to enhance Dominican culture by marginalizing racial and classist stigmas that disrupt our society.
"Through a series of popular objects cast in porcelain and photographs, I create compositions with minimalist aesthetics interpreting popular Dominican phrases to depict 'Dominicanidad' in a decolonial context.
This project highlights how the culture of the Caribbean tends to be defined through the voices of its colonizers, thus excluding the rich heritage of our African and Taino ancestors".
IMAGE PLAYS JOURNAL: Do you consider what you do human rights work?
PATRICIA ENCARNACIÓN: Yes, and I like to think of my work and my art as a catalyst for others to learn that questioning imposed systems is part of our rights. The way I see it, the struggle for human rights is composed of many forms of participation, from active activism to small actions in our daily lives.
In the case of the Three Exceptions, the front line has been in the hands of Dominican women in the Dominican Republic. They have been (for more than a month) in front of the National Palace and (recently) in Congress. My colleagues and I here in New York have echoed the situation to the diaspora. By doing demonstrations in solidarity, contacting the media, and amplifying the voices, not only of the activists but of the Dominican people, who in their majority do support the three exceptions to the total abortion ban.
IMAGE PLAYS JOURNAL: What are ways that people can take effective action for
PATRICIA ENCARNACIÓN: There are thousands of ways, but for me, it is essential to nurture and encourage horizontal and intersectional conversations in order to acquire more strength as a community, to understand our needs, and thus continue to establish specific strategies and goals, and not exclusionary plans.
"El Negro Detrás de la Oreja" Series- (The Black Behind the Ear)
IMAGE PLAYS JOURNAL: What are some of the approaches and methods you use in your work?
PATRICIA ENCARNACIÓN: I use quotidian visual languages under reframe "Dominicaness" and "The Caribbean". Most of the time, these entities are seeing through a whitewashed lens. And this is precisely, what I try to unpack and reflect on, and invite the public to unlearn with me.
"Pan con Aguacate" - "El Negro Detrás de la Oreja" - (The Black Behind the Ear) Series
IMAGE PLAYS JOURNAL: What are some of the problems you face in your work?
PATRICIA ENCARNACIÓN : I focus on analyzing the (lie) idea that we live in a post-colonial world, colonial agenda has never stopped it has been renamed. Through quotidians artifacts, landscapes, I try to depict the different realities that each social group has to live. Social gaps in the Caribbean create totally polarized experiences, where what many believe is a paradise for others is the opposite. The race and gender imbalances found in between these gaps are what I try to observe and criticize.
"Guayando La Yuca", - "El Negro Detrás de la Oreja" - (The Black Behind the Ear) Series
The Black Behind the Ear” is an old Dominican idiom first used in the 1883 poem by Juan Antonio Alix. The poem is a criticism of racial prejudice when Dominicans prioritize their European or white heritage while simultaneously rejecting their African roots.
“The white one”, who had a grandmother, As black as coal, Never mentions her, Even if they are set on fire. And to their aunt Mrs. Beans, Since she was white, They never stop mentioning her;
To make people understand, That they never had, The Black behind the Ear.” – Juan Antonio Alix
PROTESTORS RALLY INFRONT OF EL PALACIO NACIONAL