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03 Afromexican Healers.jpeg



By Annick Donkers

© Annick Donkers


The coastal region of Guerrero known as "Costa Chica" is home to Mexicans descended from African slaves that identify themselves as being “black”. But outside this region they are little-known and they are currently fighting to be officially recognized by the Mexican State. The Costa Chica is also a place rooted in traditional beliefs that include appearances of trolls, the devil and spirit animals.

The legend tells that when a baby is born, a member of the family brings the child to a crossroads up in the mountains where lots of wild animals pass by. The first creature to approach the child will be the child's spirit animal, or tono in Spanish, since there is now a dependency created between child and animal. This means that when the animal is hurt, wounded or dies, the person is too. In the Afromexican communities there are healers that will cure these “animal”-related illnesses, since conventional medicine will not work in these cases. The person is cured with herbs selected by the healers and also according to the needs of the animal. They call these healers Curanderos del tono and there are only a small number of them left. I went to the Costa Chica region in an attempt to capture what remains of their tradition.

Annick Donkers is a documentary photographer from Antwerp, Belgium who currently lives and works in Mexico City. After obtaining a Masters’ degree in Psychology, she decided to specialize in photography. She has received a grant from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008 and was selected to participate in the 2008 Seminar on Contemporary Photography at the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally and awarded at Sony Awards, IPA Awards, Dodho Magazine, PHmuseum amongst others.



With her series "UN-IDENTIFIED", Annick Donkers participated in PEP's exhibition "Escape".


“«UN-IDENTIFIED» is an ongoing series about the belief in alien species and how people construct their own world and perceptions. The series is based on a personal experience I had at the age of 10 which triggered my passion for the subject and the curiosity to understand the psychology behind. The actual idea for the series started after visiting the International UFO Congress in Phoenix. I was impressed by the multitude of people attracted to this event and the secrecy surrounding the theme. It felt like entering a complete new universe, a subculture where spaceships, contacts by creatures from other dimensions, space travel and abduction are part of the believer’s reality, although seen as strange and with scepticism by outsiders.


Carl Jung once said that modern man projects his inner state onto the heavens. In a cyber culture, full of uncertainties, catastrophes and fears of the unknown, people are looking for a way to define themselves again and feel secure in a group of like-minded people. By giving the unexplainable a divine and supernatural character, they feel hopeful and at the same time chosen to be part of a sacred mission to disclose the truth.“


"UN-IDENTIFIED" by Annick Donkers, from the PEP exhibition "Escape"

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