Note from BW of Brazil: It is a growing outlet for the expression of the Afro-Brazilian expression. In southern Brazil, black actors and actresses are showing that black audiences, traditionally not consumers of theater, will come out if they feel represented and can identify with the characters portrayed in the pieces of a genre that could be entitled ‘Black Theater’. This was a topic we approached in an article last year about the critically-acclaimed piece The Mountaintop starring the husband and wife acting duo, Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo. Of course we know there will be those who will make the accusation of segregating theater along racial lines. To this we counter: if Brazil doesn’t want to share the Afro-Brazilian experience or treat it as if it doesn’t exist or matter, we’ll take it upon ourselves to take it to the stage because the black experience matters!
United in plurality, theatrical collectives celebrate the scene of black artists in Rio Grande do Sul
Caixa-Preta group and the more recent Pretagô and Montigente demand leading roles in their own histories
By Fábio Prikladnicki
One of the most experienced names in the theatrical scene composed of black artists in Rio Grande do Sul, director Jessé Oliveira remembers having wondered, in the early 2000s, if he would get enough Afro-Brazilian actors to participate in the spectacular Transegun (2003), since he knew few professionals with this profile. To his surprise, it began to be sought out by several people interested in the project.
“It was there that I realized that the problem was not the absence of black actors, but the absence of a labor market that gave them artistic visibility,” says Oliveira.
Fronting of the Caixa-Preta group, which has been active since 2002, the director celebrates what he calls “an incipient job market for black actors and directors in Rio Grande do Sul.” Proof of this was the creation, in the last five years, of two other groups dedicated to Afro-Brazilian culture: Montigente in 2011 and Pretagô in 2014, that is again putting on the spectacular Qual a diferença entre o charme e o funk? (What’s the difference between charme and funk?), with sessions this Friday (25/11) and Saturday (26/11) at the Teatro do Sesc Centro, in Porto Alegre.
The recognition of the effervescent scene of the collectives has already begun to be harvested: in September, another work of the Pretagô, AfroMe, won the Braskem Em Cena Award for best performance by the popular jury. At the same time, the process of creation of Dança do tempo, from the Usina do Trabalho do Ator (UTA or Worker’s Factory of the Actor), took the highlight category. Although it is not only dedicated to the Afro-Brazilian culture, UTA has been focusing on the theme.
The actress Dedy Ricardo of the UTA, who is currently dedicating herself to a master’s degree research in UFRGS on the presence of black actresses on the stages of the state, places two circumstances that helped to constitute this scene: the artistic workshops of decentralization realized by the government of the capital city in the 1990s and, more recently, the quota policy that increased the participation of Afro-descendants in the university. Dedy notes that black actresses bring a unique debate to the scene:
“Besides racism, they suffer from the gender issue. They denounce the exaggerated sexualization of the black woman who appears in the stereotype of the gostosona (sexually ‘hot’) or the mulata globeleza and criticize another stereotype, the one of the maid, of the submissive black woman.”
Director of the group Pretagô, Thiago Pirajira argues that the work of the group is not classified in the category of political or engaged theater, but is understood as art “period”:
“If anyone asks me what we want to propose, I respond that it is a celebration of life. But the lives of members of Pretagô are permeated by social reality, intersected by various types of violence, racism and exclusion. This automatically looms over our works.”
In common, the artists interviewed for this report demand, each in their own way, a representativeness through a consistent aesthetic work. Oliveira, for example, points out that one of the objectives of the creation of the Caixa-Preta group in 2002 was to propose work that differed from pure activism and was created by theater professionals, not by people from other professions who eventually venture into art. All this effort is reflected in the significant presence of black spectators in the audience, many of whom didn’t frequent theaters before because of lack of identification with the artists. Gil Collares, director of the Montigente group, says:
“The black audience, almost nonexistent in the theaters and concert halls in the great majority of events offered here, has crowded the presentations of the Grupo Pretagô, the Montigente collective, just as it always filled those of the Caixa-Preta group. It is an audience that seeks to see itself on stage, which is tired of not being represented. But in spite of our efforts to keep ourselves on the scene, we are still very limited in edicts of promotion of culture and in showroom occupancy projects.”
United in a plurality of approaches, black artists wish to narrate their biographies in the first person. In other words, they want to assume the protagonism of the scene in a state whose official narrative has long erased the presence of their ancestors as subjects of history.
Source: Zero Hora