Professional and Emerging Photographers and Artists 18 years old+ are eligible to apply. Researchers and Academics working in the Arts and Cultures of the Black Diaspora are also encouraged to apply. Photographers are especially encouraged to apply. Knowledge of Spanish is helpful but not mandatory.
El Festival del Nazareno, also known as the Black Christ Festival, is ideal for visual artists, especially photographers, interested in religion, Latin America and the African Diaspora. Participants will be attracted to the age-old rituals and traditions of the colonial town; it’s ancient Spanish forts, breath-taking bay views and colorful mix of Latin, African and Indian cultures.
Participants won’t fail to be stimulated by the abundance of stunning visual imagery, overwhelming emotion and electrifying energy of the festival. More secular than sacred, the Festival boasts streets full of food vendors, shops, make-shift discoteques and pilgrims crawling, dancing, drinking, praying and partying for El Nazareno – The Man from Nazareth – The Black Christ.
Artists will stay in the beautiful, bayside homes of legendary Panamanian photographer, Sandra Eleta, and have the opportunity to discuss their work in community with her and one another, work on small projects and participate in the annual religious festival that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims each year.
About the Festival:
Oral history in Portobelo tells of a crate containing a black sculptural figure of Jesus Christ magically appearing in the bay during a cholera epidemic and being brought ashore by two fishermen. Shortly after the people began venerating the figure, the epidemic miraculously ended. As a result, for the last three centuries on the 21st of October, the Feast Day of the Cristo Negro de Portobelo—Black Christ of Portobelo, is celebrated. The effigy, depicting Christ carrying the cross, normally resides on a podium in the local church, but it is carried through the streets of Portobelo for the Festival del Nazareno, by far the town’s biggest event.
As many as 60,000 devotees make the yearly pilgrimage to visit the statue. Many walk from places as far away as Panama City, a journey of three days. Devotees of La Naza (the man from Nazareth as he is affectionately called) come dressed in elaborate robes or simply in purple and gold, the colors associated with the Black Christ. The pilgrims descend on the small village carrying their homemade altars high above their heads, dragging their heavy, life-sized crosses behind them or crawling into town, their partners pouring hot wax on their bare backs.
The Black Christ Festival is more secular than sacred. The crowds of thousands eat, drink, dance, yell, laugh, and blast music until the wee hours of the morning during the days leading up to the festival. There is a heavy police presence monitoring the crowd and helping to maintain order. After a few days the town is full of the smell of beer, cooking food and pee and the parties are non-stop.
Meet with Panamanian Photographer Sandra Eleta and local visual artists
Take part in Festival activities and parties
Join pilgrims on the walk from Maria Chiquita to Portobelo (optional)
Get a guided tour of historic Portobelo
Get a guided tour of Panama City*
Visit the Panama Canal*
*indicates additional cost
• Round Trip Airfare – NOTE: Participants must make their airfare arrangements for the dates given to avoid an additional $100 transportation fee.
• Dinner and All Meals outside of the Creative Currents Artist Collaborative campus
• Souvenirs and incidentals