Note from BW of Brazil: You wanna know how Brazil has managed to skate under the radar of being one of the most racist countries in world for so long? Here’s a perfect example. As I’ve explained in a number of previous posts, one of Brazil’s most potent weapons of dousing out the rise of any sort of black rage within its black population has been the practice of adapting cultural practices that were previously known as “coisas do negro” (black things) and appropriating them so that they become “coisas do Brasil” (Brazil things). After all, the idea here says that, if it black and white both participate in something, racism must not exist. As such, elites formulated the idea of exploiting elements of black culture as a means of uniting a nation that had enslaved Africans and their descendants as well as excluded and discriminated against them for, up to that period in the 1940s, about 400 years. As whites have long participated in the musical genre of samba, the martial art of capoeira, and Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomblé and Umbanda, these facets of black culture that were once prohibited, persecuted and demonized (and still are in the case of the religions), the interracial participation in these genres act as the cultural arm of racial miscegenation. The belief here would be that, ALL Brazilians participate in these cultural practices and, as such, we don’t have racial problems in Brazil.
Daniela Mercury’s career has been a perfect example of this. A white woman, she is arguably the most popular singer from Bahia, a state long recognized for its large black population and cultural connections to Africa. Mercury has made a career of singing Axé music, an Afro-Bahian style and representing herself as a sort of cultural ambassador of the state. In her music, she has defined herself as the “color of this city” (Salvador, Bahia), while she and three other women, Ivete Sangalo, Claudia Leitte, Márcia Freire, also all white, have received much more media visibility than black artists of the state. Her reign as the “Rainha do Axé” (Queen of Axé music) is just one example of what people have come to define as “Bahian Apartheid”. Mercury once again stirred up resentment from the black population a few years ago when performed in artificially tanned skin, which some labeled as ‘blackface’, in homage to the legendary Elza Soares. As all of this weren’t enough, Mercury is once again in the middle of a storm with her latest release entitled “Pantera Negra Deusa”, meaning ‘Black Panther Goddess’. (see video here)
As we all know, the film Black Panther, which was released as Pantera Negra in Brazil, was released almost exactly one year and went on to earn popular and critical acclaim, eventually becoming the 9th highest grossing film of all-time. Although attracting people of all ages and races, the film represented more than just another blockbuster superhero film for millions of black people worldwide. It another way of seeing ourselves and the continent of Africa juxtaposed with the usual manner in which Africa and its people are represented. Of course, we all know that the film is a work of fiction, but even so it represented a challenge to numerous beliefs about black people in the media. It showed that a film can be attract an international audience with a cast of primarily black actors and a black director. It showed that black people can be represented in inspiring ways far beyond the typical poor, criminal, uneducated, stereotypical elements that filmmakers usually rely on when dealing with black characters. It spoke to an African Diaspora that has been starving for such representation since film became a such a popular medium of entertainment. As shown in several posts in this blog, if African descendants in America ate it up, imagine what the feeling was in Brazil, which is still light years behind in the representation of black people on the big screen.
Now consider what this film meant for masses of black people on a global level and then think of a someone white coming along and proclaiming “Wakanda is in Europe”. That is EXACTLY what the aforementioned Daniela Mercury has done with her latest single. Given her past of appropriating symbols of blackness, such a suggestion ranks up there with other problematic aspects of her past works and performances. In a Brazil in which all things African are, for the most part, denigrated and belittled, her attempt to place Wakanda, even being fictional, in Europe and Asia, is a 21st century version of the fabled ‘racial democracy’ myth. It is an extension of the blackfishing phenomenon covered here just a few days ago. It is an updated version of European scholars telling us that Ancient Egyptians were “dark-skinned Europeans”. It is a manner of saying that, even being fictional, Wakanda CANNOT be great unless it is also connected Europe. It is Daniela Mercury echoing the idea that since humanity started in Africa, by extension, we are all Africans.
I cannot lie and say that the visuals for Mercury’s “Pantera Negra Deusa” are beautiful. Highlighting the beauty of black people and African styles and prominently featuring the bloco afro Ilê Aiyê, had she been black, the video could have fit in perfectly as an accompanying video to the Black Panther film. But a white artist adapting black aesthetics, using them to attain more media prominence, earning more profits than the originators of the musical genre and then basically saying that “we are all Wakanda” represents yet another example of a universalization that cannot fully accept blackness.
“Wakanda is in Europe”: Daniela Mercury shows that she honors but does not listen to blacks
By Silvia Nascimento
“Nobre vagabundo” is one of the songs that I most like to sing in Karaoke. “Respirar o amor, aspirando liberdade.” (“Breathe love, aspiring freedom”) Daniela Mercury sings a lot and dances impeccably. I have also followed with great enthusiasm her political positions, defending her ideals as representative of the LGBTQ + community with no fear. However, when I hear the songs in honor of my ethnicity, there, I no longer like her very much.
I already had a certain antipathy to the song “Canto da Cidade” for obvious reasons, but after the blackface in honor of Elza Soares, it became real rancidity (with the art, not with the person, as I don’t know her).
It’s necessary to understand the impact of popular music in the perpetuation of cultural racism (O seu cabelo não nega, mulata/Your hair doesn’t deny, mulata), cultural appropriation (NegaLora ((black blond)) of putting in her absurd lyrics as in her latest song “Pantera Negra Deusa” (Black Panther Goddess), in honor of Wakanda and Ilê Aiyê.
In a quick semiotic reading, she implies that the goddess of Wakanda …. is herself.
Here are some excerpts from the content of the lyrics, a blatant ignorance of the black community from a political and social point of view.
E o Brasil nasceu da África, (And Brazil was born in Africa)
Tua mama (Your mama)
Não nasceu (wasn’t born) E os indígenas que estavam aqui? (And the Indians who were here?) Valorizar uma cultura invisibilizando a outra? (To value one culture by making the other invisible?)
E o Brasil é preto (And Brazil is black)
E o branco é preto (And the white is black)
É negão! (Is big black!)
White is black? Really? Do you know how dangerous it is for black children to hum this poetry of Daniela Mercury’s poetic racial democracy? White is white and black is black. What is ugly is racism. Differences, diversity, plurality are the riches of humanity.
And let’s go to part that would make T’chala leave Wakanda and go to Salvador to ask “what’s this?” to the “Queen of Axé music”.
Diga diga diga onde é wakanda (Say say say where is Wakanda) (…)
Wakanda é Bahia (Wakanda is Bahia)
Portugal sul e norte (South and North Portugal)
Da América (Of America)
Wakanda é na Europa, na Ásia (Wakanda is in Europe, Asia)
Na índia, na Portela (In India, in Portela)
Cara gente branca (Dear white people), well intentioned and kind hearted, don’t talk about Wakanda in your art. Wakanda foi feito dos pretos para os preto (Wakanda was made by blacks for blacks). I was offended by this idea of Wakanda’s in Europe. (even if she’s talking about the diaspora, it’s still bad) Either Daniela didn’t see the movie, or she didn’t understand. If you love cultura negra (black culture) so much, you should have studied the film project that was more than a film work, it was a black and revolutionary cultural movement with an intense appreciation of Africa and blackness. And it’s not me who is saying this, it’s director Ryan Kyle Coogler himself, in an interview with IndieWire:
“Because, in my mind, I’ve spent most of my life wondering about my ancestry and where I come from, where all of this comes from. There are no records. I can’t just hop onto something and go all the way back and figure out my ancestry, so it’s really important to me that Wakanda’s always had these records. There’s not an African in Wakanda who can’t find out who they were, where they came from, for thousands of years. And I gave them the one thing I never had.” Wakanda is where we came from, not where we ended up involuntarily and violently.
The “Queen of Axé” didn’t read about or just didn’t care about the process of creating the film Black Panther. It’s the fault of those who validate the voice of a white woman descended from Italians, as the voice of the negra cidade (black city) of Salvador. She can help give visibility, but she cannot go out singing and dancing as if she were black. She’s not.
I’m from São Paulo, I cannot talk about Bahian blacks. There are friends in the music video and I have nothing against the blacks involved in the process (and they look gorgeous), but Daniela Mercury is the queen of the clip about Wakanda. Daniela dances in dreads, Afro clothes, enters the water, comes out of the water like Iemanjá, reveres the founders of Ilê Aiyê, but she is the center of attention.
Still on the lyrics, she even made a version of the song “Black Panther”, with Italian duo I Koko, who made a version of the song “Swing da Cor” for a novela… ..Segundo Sol (of the white Bahia that revolted the black community).
Do yant to pay tribute to Wakanda? Understand the reason of the film, its conception, the symbology of the film for black men and women of the planet. It shows black people as the protagonists of their audiovisual works. Review the position of being the white girls with dreads in the immensity of “marvelous blacks”. Do you want to value the blackness of the Bahian people, how about showing them without having you appear dancing with African clothes among them?
Studying about our beauty and not about our pains shows that you live with black people but don’t listen to what they say. Black women write criticism, but the important thing is black beauty, right?
Wakanda is also Bahia, it’s Ile Ayê (which even means Mundo Negro or Black World in Yoruba). This is the only message of the song that makes sense to me.
Source: Mundo Negro
This was a great article! The white Brazilians I’ve met have always downplayed the racism in Brazil and have said how diverse and inclusive Brazil is. But it’s easy to say that when you’re in the majority and you’re stealing from the oppressed group.
Great article. I’ve always wanted to learn more about afro Brazilian life. I’m very happy to discover this site. Great job guys!!!! LOVE!