Chola Contravisual: Interview with Geraldine Zuasnabar
Chola Contravisual is a collective of young feminists created in 2015 and based in Huancayo, Peru.
They seek dignified, free and happy lives for women and lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer (LBTIQ) people. Gender-based violence against women and LBTIQ people is widespread, with high rates of femicide and sexual violence in Peru. The Catholic Church and other conservative forces espouse and enforce social norms, for example, that women should not control their own bodies. The core of the Cholas’ work is audio-visual content creation, workshops and events to oppose these oppressive heteropatriarchal norms. As a result of their work, the Cholas often experience (online) threats and harassment, leading them to emphasise self- and collective-care and digital security in their work.
Mama Cash spoke with Geraldine Zuasnabar of Chola Contravisual about their collective's work, LBTIQ Pride, the collective's training programme and collaboration with feminist funds.
What does Pride mean to you?
In Chola Contravisual, we are trying to get this idea out there of raising the issue of Pride, but doing so from our own setting, our own land. People like us, that have been on the margins, been on the outside, as LBTIQ people, as women and as Indigenous people, have always had challenges. We've never really enjoyed full human rights. Within European Pride movements, there is a focus on equal marriage. For us, other topics are more important. As an LBTIQ collective, we want to put on the agenda not just the right to marry; we want to stop being killed.
Tell us about the recent Pride march in Huancayo.
We took part in the Pride march a little while ago, here in Huancayo. For many, this may seem like nothing much, but for us, it really is very historical that this march took place for the second time, and all the more so during the severe restrictions of the pandemic. We were hoping for 100 people, but 500 came! It was such a powerful act to make ourselves seen because Andean, or Indigenous societies in general, have always been "don't ask, don't tell" about being LBTIQ. It is a very important step forward that, little by little, we are coming out in the streets of every Andean town and having greater visibility in the media.
Can you tell us more about Chola Contravisual?
The history of Chola is a bit complex. We started in Lima, where I graduated in audio-visual communication. I then decided to return to my home town. When I came back and started working with other like-minded people, we realised that there was a very big gap between big cities and small towns or cities.
First, there is not even one art school in our small city, and forget about young women going to these art schools. When we started, we were looking for a female producer in our city and we couldn’t find even one. We were finding these big gaps we wanted to fill, in a lot of aspects of music, audio-visual content and art.
Also, the forms of feminism that we were seeing were using a very colonial lens. That is why we decided to work more from an Andean and Quechua perspective that did not have that colonial vision at the outset. We had to return to our roots, ask ourselves again, "What types of feminism do we want to build?" We decided that we didn't want that white, elite, urban feminism. We are in the process of building our own feminism.
Chola Contravisual focuses its work in three areas. Our main area of work is audio-visual creation using a collaborative, community approach. Taking that as a starting point, we become critics of the state, and in general society too, through art.
We also have a cultural centre where we can come together. Here we offer workshops, concerts and events. The workshops address a variety of topics from hard skills, like musical production, to collaborative self-care sessions or learning to listen to our bodies.
Can you tell us more about Munay Casa, Munay House? Why is it important to have a physical space where LBTIQ people can meet?
We are up against various sorts of very strong fundamentalism, not only from conservative institutions such as churches, but also from our own neighbours. In our communities, it is very unusual that women should live on their own and have trans and queer people visiting them. Although it's hard to have these spaces, it's very meaningful because it shows others that we exist. It is a way of letting young people know that they have some form of support and that there is a space where they can feel a bit freer.
Also, one of the best things about having a space is that it helps you create a platform for collaborative creation, and that is simply magical. Members of our community come and go from different places and create very powerful work. It's really magical that we have this opportunity to stretch our imaginations, to be creative, to do something that they'd said we couldn't do.
What does the Mama Cash grant mean to you?
I don't take the perspective that everything we have achieved is a result of the grant, but it certainly arrived at a very difficult and anxious time for us. We were on the verge of having to shut the cultural house down because we didn't have the funds to keep it open. The Mama Cash grant came in the nick of time, and it was like a motivating force, a signal to carry on. The grant is significant not only for its financial support, but because it shows us that there are funds available for young, trans-feminist collectives that are holding out against all the odds.
Feminist funds provide an opportunity to engage constantly in critical reflection; to reflect on mutual support and reciprocity. It has also been transformative to get to know other Mama Cash partners. We have very powerful sisters who face so much and remain standing. For me, it was a great gift to find out that these processes of struggle and resistance are being supported by other women around the world.
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