Esperanza Sanchez Espitia

Get to Know” is a series that profiles Indigenous artists engaged in Harbour projects. Collective member Vanda Fleury connected with Esperanza Sanchez Espitia by Zoom in the Spring of 2022 to bring you this feature article.
 

Storytelling and filmmaking are mutually exclusive for Esperanza Sanchez Espitia. She is a Latin American artist grounded in ancestral knowledge, community narratives and education. She carries an artist portfolio with unmistakable character and deep lines ingrained in the leather; it has stayed true to form. To unpack her work is to journey through memories and imagery bound together by experiences and relationships spanning over several decades. Years ago, she committed to her ancestors, her mom, her grandma, and her aunties to focus her energy on education. Esperanza carries a sadness in her heart for the enormous injustice against women who live in conditions of poverty and who have been denied access to education for millennia. Esperanza’s great-grandmother, grandmother and mother died completely illiterate, unable to read or write. This is at the core of Esperanza continuing her university studies: It honours the memory of her female ancestors.

Esperanza’s lens has captured local and international stories of displacement and oppression. Drawing parallels between grim days to her dark room in Bogota, Colombia, where she developed 35mm photographic negative and positive film, these early experiences contribute to the political knowledge she carries today. She knows silence is rooted in fear, and has trusted her inner voice to guide her path. A process worthy of the time to develop, what was once an echo is now a steady current. Thoughtful and compassionate, Esperanza exposes discrimination against Indigenous people, women, and children by illuminating their truth(s). There is always light where shadows lurk.

With both hands firmly on the camera, she describes herself as a cosmopolitan storyteller who connects with refugees and vulnerable peoples. Her work transforms pain into stories that help others and communicates messages of safe passage, of resiliency, and of hope. She enjoyed a professional career as a journalist that took her to Geneva, New York, and across South America. From an empirical photographer in Columbia to a student photographer at a Canadian university, she has earned her place as a respected Indigenous photographer and filmmaker. She is currently pursuing a film degree and career in post-secondary education in Regina, Saskatchewan. Esperanza has come full circle.

Photography, analogue, and digital film opened a world of colour for Esperanza; it’s reflected in the images she produces. She is a base lense artist who has mastered the art of lighting. With precision technique and an eye trained to capture light, her choice of lens is always deliberate. Esperanza’s collection of photographs showcases pottery and handwoven baskets that were molded and shaped by the hands of women. Then meet the gaze of a woman breastfeeding her child to share a tender moment in the celebration of life. This is sacred work that honours female energy, families, and the communities at the source. She continues to experiment with Eko processing of 16- and 8-mm film because learning is a lifelong journey. Another great teacher is the land, and the synergy Esperanza feels with nature and animals. These are her gifts that ignite her spirt as an artist, and as an activist.

New technologies and the knowledge she acquired throughout her professional experiences has equipped her with a practical skillset. Her passion and dedication made for a seamless transfer to film. 2021 was a monumental year where her work was acknowledged across Canada. She won the 48-hour RPL Filmmaking Challenge with her film, Our First Apartment. Another film, Whispering to my Soul, was part of the widely celebrated Sâkêwêwak Film Festival. Her film Surgery also received notable attention as an official selection of both the Toronto International Women Festival and the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative.

Esperanza is inspired by the local arts community and that was a meaningful part of the workshop presented by Harbour Collective. It provided an opportunity to connect in person and work as a team, in the middle of a long pandemic. Forging everlasting relationships carries it forward. She loves the involvement of collective experiences because it “fosters a sense of belonging for everyone.” Participation is about bringing together families and children to support their ideas and passions, and that is when she sees imagination come to life! Engaging with community through art and education continues to honour the pledge she made to her female ancestors.

Though Esperanza’s journey is one of evolution, the concept of being an artist took time to process. Perhaps because it shifts the angle? As a journalist she was a documentarian, whereas self-documentation turns that inward. It requires a soft focus, where personal follow-up is an act of self-love. And courage. Supported by a lifetime of memories and lived experiences, Esperanza is at home in this work. She is a long-time advocate of using voice and there is power in the language of self-reflection. This is evident in her upcoming film Dafna, an experimental autoethnographic project that features a woman born into poverty, and the challenges she overcomes to attain a university degree.

Get to know Esperanza Sanchez Espitia by following her on Instagram @esperanzasanchezespitia.

Esperanza Sanchez Espitia is a Colombo Canadian photojournalist, a base lenses artist, and a women storyteller filmmaker. Esperanza has been using her cameras to fight against women’s and First Nations People’s discrimination. Esperanza’s artistic work has been exposed on a national and international level.

1 Comment
  1. Juan Carlos Montenegro 2 years ago

    Orgulloso de ésta gran colombiana, que se ha forjado a pulso, con tesón, en silencio.
    Poseedora de un don con el que captura eternidades y rebela realidades a un mundo que no mira en su interior; un alma que a su manera se vuelve escudo a favor de la cultura indígena, y que con su lente se niega como pocos a dejar morir su legado.
    Pedirle al mundo más como ella.

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