My photo of Chupoo Alafonté from Women En Large is in the CorpoRealities exhibition at the PH21 Gallery in Budapest. A curated international photography exhibition from August 29 – September 21, 2019.
From PH21: The human body, in full or in part, is often in the focus of various photographic genres. From documentary, event and street photography to fashion photography and the nude, photographers have always found ways of constructing images in which the specific portrayal of the human body gains significance. This may be stemming from the rich layers of meanings determined and shaped by the specific socio-cultural context of the image, the visual interaction of the human body with the surrounding physical space, or the intriguing compositional possibilities offered by the body itself. When focusing on the body, some photographers explore movements, study expressive gestures and postures, or concentrate on the beauty and details of the human anatomy. Some narrate whole life stories through the depiction of the human body. Others may offer stern visual criticism of our normative conceptions of the human body and its mainstream representation in Western media.
And here is Chupoo’s brilliant text from Women En Large:
When I think of what it means to be a fat, black woman, I think of my ancestors, women at the lowest rung of society, who were forced to serve, nurture, and give birth to a nation that hates and fears people who look like me. Those women were the invisible foundation used to build other people’s wealth and self-esteem. During slavery in this country, black women and men were used to physically build America. Black women were used as chattels to continuously replenish the slavery populations, as pawns to destroy black men’s self-esteem, and as meat to satisfy white men sexually. These women did not have the luxury to worry about their growing dress size. The life they lived called for big, strong bodies that could endure. Many petite, frail little women just couldn’t (and didn’t) survive the brutishness of living in America.
These facts may seem like ancient history to some, but it’s been less than forty years since white people decided it was all right for black people to sit next to them at a lunch counter. As a matter of fact, it’s still not okay for fat black people to sit next to whites at a lunch counter. One can say or do just about anything they want to a fat person in public. What makes the abuse different for women of color as opposed to white women is that for black women it’s nothing new.
Most people of color in this country are not living in their natural habitat. Most African and Indigenous people living in America come from a place where geography and climate dictated that the evolution of their bodies’ metabolism be efficient and able to store food to survive in their native environment. As we were introduced to European culture, we immediately began to lose access to the food and remedies we knew.
The percentage of large people in communities of color is much large than in white communities, and the less we have assimilated to the dominant European culture, the more we are accepted in our own community. I rarely experience discrimination because of fat in the black community. I feel the hatred when I am in public, where white people dominate. Even other black people will ostracize me if we are in a white environment.
So when you ask me about my life as a fat black woman, I have to talk about the many struggles of my people. A black woman is often invisible even in the movements where she is on the front lines. Black males reaped the benefits of the civil rights movement. White women benefit from the women’s movement and affirmative action. Black women are on the bottom of the heap even in these struggles. The realities of our lives are overwhelming, and we still don’t have the luxury of contemplating our growing dress size.
Survival is more important than acceptance. – Chupoo Alafonté – Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes 1994