Photonovela <i>La Madre made</i> by the Yuyachkani cultural group in 1974. Courtesy of the Yuyachkani cultural group
Photonovela La Madre made by the Yuyachkani cultural group in 1974. Courtesy of the Yuyachkani cultural group

Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani is one of the most important representatives of so-called group theater in Latin America. The group is a pioneer in collective creation, experimentation, and political performance. "Yuyachkani" is a Quechua word meaning "I am thinking"/"I am remembering", a metaphor that has served to investigate and analyze the syncretism of theatricalities found in Peruvian traditions and indigenous culture in the Peruvian political and social context since the group started in 1971, also incorporating insights of the masters of universal theater. With the bodies and presence of the creative actors and actresses in the group a fundamental element of their work, Yuyachkani approaches its creations from a space that embraces several languages. Their work frequently features the presence of bodies in the space, as well as theatrical text, elements of documentary archive, photography, installation, dance, and play, arranging the dramaturgy according to what creation demands throughout the process.

The group's members, directed by Miguel Rubio, define themselves not only as creative actors and actresses, but as citizens and activists. Using theater as a starting point, they seek to reactivate social and historical memory through themes as diverse as land struggle, migration, marginalization, political violence against women, justice, the dilemma of the displaced returning to their native countries, and the disappeared. These urgent themes do not exclude broader themes, such as reflections on the human condition and the hope for a future that includes all lives on the planet — both human life in all its diversity, as well as animals and life in nature, all of which are attacked and exploited by the current ruling system.

Such circumstances intensified dramatically during the period of internal violence carried out by the Peruvian govnerment and the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, which lasted two decades and resulted in a brutal genocide among the country's indigenous population and other sectors in the country. This long period had an enormous effect on the group and is expressed in the dramaturgy of many of their works.

The group's beginning was marked by political militance alongside leftist parties, collaborating in demonstrations and protests relating to the plight of workers and peasants. Gradually, the group dissociated itself from political ideologies, committing fully to theatrical creation as a tool for social change. Today, their theater-house is a space dedicated to the community where, apart from presenting their works, they seek to convey their experiences through workshops that use theatrical methods to promote inclusive experiences, as well as creating the Conferências Cênicas [Staged Conferences], individual works through which actors and actresses reveal their creative processes and the relationships they have with the director.

Over its 50 year history, through its numerous plays, street actions, workshops, and seminars, the cultural group Yuyachkani has recreated a genealogy of Peru's recent history. The presentation of its archive at the 34th Bienal de São Paulo is the first attempt to openly and performatively exhibit the documents, images, personal magazines, booklets, videos, and photographs that the group used to compose its works and to engage with the work's context. Far from following a chronological order, this archive is organized according to the principal themes the group has been addressing since its beginnings in 1971: theater as a way of life, collective creation, the body and violence, and pedagogy.

  1. Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
  2. Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
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