The danger of cultural appropriation – the ongoing whitening of Brazilian history

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Note from BW of Brazil: This is a followup report to a piece from Friday night. Over the years we have seen numerous examples of the appropriation of black culture and whitening of Black History, both in Brazil and in other countries. What is the danger of and what precedent do these types representations present to a population in which more than half identifies itself as non-white and that is still vastly under-educated when historically black figures are consistently co-opted and presented as white? It’s even more alarming when we consider the fact there is still resistance to the law that was established over a decade ago to address black invisibility in Brazilian History continues

Let’s not misunderstand the question. This is not to say that there aren’t non-blacks who never participated in this culture and history, but often, if not most times, ancestors of these whites did all that was possible to repress these expressions of black culture. Years later, they find ways to exploit these same cultures to earn profits while simultaneously whitening the faces and figures involved in the creation. It is an ongoing practice in Brazil and so it is with a new controversy in Rio de Janeiro, the site of the 2016 Olympics. 


by José Antonio Do Espirito Santo

Photo from the 'Porto da Memória' project
Photo from the ‘Porto da Memória’ project

What becomes evident in the case: Alexei Weinchenberg, the author of this piece put into his project a Globo TV actress, the former Malhação (Globo TV soap opera) Cristiana Peres (who recently changed her name to Christiana Ubach) to call media. Therefore Patricia Kogut, columnist of the TV Globo newspaper (and happens to be the wife of Ali Kamel, the newspaper’s managing editor) took note with maximum attention.

Christiana Ubach characterized as Mãe Wanda de Omulu for the show João Alabá e a Pequena África, 20 and 21 June at Pedra do Sal.
Christiana Ubach characterized as Mãe Wanda de Omulu for the show João Alabá e a Pequena África, 20 and 21 June at Pedra do Sal.

In contrast, Alexei would then decided (or was requested by the “great actress” as a condition) to create a special role especially the girl. So far, they are artistically unethical acts, very questionable, however trivial. In fact, so far so good.

But, irresponsibly Alexei (along with Christina, who knows) have decided to set up an unlikely role of a renowned mãe de santo (priestess), which, of course, in the case of a historical spectacle with a transpiring plot set in the early 20th century, would HAVE to be done by a black woman, incurring then an unquestionably racist act. (As it turned out, Christiana Ubach, white with green eyes, dressed with a “mãe de santo fashion” look became a bizarre image)

But there’s another complication here: Obviously the decision would cause controversy, attracting the debate that is creating (and there resides a possible and very scrotum opportunism). Widely spoken, the piece then attracts more media and more spectators. It doesn’t seem to be therefore an attitude of an author/director something mediocre and racist, merely ignorant. It would be, rather, an “unlimited frame”, deliberate, malicious provocation, full of bad intentions.

Photo from 'Porto da Memória' project
Photo from ‘Porto da Memória’ project

Christiana Ubach was characterized as Mãe Wanda de Omulu for the show João Alabá e a Pequena África, June 20 and 21 at Pedra do Sal, June 12th, in the column of Patricia Kogut (O Globo).

It would be a typical action of misappropriation of white predatory artists, a practice unfortunately very common nowadays, after they began to open institutional sponsorship channels for culture, for art and for black history of Brazil.

They try to operate a “black culture without blacks” concept adopted in my book to define this subtle phenomenon.

Everyone began to want to be black now in a shameful cynicism. Already holders of historical advantages, these whites, these “fake blacks”, will then quickly occupy all the slots, all spaces, winning all the edicts (for financial grants), entering in their casts one little black man or woman extra here and there, to justify it.

Photo from the 'Porto da Memória' project
Photo from the ‘Porto da Memória’ project

In this movement the real black artists continue to be unsuccessful and excluded. They remain invisible and with no chance of working with no power of expression and representation.

It is a political matter of course.

I find this very serious. It’s better that those interested act soon, with all firmness and decision in this case. The time is fair and it is this.

A rare photo photo of Tia Ciata and Tia Josefa - two historic figures of black Brazilian history and culture
A rare photo photo of Tia Ciata and Tia Josefa – two historic figures of black Brazilian history and culture

The theater piece João Alabá e a Pequena África, however, seems even to be an opportunistic and irresponsible action of racist white people, protected from someone. The malhação (physical exercise) that it’s receiving and all the protests and boycotts that can be mobilized are needed.

They do justice to our firm repudiation. They should be expelled from Pedra do Sal, “peacefully” with shouts of ‘Catch the Thief!’

Source: Mamapress

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Okay how is this any different than White women (Elizabeth Taylor) or light-skinned mixed race women portraying dark skin Black women in media?

    The complaining, praying and other form of non-confrontational engagement with so-called White Supremacy need to come to a complete stop.

    If you want things to change blood will have to be shed because pleading and cajoling with these elements will result only in piecemeal at best or no significant changes.

  2. LOLOL! There is something…odd…going on in the world right now. I have felt for quite some time that there are certain aspects of life – generally at the levels of spirituality, divine creativity, and emotional expression – that white people don’t have natural access to. At least, they do not have it to the degree that Black, Brown, Red, and Yellow people seem to have it.

    It is interesting that they have always so hungrily invaded Black and Brown spaces and memories for their own benefit. In the USA, we have one white woman who is publicly identifying herself as “Black” (and we already know that there are millions more like her). And now I almost have to LAUGH at how they have taken the very dark-skinned SISTA,Tia Ciata, and whitened her up!

    In the end, Black people have, and have always had, a connection to the divine that white people simply do not have. It is why they are always intruding into the spaces of non-whites for their inspiration (or just flat-out stealing from those communities).

    I feel that the Black collective mind/heart are roaring open, and change is upon us…

  3. When the white American woman pretending to be black (not going to write her name and give her more publicity) story first broke last week, I thought of Brazil. Nobody there (in Brazil) would ever consider her black but because we had the “one drop” rule here (in the U.S.), people accept white looking people as having African ancestry. (As far has been discovered the woman in question has none).

  4. Carmen Miranda did this and this is why I reject her faux fame. Plus, she wasn’t even Brazilian – uma portuguesa!

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