Culture silences racism: Black artists are gaining visibility and occupying spaces in institutions that previously ignored them


santosNote from BW of Brazil: Well, in reality, I would have to disagree with the title chosen for today’s post. Cultural practices and exhibits may be ways of responding to racism or refusing to allow racism undermine its power, but I don’t see how it actually silences racism. The emergence of what can be called ‘black theater’ ‘black theater’ or ‘black art’ in Brazil is certainly one of the genres that Afro-Brazilian artists are using to challenge the media’s insistence of maintaining the black experience in a sort of imposed invisibility. While gaining space in this media is an exhaustively slow process, these artists are not allowing their artistic expression to be silenced. Some of the artists featured in today’s piece have been featured in past articles on this blog and I’m very happy to bring the struggle of these talented people to our readers!

Culture silences racism

By Eduardo Nunomura

Black artists gain visibility and occupy spaces in institutions that previously ignored them

The choreographer Edileusa Santos seeks new possibilities for dialogue through the body and shares experience with the public in workshops

The explicit racism of a blackface on TV Globo’s Mais Você program goes against a black artistic production that is heating up. On Monday, December 12th, a white guest on a segment hosted by Ana Maria Braga wore a “nega maluca” (crazy black woman) costume and pintou o rosto de preto (painted his face black).

The aggression of a national network refers to an episode from May of 2015, when white actors of the theater piece Os Fofos Encenam adopted blackface makeup. The show didn’t happen and Itaú Cultural, in response to the virtual protests, began a welcome revolution.

An internal committee on racial issues was created. Debates and lectures for the outside public were promoted to discuss structural racism. And the obvious was soon revealed: cultural institutions close the door to black artists.

Overview of various black theater groups at the the exhibition Diálogos Ausentes

In an attempt to turn this game around, the exhibition Diálogos Ausentes, at Itaú Cultural, brought together works by 15 black artists from the visual, theater and cinema arts from various states. It was a water shedding moment because of the message that it transmitted.

“The curatorship is one of the institutionalizing elements at the service of this colonial project,” says curator Diane Lima. “What are the criteria for exclusion?”, asks the 30-year-old baiana (native of Bahia), Communication and Semiotics (PUC-SP), who sees a long process of discrimination and criminalization on Afro-Brazilian art.

Rosana Paulino speaking about ‘Diálogos Ausentes’ exhibition

Next to her is Rosana Paulino, historian and visual artist, Ph.D. in visual poetry at the School of Communications and Arts at USP (University of São Paulo). It’s equally provocative: “I’ve been following this scene for 20 years. We are at the beginning of a recognition. The last Bienal (art fair) had only one black person, Dalton Paula, who is also here with us. In the Bienal before that, none.”


Dalton Paula, with Unguento (2015)

Dalton Paula, a visual artist from the Federal District, works on the theme of the black body, often silenced by fear and insecurity. In A Cura (the cure), he paints in oil paintings of benzenes on covers of Barsa encyclopedias, a way of showing how traditional knowledge exposes epistemicide (exclusion of other forms of knowledge).

São Paulo’s Sidney Amaral, a graduate of Faap (Armando Alvares Penteado Foundation), is another name in the show. In the watercolor Gargalheira, a self-portrait, he subverts the leash used in slavery and disputes the concept that blacks today are either invisible or overexposed.

“When I say ‘who will speak for us’ and put on the microphones, I say that I speak for myself, I am not in a place of invisibility,” he explains. One of his works, Incômodo (uncomfortable), a watercolor of 1.90 by 3.15 meters in which counterpoints the Libertação dos Escravos (Liberation of the Slaves), a painting by Pedro Américo (1889), was acquired last year by the Pinacoteca do Estado. The institution hosted the exhibition Territórios: Artistas afrodescendentes (Territories: Artists of African descent), until February with 106 works of black creators.

In the theater one finds one of the most intellectually organized artistic areas of the Movimento Negro (black movement). Each show ends up developing a research and production work that revolves around Afro-Brazilian traditions to the roots of racial prejudice and discrimination.

The group Quizumba, from São Paulo, was born in 2008 with the proposal of studying the cultural formation of Brazil, and in this investigation came the story of Zumbi dos Palmares. The restlessness became a storytelling for children and adolescents that breaks with the Eurocentric cultural colonization of Brancas de Neve (Snow Whites) and Belas Adormecidas (Sleeping Beauties).

Composed of young directors, playwrights and actors of the Escola Livre de Teatro e da Escola de Arte Dramática (Free School of Theater and the School of Dramatic Art), at USP, the Coletivo Negro (Black Collective) has been on the road for eight years. Flávio Rodrigues, 38, Raphael Garcia and Jé Oliveira, both 33, graduated without having a discipline that passed through Abdias do Nascimento, the creator of the Teatro Experimental do Negro (Black Experimental Theater), the subject of an occupation at Itaú Cultural.

The idea of the collective was to research raciality and poetry, without opening a gap for criticism that there are only atores negros (black actors). “The logic is so perverse because these same people don’t question that most of the cast of pieces, films and novelas (soap operas) is made up mostly of whites,” says Garcia.

In her works, Eneida Sanches deals with racial issues (Photo: Tracey Collins)

The pieces of the Coletivo Negro deal with the anxieties and the conquests, the affections and the conflicts of the family, the violent life in the peripheries. “If people are not sensitized, it won’t happen. Also if there is no one in the media or curatorship. Few critics come to see our works, perhaps because they think they will not find art,” opines Rodrigues. In March, the group was able to access the coveted Sesc circuit, much in part to the proximity that the collective has with KL Jay of Hip Hop group Racionais MC’s.

At Sesc Belenzinho, in São Paulo, the Motumbá – Memórias e Existências Negras (Motumbá – Black Memories and Existences) is another that reveals the strength of black and peripheral productions. With curatorship of João Nascimento, it mixes music, dance, performance, theater, literature, cinema and visual arts. The Bahian Edileusa Santos, researcher, teacher, dancer and choreographer, ministers a workshop to show how the sound of the drum stimulates the construction of the movement.

Coming together nine years ago at the Encontro de Cinema Negro Brasil, África, América Latina e Caribe Zózimo Bulbul (Zózimo Bulbul Black Cinema Encounter Brazil, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean), in homage to the father of cinema negro brasileiro (black Brazilian cinema), audiovisual professionals saw when an expensive art became possible. Access to the first camera and the entrance of the blacks in the universities opened space for the formation of new filmmakers.

But it was only the first step. “Festivals do not select, don’t want to see. The TV channels are not interested. We begin to receive this veiled ‘no’, with the excuse that there is no public,” criticizes Viviane Ferreira, filmmaker and lawyer, president of the Associação dos Profissionais do Audiovisual Negro (Apan or Association of Black Audiovisual Professionals).

Already present in Apan are initiatives of the Coletivo Tela Preta and the internet platform Afroflix, by Yasmin Thayná, focused on the audiovisual productions made by black professionals. Ten filmmakers have just joined the Lab Cinegritude. More than other narratives, the majority of the population wants to see themselves represented by culture.

The real diversity

Spectaculars in the capital of São Paulo reveal the strength of the artistic representations of black cultures

Treme Terra (Earth quake)

A contemporary dance show, Pele Negra, Máscaras Brancas (Black Skin, White Masks) has a unique presentation in São Paulo. The work of the Treme-Terra company is inspired by the eponymous book of the Martinican Frantz Fanon, a reference for anti-colonialist and black movements in France.

Ocupação Abdias do Nascimento (Abdias do Nascimento Occupation )

Activist, artist, intellectual and politician, Abdias do Nascimento is the theme of another occupation of Itaú Cultural. The greatest black leader of the twentieth century, Abdias founded the Teatro Experimental do Negro, which exposed the lack of racial representativeness in the performing arts of the 1940s to the 1960s. Until January 15.

Diálogos Ausentes (Missing Dialogues)

Fifteen selected artists reveal the vigor of the presence of black women and men in the visual arts, theater and cinema. It is also a response to protests about the use of blackface by a theater company in May 2015. Until January 29 at Itaú Cultural.


Until March, at SESC Belenzinho, the show features plays, storytelling, dance workshops, showing of films, debates and music shows, such as Bongar, a group of six members of the Xambá terreiro, from the Quilombo of Portão do Gelo, in Olinda, which maintains the tradition of the Festa de Coco.

Quizumba! (Photo: Isabella Santos)


The play for children and teenagers mixes history and fiction and tells the story of the boy Francisco, Zumbi dos Palmares, who serves as a lesson for the young boy Pastinha to become brave. The show was based on a research on the narrative theater of the Coletivo Quizumba.

Source: Carta Capital

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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