Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

‘The Mountaintop’ is not about MLK; in truth the play starring Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo speaks about the situation of the black woman


otopodamontanha

Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo in the play ‘O Topo da Montanha’ (Mountaintop)

Note from BW of Brazil: In a previous post about O Topo da Montanha, the Brazilian adaption of the play 2011 American play Mountaintop we mentioned that we would continue to cover this important piece as more voices continued to weigh in with their interpretation of the drama. It’s well-worth following these perceptions as different eyes can always bring out something that others may have not seen but, in this case, also because of the demographic of the spectators viewing the piece. It goes without saying that this fictionalized portrayal of MLK’s last day on earth as well as the struggle he represented before his assassination nearly half a century ago still translates into the black Brazilian reality so perfectly in the second decade of the 21st century. 

O Topo da Montanha is not about MLK 

The play directed by Lázaro Ramos and written by Katori Hall in truth speaks about black women

Luka by the Opera Mundi

topo 2

I had the opportunity Sunday (12/13) to go watch a special screening of O Topo da Montanha (The Mountaintop) since its debut the montage starring Lázaro Ramos and Taís Araújo has been divulged as a piece that depicts and dates back the last day Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. The piece has been playing since October 9 at the Teatro FAAP, in the heart of Higienópolis (in São Paulo), and when I went to watch it the entire audience was made up of activists of social movements and human rights – mostly black men and women (1). I register that this post will be filled with spoilers and for those who have managed to buy your ticket for last sessions of O Topo da Montanha I suggest you stop here and close this tab on your browser.

I could start talking about how wonderful it is to see Martin Luther King being humanized with all his contradictions through Katori Hall’s text, the redemption of the thought of Malcolm X or how much it really was a play about the American black movement it is perfectly current in presenting topics such as the genocide of black youth and racism. All of this exists in O Topo da Montanha, but the central piece is not about any of these issues, the montage is about how black women are fucked in this world where the black woman is still the mule of the world.

topo

The first question is how much Taís Araújo shines on stage, her Camae swallows Mr. King in every scene and dialogue of the piece. In the material produced for the disclosure of the piece there is a text by Taís that pretty much sums up how the female figure in O Topo da Montanha is of a deep centrality not only in the montage, but also in everyday real life.

“It was hard to stop thinking of the words of Reverend as well as throughout Camae’s discourse that represents and also reminds of so many women precursors who bravely fought for civil rights, for human causes. And the possibility of bringing life to this character that challenges, disputes and provokes Dr. King, causing him to reflect on the value of his struggle, was what made me insist that Lázaro read the text. Later, I pressed for him to also take over the direction, being emphatic in saying, sweetly, that “either he accepted the challenge and our marriage would be over.” Lázaro by free and spontaneous pressure – faced the endeavor (Meeting by chance, female strength and fragility of a leader).

Taís Araújo e Lázaro Ramos - O Topo da Montanha

Camae is the maximum expression on stage of how much black women at the same time play a fundamental role in society and at the same time they are made invisible. O Topo da Montanha rightly points out that, Camae is not just a maid provoking Mr. King and recalling the debate between Malcolm X and which was rejected by the Rev. King, Camae is the angel who will say to the leader of the civil rights movement that he would die and withdraws from his post of vanity and remember that he came up after others also constructing the fight against racism, poverty and many other social ills.

But Camae is not the only woman present in the plot. Hall presents in her text the figure of God that is a woman (for me and other friends who were in the audience it was actually a trans woman), preta (black) and with a huge black (afro). God in the play is not just a character who appears in one or other comment of Camae or King, she is the one who reminds King how important and at the same time replaceable he is and how we political activists are human, we have fears and are finite.

God and Camae are two strong, radical black women and the existence of these two characters in O Topo da Montanha only proves how much the piece is not about Martin Luther King Jr. and his last day before being shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel. This play is about black women, who die and nobody sees them, who cry at having their children killed to this day by the Military Police and the government ignores the genocide that persists. It’s about our marginalization and our invisibility, but it’s also about our strength, our impertinence and impetuosity that we have to question and change things.

I can’t help but laugh at Camae’s provocations, but I also didn’t cry when she throws herself to the floor and reminds us how much our place in society is made deeply invisible (this because we’re not talking about trans women and transvestites who, as a friend and comrade says, are already dead and didn’t always exist) and how much we are mules in this big world.

Yes, we exist. Yes, we subvert. Yes, we provoke. Yes, we will no longer be mules of the society.

Source: Opera Mundi

Note

  1. Intriguing to see this change in demographics. In our coverage of the piece, the audience, according to diverse voices, has gone from nearly completely white, to about 35-45% black to today’s report in which writer reports seeing a mostly black audience.

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