“There is a sphere with several points: it is like a star. It floats through the streets and mountains, travels all over the valley. It wanders at night when the children must return to their homes. If they do not, they may meet it, and then, if they look at it, they will lose their human form and become strange animals…or dust. ”

—Oral story narrated in Mascarilla, Ecuador

“Stardust” is a photographic project made between 2015 and 2016 in Mascarilla, a small town located in the Chota Valley in Ecuador. It contains images that reinterpret the intangible heritage of the Afro-Ecuadorian community from the highlands. The series, which represents the everyday life of the people in visual terms, extracts symbols from the stories narrated orally by the inhabitants of the town.

The oral memory of ancestral peoples is not only limited to their myths and legends—it is also a way of revitalizing culture, transmitted by means of speech and daily activities. “Stardust” is a tribute to this living culture, particularly the interlocution and interpretation of ancestral knowledge.

Some of the inhabitants of Mascarilla and their ancestors experienced devastating stories of slavery and exploitation before becoming the community they are today. It is a bright and vibrant town full of magic where women still walk invisible, despite the fact that they are the ones who keep the town afloat.

These photographs speak of the symbiosis between traditions and ancestral oral memory, in particular the mixing of past, present, and contemporary influences.

—Isadora Romero

Romero’s project has been exhibited in Ecuador multiple times, and the photobook dummy was a finalist in the Felifa Futura contest in Buenos Aires, Argentina last November.

If you enjoyed this series, you might like these previous features: Fairy Tale, the eerie, dream-like series Marta Berens created for her daughter that depicts an alternate reality; Namikake: At the Coastline of Niigata, Arito Nishiki’s atmospheric fantasy featuring the ever-changing Japanese landscape; and Fairy Tale from Russia, cinematic and borderline unbelievable images—none of which were staged.