Black Women authors at FLIP: One of Brazil’s top literary festivals
Note from BW of Brazil: Do I see some light at the end of the tunnel? It just may be. To say that Afro-Brazilian authors have been all but shunned by Brazil’s literary industry would be the understatement of the year. In 2016, I posted a piece entitled “’The Festival of Whiteness’? Writers criticize lack of black writers invited to one of Brazil’s principle literary festivals” to point out the yearly blackout at one of the country’s most important literary fairs, FLIP, the International Literary Festival of Paraty held in that city located in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The following year, at the 2017 FLIP festival, a group of black women intellectuals released the catalog the catalog Intelectuais Negras Visíveis (Visible Black Women Intellectuals), a book highlighting the production of 180 black women in 12 different fields of action that go far beyond literature or academic production. But as Brazil’s literary market remains in the hands of white men, the shutout continued, evidenced by 2019 poetry and literary showcases in Rio de Janeiro as well as in Salvador, Bahia, also being criticized for their omission of black writers.
This year, perhaps in an attempt to silence the protests, the 17th annual FLIP festival saw not only the participation of several black authors, Brazilian and international, but also, showing that black writers DO in fact sell, four of the five top sellers at the event were by black authors. Needless to say, it’s been a long-time coming.
FLIP 2019: The rise of black women in Brazil
Courtesy of CEERT
Black women will liberate white women from the escova progressiva (Brazilian Keratin Treatment), says Cida Bento
At a table at Casa Folha with Samuel Pessôa, topics such as diversity and education were discussed
“We talk loud, wear colorful clothes, have cabelos crespos (kinky/curly hair). We black women let’s liberate the white women from the escova progressiva (Brazilian Keratin Treatment).” Thus Cida Bento illustrated how movements at the base of the socio-economic pyramid can balance any structure of inequality.
Director of the NGO Center for Studies on Labor Relations and Inequality (CEERT), Bento participated, together with economist and Folha columnist Samuel Pessoa, of the “Repercussions of slavery in the Brazilian economic dynamics” table.
In 2015, Cida was chosen by the English magazine The Economist as one of the 50 most influential people in the world in the field of diversity.
The meeting, mediated by the journalist Naief Haddad, was held last Friday (12), at Casa Folha, during the Flip (Literary Festival of Paraty). Debaters have focused less on the past and more on possible ways to overcome inequalities and build what Benedict called ‘new civilizing pacts’.
For Pessoa, racial and gender quotas are beneficial but not sufficient policies. “I find it difficult to resolve inequalities only with affirmative action. If we don’t have a quality public education system, there is no solution,” he said.
The problem is not blacks or women, or trans, but blacks and whites and men and women and LGBTs and disabled and all, according to Bento.
“We have to problematize. Wake up every morning and think about it,” said Pessoa.
Portuguese writer Grada Kilomba, champion in sales at Flip 2019 with her book ‘Memórias da Plantação – Episódios de Racismo Cotidiano’
Grada Kilomba is the best-selling author of Flip 2019; see the ‘top 10’
Memory, trauma, race, gender, class and post-colonialism are central themes of this artist, a descendant of Angolans and San Tomeans born in Portugal. At the table, she offers the public a reflection on black feminism and the relationship of racism with everyday language and practice, as well as the decolonization of the thinking practiced in her performances, video installations and staged readings.
Portuguese writer led sales during the event with Memórias da plantatação (Plantation Memories: Episodes of Everyday Racism) Even outside of the programming, Djamila Ribeiro was ranked among top sellers.
The book Memórias da Plantação (Cobogó) by Grada Kilomba was the best seller in the official bookstore during the five days of the 17th International Literary Festival of Paraty (Flip), which ended on Sunday (14).
Grada is a Portuguese writer, theoretician, psychologist and artist. Originally published in 2008, Memórias da plantatação was published in Brazil by the publisher Cobogó during the event. It is a compilation of episodes of everyday racism, based on conversations with women from the African diaspora.
Second on the bestseller list was Stay With Me (released as Fique Comigo in Brazil) (Harper Collins), by Ayobami Adebayo. The Nigerian author was one of the highlights of this edition and attended a table held next to the Israeli Ayelet Gundar-Goshen on Friday (12).
Indigenous thinker Ailton Krenak completed Flip’s podium with his Ideias para adiar o fim do mundo (Ideas to Postpone the End of the World), a parable of the destruction of the Rio Doce (River).
This year there were no doubles of authors among the ten most sold titles. The only writer outside the program who entered the list was Djamila Ribeiro, with her book Lugar de fala (Pollen). Djamila was a success at the Flip 2018 edition.
See below the top ten best selling books of Flip 2019:
“Memórias da Plantação”, Grada Kilomba, Cobogó – 648
“Stay with Me”, Ayobami Adebayo, Harper Collins – 546
“Ideias para adiar o fim do mundo”, Ailton Krenak, Cia. das Letras – 373
“Também os brancos sabem em dançar”, Kalaf Epalanga, Todavia – 272
“Meu pequeno país”, Gael Faye, Radio Londres – 268
“Uma noite Markovitch”, Ayelet Gundar Goshan, Todavia – 263
“Sobre o autoritarismo brasileiro”, Lilia Moritz Schwartz, Cia. das Letras – 213
“Maternidade”, Sheila Heti, Cia. das Letras – 211
“Lugar de fala”, Djamila Ribeiro, Polén – 179
“Oráculo da noite”, Sidarta Ribeiro, Cia. das Letras – 175
The contemporary Medeia of Grace Passô
Grace Passô, wielding a copy of her book Mata teu pai (Cobogó, 2017), interjected, turning to the audience: “I need you to listen to me!” The phrase, in fact, is said by Medeia, the narrator of the work, who found in the body of the author a way to approach the audience that accompanied the “Poço de Cima” table during the fourth day of the 17th International Literary Festival of Paraty – Flip.
For thirty minutes, Passô staged a performance of the play that, in mobilizing the second grammatical person, called the listeners into the text: “Are you listening to everything I’m talking about?”
In mythology, Medeia is expelled from Greece and, to take revenge on her husband, kills her own children. In Passô’s text, Medeia gained contemporary contours. In the monologue, at the Auditório da Matriz (Auditorium), she spoke about the man who raped her and made her suffer. The other characters, all accomplices, all women – Syrian, Cuban, São Paulo native, Jewish, Haitian – were also evoked.
After being applauded by those who attended, Grace Passô shared the stage with the writer and composer José Miguel Wisnik, mediator of the table and also a guest author of the 17th Flip. For Wisnik, Passô “is a writer who writes for the voice”, and whose texts make her “enter the scene or change the scene”.
According to the writer, this is a characteristic of her work that resonates with a “desire to make the theatrical act, the artistic experience, radically remind us that we are alive.” And he continues: “To think that we are alive may seem an obvious thing, but it’s not because we live in a society that kills us in different ways every day.” The playwright reiterated that, as well as the second person, who in her performance served as a trigger for the engagement of the public, there are in other pieces of her authorship a series “of mechanisms that make us think that we are here”.
In exposing the aspects he admires in Passô’s work, Wisnik emphasized that she “posits herself as an identity in movement, not an affirmation, but a search. It’s a voice that seeks a body, not a body that seeks a voice.” In response, the writer said: “Art makes other identities be others. The theater is a place where techniques to develop listening are studied, also a place where one experiences the flesh.”
Ayòbámi Adébáyò participates in Flip 2019
Before she was 30 years old, Nigerian Ayòbámi Adébáyò had accumulated a significant list of accomplishments: a student of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Margaret Atwood, her debut novel published in a number of countries and quoted on the best books lists of 2017, by media powerhouses such as The New York Times and The Guardian. The author of Stay with Me, released as Fique comigo in Brazil last year by Harper Collins, is the 11th confirmed presence at Flip 2019, which took place July 10-14 in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro (state).
“Ayòbámi Adébáyò’s writing is lively and captivating, the book is one you can’t put down. It’s a very touching and emotionally strong story about family relationships. This narrative, coupled with the issues of tradition and modernity, masculine and feminine that appear in the book, create a great literary debut,” says Fernanda Diamant, curator of the 17th Flip’s Main Program.
For architect Mauro Munhoz, general director and artistic director of Flip’s Main Program, “contemporary African literature has begun to arrive in Brazil for a wider audience now. It’s in Flip’s nature to help architect this bridge between Nigeria and Brazilian readers, as it happened with the arrival of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in 2008, who took the audience and soon established herself as one of the most important voices of our time.
The author and the work
Ayòbámi Adébáyò was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1988. She graduated in Anglophone literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University, in Ifé, where she grew up. In the last year of the course, she participated in a workshop with the writer and compatriot Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At the University of East Anglia in the UK, she earned a master’s degree in creative writing, where she took classes with Margaret Atwood. Adebayo, who has been editor of the Nigerian literary magazine Saraba since 2009, has accumulated a number of collaborations with international media such as The New York Times, BBC and The Guardian.
Stay with me (Harper Collins, 2018), originally published in 2017, marks the author’s debut. Set in Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s, a turbulent time of military coups, the book deals with the marriage between the characters Yejide and Akin. Weaving reflections on patriarchy in Nigerian society, it reveals the dilemma caused by the couple’s inability to have children and the family pressure to introduce another spouse into the relationship – in the country, polygamy is socially accepted. For the work, which consolidated Adébáyò as an important voice in the Nigerian feminist narrative, the writer received nominations for prizes such as the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, of which she was a finalist, and the Dylan Thomas prize of 2018.
Bodies and languages towards the right to exist
A conversation about literature and gender guided the “Vila Nova da Rainha” table, with the North American storyteller Carmen Maria Machado and the Brazilian cordel writer Jarid Arraes, mediated by the journalist Adriana Couto.
Born in the hinterland of Cariri, Arraes wanted to leave the common places linked to the narrative of her native land, and thus subverted the cordel, also going through poetry and short story. She also experienced cultural and moral conflicts with the place where he grew up; today, she understands that this made her a writer. “From the revolt also springs life and inspiration,” she said. On the other hand, Maria Machado was born in Pennsylvania, a place that she says bored her deeply as a child. To overcome it, she began to construct her own narratives. “I was always trying to create the magic space I wanted to see in my house,” she revealed.
The two writers make up the literary body of geography from which their writings were born. Arraes witnessed the trauma of many women, experienced her own, and decided to turn them into text. “I was thinking about how I could transform this very individual thing that is to be a writer into something for the collective.”
Maria Machado felt the lack of LGBT bodies in literature, in addition to perceiving the absence of the desire of these subjects. “I like to recognize the oppressed body. The joy of this body, the joy of survival,” she said. “Sex is a very important part of human experience, I consider it important to put it at the center,” she added. For her, desire is something political, since some were historically subjugated and condemned by it.
On the subject inspirations, the literature of Conceição Evaristo was evoked during the table. Upon discovering the writer from Minas Gerais, Arraes found that she was not “condemned to silence”. “I’ve never seen anyone like me being a writer-not even physically, not from my place or from my situation,” she said excitedly. “As I read Evaristo, I had a sense of freedom and encounter.”
A daughter of Cubans, Maria Machado recalled her grandfather’s stories, and believes she inherited from him the ability to mix tragic and comic. When he came into contact with the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez, she felt a completely new universe. “When I think of my grandfather and the traditions of this kind of realism, I see the influences of my work,” she said.
Other artists on the rise
Pieta Poeta (Belo Horizonte – 1996) is an artist, teacher and art educator. In her native city, she participates in Collective Manas, of Sarau Comum and Coletivoz, a group with which she released a poetic anthology. She creates works related to the plastic arts and to the performance, in addition to being a musician and student of percussion. She is a national slam champion and, this year, represents Brazil at the Copa do Mundo de Poesia (Poetry World Cup) in Paris. She is a biologist by training and started participating in slams in 2016. Already published 14 fanzines independently.
Porsha Olayiwola (Chicago – United States, 1988) is a poet and champion of the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship, 2014. She was nominated in 2018 by the Get Konnected! event as one of Boston’s most influential black people. She serves as artistic director of MassLEAP, a Massachusetts non-profit literary organization that supports young artists. She is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston. In November 2019, she will have her first full collection of poetry published by Button Poetry.
Raquel Lima (Lisbon, 1983) is a poet and spoken word performer. She has participated in events dedicated to poetry, literature, music, oral tradition and storytelling in Portugal, Italy, France, Poland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Estonia, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Sao Tome and Principe, among others. This year she organized the Borderlines residence, funded by the Arts British Council; and, in 2018, the residence and spectacle Boca de Incêndio, for the Festival Jazz ao Centro, Coimbra. She was general coordinator and artistic director of Portugal Slam, from 2012 to 2017. She is a doctoral student in post-colonialism and global citizenship at the Center for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra.
Grace Passô (Belo Horizonte, 1980) is an actress, playwright and director. A graduate from the Centro de Formação Artística da Fundação Clóvis Salgado, in Belo Horizonte, her pieces have won the Shell Awards and APCA, among others, and been translated into several languages. With the group Espanca!, founded in 2004, she developed research related to an authorial theatrical language, with references from contemporary Brazil. She’s had six books of theatrical texts published by Cobogó Editora and Vaga Carne (2016), published by Javali. She was curator of the Festival Internacional de Teatro Palco e Rua (International Festival of Stage and Street Theater or FIT-BH) and chronicler of the Minas Gerais newspaper O Tempo.
Marilene Felinto (Recife, 1957) is a writer and critic. She’s lived in São Paulo since 1968, where she graduated in Letters from the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo. In 1982, she published her first novel, As mulheres de Tijucopapo (reissued for the occasion of Flip), winner of the Jabuti Prize in the category of “New Author”. She was a columnist in the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo and in the magazine Caros Amigos. In 2019, she released Fama e infâmia: uma crítica ao jornalismo brasileiro (Fame and infamy: a critique of Brazilian journalism), Sinfonia de contos de infância: para crianças e adultos (Symphony of childhood stories: for children and adults), Contos reunidos e Autobiografia de uma escrita de ficção (Collected Tales and Autobiography of a fiction writing) (her master’s thesis) all in author editions.