Note from BW of Brazil: Those of us who are not familiar with the Brazilian reality hear reports that many of the country’s African descendants don’t accept a black identity and scratch their heads in puzzlement. But as a number of articles on this blog have shown, this escape from blackness was a well-developed orchestrated elite plan. The combination of the spread of negative connotations associated with blackness, a desire to escape these meanings through inter-mixture combined with a media that presents whiteness as the ultimate desire has lead to the wideness destruction of black identity throughout Brazil. But against these odds, over the past few decades, a number of groups and organizations have set out to challenge this hegemonic belief in black inferiority. Below we present another of these groups that has taken on the task of the re-construction of black identity.
Identity and Resistance: black women in the battle against standards of beauty
Manifesto Crespo: Meeting in Aldeia Guarani in SP, shares ancestral customs and fight against the fashion industry stereotypes
By Vanessa Cancian, the Namu
In the extreme south of the city of São Paulo, in the village of Tenondé Pora, where part of the Guarani community lives, the collective Manifesto Crespo, formed by black women, promoted the event “Tecendo e trançando arte” (weaving and braiding art). The project, created with the purpose of discussing the real beauty of the Brazilian woman through the breaking of the stereotypes that predominate in fashion and media, took to the Indian community workshops and knowledge exchange activities among the women present.
Within a still preserved area of Mata Atlântica, the women came together to share ancestral customs and put in contact these different ethnic groups, but with common historic struggle, suffering and resistance. In an environment marked by diversity, host and visitors strengthened the ties that historically unite the two cultures.
“The meeting in this environment, together with the native peoples was chosen because the village has Jerá Guarani, female leadership that gives us pride and know that in the past there was much unity between the black and indigenous communities,” said Lúcia Udemezue, a member of Manifesto Crespo. According to her, activist Jerá Guarani in various political movements strengthens the participation of women in the village. “We believe that the agendas of our struggles meet in some way and we are together defending a larger flag, seeking equality being done for justice that was not done for centuries in our country,” added Udemezue.
“By learning the wrappings to take to the children I realized that we do it in the same way as blacks. You can see the similarity between the ancient wisdom present in both parts, “says Poty Porã, a Guarani woman and a school teacher in the village. She said it was gratifying to participate in activities and learn to make turbans and other wrappings that were taught by the group members.
Beautiful is being different
“The stories of Brazilian black women have similar accounts: When they were children they had their hair braided by family members, in their teen years they straightened and in adulthood, there is the search for accepting the crespos (kinky/curly),” says Denise Souza, educator and member of Manifesto Crespo. For her, the organized experiences found points in common, regardless of the place where it’s applied.
“The media, currently, shows its aggression because we are reacting. The more we fight, the more this opposing force will come,” says Lúcia Udemezue. The project aims to show the beauty of diversity and of black women in the fight against the media and the monochromatic advertising that it insists on making explicit in advertisements, movies and novelas (soap operas) one type of woman, with white skin and straight hair.
“When we do this kind of activity you can see people’s looks change and they begin to see black culture in another way,” points Thays Quadros, project producer. She says that the collective aims to pass on the braiding techniques and turbans from generation to generation, encouraging children to learn these traditions. “When a child knows another culture, she leans about the differences and will look with different eyes and appreciate the beauty of diversity. To combat racism we must teach people to respect differences,” she adds.
Braiding and weaving art
In 2014, the Manifesto Crespo, in partnership with the União Popular de Mulheres do Campo Limpo (Women’s Popular Union of Campo Limpo), was awarded the “Prêmio Lélia Gonzalez – protagonismo de organizações de mulheres negras” (Lélia Gonzalez Award – roles of black women’s organizations). The initiative proposes to adopt the redeeming of the artistic culture of African braids and turbans in 5 cities in the state, which have women leader representatives and traditions linked to African culture in Brazil.
“Our project started with a group of young black women who met to discuss the question of identity through the hair,” says Lucia Udemezue. The initial impetus for the birth of the collective came, she said, from the difficulties of the acceptance of cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair). “We started to put together several experiments to mount a project of an artistic, pedagogical and also political nature. For this, creating an environment where we could share our experiences and hear from women how they are not accepted in society because of an imposed standard of beauty,” she adds.
Source: Negro Belchior