Denial, consumption, religion, activism, therapy; people choose their mechanisms wisely to survive in a world that becomes less livable each day. In Cali, the third city of a third world country that offers its inhabitants less opportunities than problems, that mechanism is pleasure, and it comes in the form of dance.
Destiny for thousands of people displaced by the country's long internal conflict, and more recently Venezuela’s, tropical, bohemian, racist and elitist Cali is home to 2.2 million people who live amidst the deep economic and social differences of a country called Colombia, not Columbia.
Two thousand nineteen closed with 1,114 violent deaths, the lowest rate in the last 35 years according to the local newspaper, and the city produces fewer jobs than its inhabitants need. 175,000 people were looking for work in the last three months of 2019. The result? Uncontrollable "common crime" (the term used to justify social injustice turned to crime), fuelled by the fact that the army and police forces are usually the ones behind most organized crime.
Despite everything, people from this corner of the world turn to rhythm to find comfort. They have a close relationship with music and dancing helps them fight the feeling of uncertainty: pumping back sweat, happiness and empowerment.
Dayana Obando had a relationship with images before discovering photography. As a child, she would take pictures with her eyes and keep the images in her head. At age 10, walking over a bridge, she took an unforgettable photo that would remain forever in her imaginary album. Perhaps it was then when her relationship with photography and the city was born.
Growing up with a father who liked to read stories in the backyard, that hired salesmen who sold coffee walking the downtown streets for a living, Dayana learned to love people, their stories and the city center. When she turned 15, she asked her father for a cheap pocket camera and began taking photos without having a clear intention from the beginning.
Later in life, when she discovered that her father was not reading stories and was actually making them up for her every night, she understood the power that lies within us. We choose how we see, what we forget, what we remember. We choose our version of the story.
What's the value in saving images that evoke the past and keep the secrets of the streets where the city is born? Is there meaning hiding in what things once were?
Documenting from different ways of seeing is Dayana's pleasure. Corroded by time, with its poor corners and strong realities, downtown Cali is resilient and full of heart. Like the city, despite the difficulties, she finds a symbol of power in her camera; a device that allows her to talk loud and makes her look and feel stronger.
My camera is my weapon. It's my phallus.
There are not a lot of photography jobs in Colombia and women are eclipsed by men. In an always challenging artistic scene, the media focuses on the powerful, whose work may not necessarily be better, but monopolize the visibility. In the local circle of artists, photography is not considered art. Yet, Dayana captures instants that many people don’t see, and finds beauty where others fail to find it. Resilience. Maybe that's her art.
Colombia's government (or lack thereof) with its twisting horror movie plots makes things get so ugly that sometimes the beauty of daily life loses meaning. Resisting, and contributing from each action is a must, so that maybe, only maybe, things can change. What would happen if the way people see changes?
With humble eyes and still living near the center in order to walk everywhere armed with her camera, Dayana joins forms of protest that fight for the defense of life in a country where the voice is mostly used to claim the continuous abuse of the State.
And for singing.