Even after numerous discussions on its racist origins, in the city of in Angra dos Reis, the Nega Maluca Carnaval bloco still parades with depreciative images of black women
By Marques Travae
In a notorious display of racist depictions, Carnaval group continues a practice that includes painting the skin black, artificially augmenting the breasts and butt and wearing bright red lipstick
Another Carnival season may be coming to an end but not without its incidents of racist stereotypes. In Angra dos Reis, located in Rio de Janeiro state, one of the blocos that was on the city’s official agenda was “Nega Maluca”. My report on the “Nega Maluca” bloco back in February of 2012 was the first post in which I addressed the usage of blackface in Brazil. Here it is eight years later, and after debates, articles and essas on the racist origins of the practice, and this bloco continues as if they didn’t get the news.
Supported by the Angra dos Reis Tourism Foundation, the city’s management guaranteed financial support for 56 of the 72 blocos that performed during the Carnaval of 2020. Each of the blocos were given a grant of BRL$ 1.5 thousand to BRL$ 8 thousand to participate in the parades. “Nega Maluca” took its parade to the streets on Feb. 20. The bloco’s parade was also officially listed on the city’s agenda of parades for Carnaval for February 20th.
Back in 2012, when I first reported on this, a prominent Afro-Brazilian lawyer told me that the bloco is kind of accepted as a sort of joke. It would be years before any signficant numbers of people would begin speaking out on the practice, but speak out they did, with the peak of the debate coming during a public discussion of the practice after a theater piece outraged the black community back in May of 2015. The usage, as well as the criticism of blackface continues, as well it should in the case of the latter. And this goes for a certain number of black folks who also take part in the practice. I mean, how serious will the criticism of blackface be taken when some black people themselves don’t see a problem with it?
In the social networks, one writer criticized the bloco’s presentation and reminded them it’s common in the city. “In my childhood, I saw several white people dressing up as black people in the city and it bothered me. A while ago my daughter caught the attention of a person in our family who was in the habit of dressing up as the ‘nega maluca’. In the discussion, the person defended himself by saying that the block was a tradition in Angra. Caras pessoas brancas (dear white people), there is no tradition that should be perpetuated where there is pain,” she wrote.
Is the practice racist?
Considering that Nega Maluca, meaning ‘crazy black woman’, demeans the image of black women using pitch black artificial skin color, exagerrated breasts and butt, and topped off with bright red lipstick, it should be understood why such images are considered offensive.
We know that the practice has origins in the United States and was used to make fun of the African-American population starting in the 19th century, but as I shown in numerous posts, blackface, or rosto pintado de preto, as it was called in Brazil, has its pown history in Latin America’s largest country. Although it is most noted for the physical image, the ‘nega maluca’ character is actually based on a well-known stereotype of loud, angry black woman.
Questioned by the Alma Preta website as to whether the nega maluca bloco was one of the blocos the city of Angra dos Reis financially supported and if the city hall considered the bloco’s antics racist, the city hadn’t responded by publication time.
I’ll be curious to know what the city’s response was. The city of Angra dos Reis apparently hasn’t taken the same actions against such racist depictions as the city of Belo Horizonte. Belo Horizonte is the capital and largest city of the state of Minas Gerais.
According to Belo Horizonte officials, there was a need to advise Carnaval participants not to use costumes that are considered racist, a initiative and of the authorship of the Municipal Council for the Promotion of Racial Equality which was published for the second year to promote a racism free Carnaval environment in that city. The note, published in the Diário Oficial do Município, was shared with the Carnaval blocos and other partners. The note read that:
“some costumes and attitudes express racism, machismo and LGBTfobia; therefore, they must be fought”.
“The use of ‘blackpower’ (afro) wigs, ‘nega maluca’, ‘dreadlocks’ and braided caps (…) translates into disrespect for the symbols of black resistance, standardized forms of beauty and other impositions on black bodies.”
“Blacks are a majority in the Brazilian population and why only in Carnival do we remember these people? They are people who suffer, who have difficulty living in Brazilian society, suffer prejudice and this is not a tribute,” says Luiza Datas, a member of the Federal University of Minas Gerais branch of the Unified Black Movement.
With the rise in criticismo of the nega maluca stereotype and blackface, it will be intriguing to see how long this Carnaval group continues such practices in Angra dos Reis.
With information from Alma Preta and G1