Dominican Republic: “Tiempo de Zafra”

The full title of this article by Yina Jiménez Suriel is “Tiempo de Zafra: Materializing Imaginations from Contemporary Realities.” Tiempo de Zafra is an artist collective that imagines spaces of possibilities through excess and textile waste in the capitalist dynamics.

Yina Jiménez Suriel (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a curator and researcher with a master’s degree in visual studies. She is associate editor of Contemporary And América Latina and associate curator of the Caribbean Art Initiative.

It was extremely difficult to choose excerpts from this fascinating piece (translated by Sara Hanaburgh). Read the full article at Contemporary And América Latina—it includes more photos; audios of songs by Tego Calderón, Rita Indiana & Los Misterios, and Ibrahim Ferrer; and much more. Jiménez Suriel writes:

Tiempo de Zafra is an artists’ collective and fashion design workshop launched in Santo Domingo in 2017. Its practice reflects on excess and textile waste and thus creates a collective that imagines spaces of possibilities subverting capitalist dynamics while generating visualities.

In the afternoon on Wednesday, March 23, I visited Tiempo de Zafra (TDZ) at their home workshop. We sat down to talk under the mango tree in their backyard… Our relationship began less than two years ago, but I knew their work beforehand thanks to another artist, Ernesto Rivera, who has collaborated with the collective. On this occasion my visit had a specific purpose: to take a journey through Tiempo de Zafra’s practice from the perspective of the visualities that they have been generating since the collective’s inception and speculate about them. [. . .]

Point 2: Just as images are a product, we also need to think of them as a germ, and one that is capable of reviving, developing and expanding once it enters into relation. Creating imagination is not only producing object-images, but also creating conditions so that the reception and circulation of said object-images contribute to unquestioningly being a source of complex perceptions capable of arousing movement and affection. In the Dominican Republic, the artistic practice of the Tiempo de Zafra collective is generating intermediary object-images between the concrete and the abstract. Simultaneously, it condenses various functions and uses solutions that are intrinsic to the web of contemporary realities and their desire to materialize imaginations. For example: the body as an entity in relation, without it cancelling out its autonomy; dressing as a communicative act; the body as a political space for alliance and resistance; the awareness that visualities contribute to putting in tension the ideas of those we consider indifferent or repulsive. Also, the street as the space that sustains collective actions that constitute imaginations; subverting consumer capitalist dynamics… how do bodies that inhabit different worlds dress?

Point 3: Zafra comes from the Arabic word سفرة which means “journey” and it originally referred to the journey hundreds of people made to work during the harvest of sugar cane plantations. In the Dominican Republic today, as in other contexts of the American continent, zafra is a time unit that appears twice a year, when sugar cane is harvested and when it is cut. Edgar Garrido and Stephanie Rodríguez, the founders of TDZ intercept this cycle to make it expansive and in their workshop, in the historic center of Santo Domingo, the harvest is constant. Tiempo de Zafra is an artists’ collective and fashion design workshop, launched at the end of 2017. Its practice reflects on excess and textile waste. Edgar and Stephanie created a collective that imagines spaces of possibilities, subverting capitalist dynamics, not only in the consumption of objects and materiality, but also in the generation and circulation of visualities. Dominican and Haitian artists, designers and artisans work in the workshop, and it is both a collective and a strategy that is helping to broaden the ideas of what is possible, resonating with artists’ practices such as Tony Capellán (1955-2017).

Point 4: The collective’s object-images manifest social and economic realities not only of the Dominican Republic, but of a continent where colonial, post-colonial and neo-colonial dynamics coexist and where prophetic images of different imaginations are being generated. It seems appropriate, then, to remember that politics is creation, inventing relationships and spaces for action. And, in that sense, to paraphrase French philosopher Gilbert Simondon in his essay on imagination and invention, one of the most important things about Tiempo de Zafra’s aesthetic language is that by materializing and objectifying itself, it joins other aesthetic manifestations together with which it constitutes a burden that stresses visual culture and partially contributes to a social future.

Point 5: We are the relationships that constitute us, something of our own life is curtailed when other lives and environments are destroyed. Being aware of different communities that make up a society will allow us to build management structures of collective power in interrelation. The conditions that allow the Tiempo de Zafra collective to exist in the Dominican cultural ecosystem are not exceptional or a fortuitous result, but rather the result of the continuity and evolution of ideas that are anchored in the late 1990s. Also, more intensely during the early 2000s, when contemporary art practice in the Dominican Republic began redefining the roles and fields of action of aesthetic art in contexts like this, particularly with the La Vaina Collective and Shampoo Collective projects.

Point 6: The La Vaina collective, at that time, was made up of students from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, today most of them artists with research in different fields of aesthetic thought: Eddy Núñez, Engel Leonardo, Farah Paredes, Fernando Soriano, Ivory Núñez, Karmadavis, Sayuri Guzmán, Virginia Perdomo and Willian Ramírez. La Vaina was established in the city of Santo Domingo in 2000 along with the magazine of the same name. The publication was created in response to the lack of independent, critical and experimental cultural print media and functioned as an exhibition space in editorial format with works by artists, writers and musicians of the city’s then emergent cultural community. Each edition—seven in total—was accompanied by events, performances and installations that were connected to its central theme. For the magazine’s last edition, published in 2005 in the context of Santo Domingo’s International Book Fair, La Vaina produced a bestseller: El Matatain (The Time Killer). The format that had the highest sales records at said Fair was the Time Killers. It was through El Matatain that the collective brought to the public space the first reflections based on contemporary aesthetic thought in relation to the origins and connections between the dictatorial processes of the former Dominican presidents Rafael Trujillo and Joaquín Balaguer and their direct impact on the Dominican present. [. . .]

Point 8: If the city is a tool and format that guarantees the reproduction of the current imagination, how can we intercept it? Answering this question may seem heavy, and it certainly is. However, speaking that afternoon, Stephanie, Edgar and I agreed that there is a very specific and at the same time very porous idea that we can think of as a first response: we can intercept it by appearing in the public space, appearing in the public sphere of a certain community. We arrived at that conclusion after talking about the incidence of the Dominican Dembow and its sound aesthetics in the acceleration of the processes of vindication of the otherness in Dominican society.

Point 9: Tiempo de Zafra has a very close relationship with Dembow and its visual asthetics through the artist Tokischa and the production company Paulus Music. They have created different pieces for Tokischa, perhaps the best known are those used by the artist in the video for the song Tukuntazo, in the video for the song Linda and in the video for the recent song Sistema de Patio. [. . .]

For full article, go to

[Image above: Capture of the video directed by Raymi Paulus of the song Tukuntazo with pieces made by TDZ in collaboration with Tokischa. All the pieces are made with clothes from flea markets.]

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