Black actresses tackle the issues of prejudice, natural black hair and self-affirmation in the play “Combs”



Note from BW of Brazil: Well once again we see an example of the old adage, “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself”. Over the past several months, we’ve see a number of theater pieces that could collectively be considered “black theater“. The actors and actresses are black and present various facets and aspects of the black experience in Brazil. We rarely see this in the mainstream media and, as such, Afro-Brazilians are taking it upon themselves to tell their stories. Their stories, by them. From the clips we’ve seen of today’s piece, we don’t think it would be an exaggeration to call it brilliant!

The brief snippet from which the photo above is taken is a great intro to the piece and in less than a minute represents the challenges Afro-Brazilian women face in a society that insists on imposing a European standard of beauty. The straight-haired doll is a strong symbol throughout a Brazil where black dolls, for the most part, are rare or don’t exist at all. As such, millions of black girls grow up combing the hair of this doll wishing that they could effortlessly run a comb through their hair as they do with the doll. But running a comb through their own hair, or perhaps having someone do it for them presents an entirely different reality. This experience of not fitting into the standard of beauty will often subject them to all sorts of ridicule in life which in turn convinces many to turn to various hair treatments to “straighten” out their problems.

Numerous women on this blog have shared their experiences with the infamous chapinha (hair straightening iron) and hair relaxers which in some cases have caused women to lose their hair or, as in one tragic case, even die. These stories are some of the very reasons so many posts on this blog deal with women coming to accept their natural hair and often times developing a black identity in the process. We wish much success for this play and hope to see many more of its kind in the future! (Be sure to check out the two video clips in this post. The language is Portuguese of course, but some of the scenes can be understood even without the dialogue!)

Black actresses come together to discuss prejudice and self-knowledge in the play “Pentes”

Courtesy of Revista Urbana UP

Members of the theater group Embaraça
Members of the theater group Embaraça

In commemoration of the Month of Black Consciousness, the theater group Embaraça is circulating their first show, Pentes, in the Federal District. In the play, four actresses have scenes that make up the “saga” of black women, from denial to affirmation of their hair. The show will premiere at the Teatro SESC Garagem, with sessions on November 7th (Saturday) at 8pm, and November 8th (Sunday) at 8pm. Tickets for the performances cost R$10 (full price) and $5 (half-price).

Still from the play 'Pentes'
Still from the play ‘Pentes’

The idea for the assembly and the group’s creation came in 2012 in a project at the University of Brasília, where all the cast members were students. Of the first performances in college festivals, the show grew from research on the ethnic-racial theme and was presented in 2015 with a cast made up of the actresses Fernanda Jacob, Tuanny Araújo, Ana Paulo Monteiro and Elisa Carneiro.

Actresses of the group Embaraça
Actresses of the group Embaraça

The group Embaraça also directs the text of the spectacular, with dramaturgical support of of Fabrícia Carvalho. The songs in Pentes are written by the group and the band Protofonia – formed by André Chayb, André Gurgel and Janari Coelho – who play throughout the show. The assembly brings scenic actions in performative character and interactions with the audience, alternating between critical and playful moments. Pentes (meaning ‘combs’) concerns itself with the appreciation of black beauty, exploring everyday stories of the actresses and personal testimonials to argue about identity and social identification.

Still from the play 'Pentes'
Still from the play ‘Pentes’

With inspiration from the poets and contemporary thinkers Elisa Lucinda, Bell Hooks and Conceição Evaristo and having other references of the black universe and even the Black Power movement, the text consists of great subtleties that guide the feelings of those who attend the assembly, coupled with the expressiveness of the Protofonia band, which helps create dramatic moments of different intensities.

Still from 'Pentes'. In the background appears an image of singer Vanessa da Mata. The scene presents numerous other black women such as singer Beyoncé, actress Lucy Ramos and others who are presented as references for the plays characters.
Still from ‘Pentes’. In the background appears an image of singer Vanessa da Mata. The scene presents numerous other black women such as singer Beyoncé, actress Lucy Ramos and others who are presented as references for the plays characters.

The entire construction of the show is focused on overthrowing the imposition of white aesthetics such as an ideal of beauty and proposes a dialogue towards the acceptance of diversity, in which cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), which today is still considered “ruim, feio ou duro” (bad, ugly or hard), goes on to be a hair like any other: beautiful because it is different and unique.

Women of the theater group Embaraça
Women of the theater group Embaraça

From Teatro Garagem, the play follows presentations in IESB Oeste de Ceilândia college (17 and 18 of November at 7pm and 11am, respectively), Espaço Semente do Gama (20th and 21st of November at 8pm), Teatro da Praça de Taguatinga (23rd and 24th of November at 8pm), Casa do Cantador de Ceilândia (25th and 26th of November at 8pm) and Espaço Cultural Pé Direito da Vila Telebrasília (28th and 29th of November at 8pm). Aside from sessions in Ceilândia, which have free admission with prior confirmation, the rest of the presentations will cost of R$10 (full price) and $5 (half-price). The season is presented by the Fundo de Apoio à Cultura do Governo (Fund for the Support of Culture of the Government) of Brasília.

Information on the play

Text and Direction: The group

Dramaturgy: Fabrícia Carvalho

Cast: Ana Paula Monteiro, Fernanda Jacob and Tuanny Araújo

Guest actress: Elisa Carneiro

Musical direction: André Chayb, André Gurgel and Janari Coelho

Light design: Ana Quintas

Design of costumes: Fernando Cardoso

Photography: Tatiana Reis

Graphic: Keka Balduíno

Video production: Rodrigo Resende (Lab 61)

Press office: Um Nome Comunicação

Production: Desvio Produções Culturais

Source: Revista Urbana UP

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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