Sankofa Danzafro

Sankofa Danzafro Afro-Colombian Cultural Corporation was founded in 1997 by Rafael Palacios and today consists of a dozen dancers. It is based in the city of Medellín, Colombia, and has a performance trajectory that includes countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Africa and China.

Sankofa Danzafro is a space dedicated to training and artistic creation in contemporary Afro-Colombian dance. By means of social pedagogy projects conducted through dance, in rural and urban communities, Sankofa Danzafro aims to contribute to intercultural training among Black communities in Colombia and other populations whose human rights are being violated.

Sankofa Danzafro is an Akan Twi word (from Ghana) that means “return to the root”. It evokes an African philosophy that suggests that knowing the past is a condition for understanding the present and creating the future. In this sense, Sankofa Danzafro also explores traditional Afro-Colombian dances to identify how they are part of the daily life of Afro communities in rural and urban areas. 

Sankofa Danzafro's work can be considered anti-racist because it seeks to dismantle the legacies of coloniality and stereotypes about Black people that mask their heterogeneity, while also affirming the value of resistance as expressed in embodied form in dances based on collective memory.

The collaborations between Sankofa Danzafro and the CARLA project involved accompaniment in the conceptualisation and creation of dance works and participation in work with the communities. Two results of the work are shown in this exhibition: the documentary Detrás del sur, danzas para Manuel: prácticas artísticas y antirracismo (Behind the south, dances for Manuel: artistic practices and anti-racism); and the documentary Muestra final 2020: laboratorios de creación en casa (Final exhibit 2020: home creation laboratories)

The documentary records Sankofa Danzafro's 21-day artistic retreat in the municipality of Tumaco, in Colombia’s Pacific region, which resulted in the creation of the work Detrás del sur, danzas para Manuel (Behind the south: dances for Manuel).

This work is a dramaturgical assemblage laden with meanings that draw on the novel Changó, el gran putas, by Manuel Zapata Olivella. Eschewing a linear narrative, the work tells of the genesis of the Afro diaspora in the Americas, from an Afro-Colombian perspective, highlighting the struggles that Afro people wage against structural racism and inequality.

In the video, the director and dancers explain how their artistic work is informed by an anti-racist perspective. Among the elements they mention are: a) the use of Afro-Colombian literary references, especially the work Changó, el gran putas; b) the highlighting of Afro spiritualities such as Muntu (defined by Zapata as "the force that unites man with his ancestors and his descendants, immersed in the universe present, past and future"); and c) the use of sounds and aesthetics rooted in the territories of Afro-Colombian communities.

This documentary highlights the role of emotions in creative processes and in the development of an anti-racist narrative through dance and its interpretation.


Fear of infection, anxiety and the urgent need to go out dancing and socialising in the streets of the neighbourhood are among the emotions mentioned by children, adolescents and young people during the making of this documentary.

According to estimates made by NGOs and official city censuses, more than 236,000 Afro-Colombians live in Medellín, 12% of the total population. They live mostly in the city’s working-class sectors. In these areas, dance is an integral part of everyday life and of the affirmation of ethnic identity of these urban communities.

The conditions of exclusion and the various forms of daily racism that are present in Medellín open the way for children, adolescents and young people to find in community dance a way to reflect on who they are and on their social value.

The home-based dance workshops aimed to reinforce these community processes. Artist-educators from Sankofa Danzafro contributed to these processes of self-reflection and the affirmation of ethnic and social identities.

They also provided tools and knowledge about dance technique, how to warm up and prepare a dance class, and how to creatively explore possibilities for choreographic work.