Maria Diomara da Silva has a Master’s in Education at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora
Note from BW of Brazil: In general, one would agree that Brazil has an international image of having some of the most beautiful in the world. But who the Brazilian media promotes as the face of Brazil and what type of women are given to right to be represented as beautiful or of even representing positive images of the country are two different things. For example, in 60 years there has only been one black Miss Brasil winner, black women continue being presented as maids or at the service of white people even in 2014, as dancing “mulatas” or invisible altogether as evidenced by the women of popular TV programs. For this reason, award ceremonies and book releases that represent this neglected parcel of the population should always be celebrated. A new photo exhibit at a federal university in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais is the latest to do its part.
Identity: black woman exhibit reflects on racial diversity
Courtesy of the UFJF website; all photos byRafael Sinfrônio
The exhibition runs until April 11
The Hall of the Rectory has displayed, since last Tuesday, the 18th, the photo gallery entitled Identidade: negra (Identity: black woman), created by the Master’s degree candidate of the Graduate Program in Education (PPGE/FACED/UFJF) Diomara Maria da Silva that was realized with the support of the Dean of Culture. The idea for the exhibition came up with the realization of the I Semana da Igualdade Racial e Questão Agrária (First Week of Racial Equality and Agrarian Issues), an event held in 2013, in which the representation of the black feminine figure was discussed. In the month that we celebrate International Women’s Day, the show aims to contribute to the debate on racial diversity. The exhibition runs until April 11th, in the Hall of the Rectory on the Campus of UFJF (Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora or Federal University of Juiz de Fora) in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais.
Besides the idealizer, Maria Diomara is one of the personalities of the show. She, who is not a model, said the experience was very important in order for her to recognize herself as a woman and feel valued through the art of photography. “There was a process of identification: I saw myself in another way, and the other women who were there, that also were not models, felt the same way, at seeing themselves through the lens of a photographer and in a natural and spontaneous way.” In this process, the artistic object mirrored itself in the struggle of these women, represented without idealization, demonstrating the power of identidade negra (black identity).
A student of the Faculty of Social Work, coordinator and one of the idealizers and models of the project, Selmara de Castro Balbino explains that, because of being a quota student, she felt a lack of the discussion of the race theme in the university setting: “We are going to graduate, and the great majority of our users will be black. It’s my reality. I entered the university by conquest of the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) [quotas], but the myth of racial democracy is not discussed, about being black in Brazil, in the academic space.”
Professor of the Faculty of Social Work and guiding the project, Elizete Maria Menegat believes in the work of the students: “More than an exhibition and more than a discussion, it is to think of how one discusses; it’s understanding the situation better.” Also a student of Social Work and a member of the organizing committee, Victor Miranda Elias sees in the project a way of improving the course itself: “The questioning of the racial issue is not present in the course, even with most people served [by social service] being black. With the project, we can form forces and bring the debate.”
A smaller version of the show could be seen in the Renato de Almeida Gallery of the Pro-Music Cultural Center/UFJF between December 2013 and January of this year. The success of the exhibition was surprising: “The public identified itself, took pictures at the side of our photos and posted them on Facebook, praised the beauty of black women and questioned this standard of beauty imposed by capitalist society. They thought about equality, in the woman accepting herself as she is. People want to see other standards, they want to escape from what is established,” says Selmara. For the student, the goal was then reached, because more than exposure, the proposal was to provoke discussion and reflection.
For the exhibition at UFJF, 15 new photos were added to the original exposure, totaling 30 images, authored by Rafael Sinfrônio. The women photographed are all linked in some way to UFJF, as students, former students, employees or professors. For Selmara, the exhibition takes on a certain character of commemoration: “The university has a new face. It’s really starting to have the face of the Brazilian people, with different ethnic groups, and this comes from the expansion of the educational system through quotas.”
For the dean Gerson Guedes, the Identidade: negra exhibit stands out by associating itself with debates on women’s issues and racial diversity in Brazil, besides bringing the discussion to the university space, where one finds all of the personalities from the photographs.
Apart from students of the Faculty of Social Work, I Semana da Igualdade Racial e Questão Agrária was organized by students of Geography, Chemistry and Education, with support of the professors Cristina Simões Bezerra, Mônica Aparecida Grossi Rodrigues and Elizete Maria Menegat (Faculty of Social Service); Leonardo de Oliveira Carneiro (Faculty of Geography) and Julvan Moreira de Oliveira (of the Faculty of Education). Members of the organizing committee of the exhibition were Aretusa Santos, Maria Diomara da Silva, Selmara de Castro Balbino and Victor Miranda Elias.