Note from BW of Brazil: Today, in the 21st century, the role of Afro-Brazilian women in Brazilian film and television remains minuscule although there has been some progress made. Actress Taís Araújo, for example, is clearly the brightest star of all black actresses. But without the pioneering career of actress Ruth de Souza, it is very possible that the rise of a Taís Araújo would have even been possible. We’ve featured and/or mentioned de Souza in a number of previous posts, but the level of her importance is something that cannot be understated. Which is perhaps one of the reasons that another book about her career will be released in a few days. Below is a brief piece on this new release about the ‘estrela negra’ (black star) that should further cement her place in Afro-Brazilian history.
Book that addresses career of pioneering actress Ruth de Souza will be released in Rio
Book covers the history and memories of the actress Ruth de Souza, whose achievements have opened doors for many black artists on the national artistic scene
Courtesy of Sopa Cultural
With a career of over 70 years, Ruth de Souza is one of the icons of national drama. More than that: the remarkable career of the actress opened doors for black artists in the Brazilian artistic scene. And some of that history can be seen in the book Uma Estrela Negra no Teatro Brasileiro: Relações Raciais e de Gênero nas Memórias de Ruth de Souza (A Black Star in Brazilian Theater: Race Relations and Gender in the Memories of Ruth de Souza), written by Julio Claudio da Silva, a Ph.D in Social History and adjunct professor at the Universidade do Estado do Amazonas (State University of Amazonas). The work, published by UEA Edições will be released at Livraria Cultura – Cine Vitória in Rio de Janeiro, on September 25th.
Today, at 94 years old, the carioca (Rio native) Ruth Pinto de Souza began her career on stage. And in the Teatro Experimental do Negro (Black Experimental Theater) that transformed the girl’s dream of becoming an actress into a reality. In 1945 she was the first black actress to perform on the prime stage of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, with the play O Imperador Jones (Emperor Jones). Then she won a scholarship and spent a year studying and improving at Harvard University and the American National Academy of Theatre in the United States. From then on, she didn’t stopped: there were more than 40 novelas (soap operas), 33 films and dozens of plays. She was the first black star of Brazilian TV in A Cabana do Pai Tomás (1969). She was also the first Brazilian to compete for the Leão de Ouro at the Venice Film Festival for her performance in the film Sinhá Moça (1953).
It was precisely this pioneering spirit, the aspect of the fight against racism, which caught the attention of Professor Julio Cláudio, who made this aspect of the trajectory of Ruth de Souza the main point of his doctoral thesis. “Within the intention of universities, identifying the black contribution in the cultural formation of Brazil and within the context of the culture of racism, the book focuses on this theater that emerged to denounce racism and make room for the black artist. And Ruth de Souza has a unique importance in this history,” says the professor.
The book is not a biography. It keeps its focus between the years 1945 to 1952, during which the actress entered the Teatro Experimental do Negro until her return from the US. In its first part, the work addresses the public memory Ruth de Souza, analyzing interviews the actress has given, including the MIS (Museu da Imagem e do Som or Museum of Image and Sound) and to the production of the biography Ruth de Souza: A Estrela Negra (Ruth de Souza: The Black Star). In its second part, the book approaches the archive that Ruth de Souza has collected throughout her career. There are cutouts to reports, criticism of the group that she worked with, materials about the productions in which she participated, awards, etc. “It is a registry of this memory of a public person from the point of view of the cultural scene and also shows the way in which the Ruth herself was constructing her memory, what we call the ‘construction of self,’” says Julio Claudio.
The author of Uma Estrela Negra no Teatro Brasileiro: Relações Raciais e de Gênero nas Memórias de Ruth de Souza also points out that, in addition to the professional merit in Ruth de Souza’s achievements, there is no way to disassociate the history of the artist from racial and gender issues: a great black actress and woman; components that make the trajectory of this great lady of national drama even more special.
Source: Sopa Cultural
I remember her from my Brazil days of watching Brazilian telenovelas. No matter the role, always a powerful character.