Dedicated to giving visibility to black actors and actress in Belo Horizonte, segundaPRETA, meaning ‘black Monday’, affirms the space of black art
It’s been impressive to watch all of the various events, expos, seminars, musicals and theater pieces devoted to black culture over the past decade or so. With the lack of black visibility in so many areas of Brazilian society, black organizations have really managed to get their collective feet in the doors in several areas that were once only dominated by white people. This is not to say that things have completely changed. Black Brazilians are still vastly under-represented across the board no matter what genre you research. But compared to where they were just a few decades, I can definitely acknowledge that there has been a certain degree of change.
These changes are also not just concentrated in any one region of the country. It’s great to see that I’ve managed to cover black cultural events in cities such São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, the capital city of Brasília, Salvador, Porto Alegre and several other cities. The capital city of the state of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, should be included on this list.
One event that has been making some noise in the city is segundaPRETA. Before I get into what it is, let me first explain the meaning of the name. In Portuguese, the terms for the days of the week between Monday and Friday are represented by the number of the day of the week. Monday is segunda-feira. Segunda means second in Portuguese which corresponds with Monday being the second day of the week. Tuesday is terça-feira, with terça meaning third, signifying the third day. Then come quarta-feira, quinta-feira and sexta-feira, being the fourth, fifth and sixth days of the week, respectively. The term PRETA means black, as such, segundaPRETA literally means “black Monday”.
Andréa Rodrigues, a member of segundaPRETA Project explained it this way: “Do you know when segunda-feira (Monday) comes and you joke that a coisa tá preta (the thing is black)? But in our case, the situation is very good.”
When Rodrigues says that “the thing is black”, she refers to a common saying in everyday Portuguese, “a coisa tá preta”, which refers to any given situation not being good. It also refers to the idea that Monday signals the end of the weekend and the time for one to get back to their normal routine, which usually consists of work and/or school.
Rodrigues also pointed out that “Most of the cultural attractions are focused on the weekend and there was almost nothing on Monday. Thus, we were able to consolidate a brand.”
segundaPreta is an initiative aimed at highlighting shows and scenic experiments by black artists living in Belo Horizonte. Now entering its ninth season, the performances always start on a Monday and feature shows every Monday of the season, but there is even more meaning behind the choice of segunda, or Monday, being the first day of the new work/school week.
The segundaPRETA website further elaborates on the application of the term segunda and the objective of segundaPRETA presentations in the following manner:
“Segunda-feira (Monday) is the day of (the orixá – orisha) Exú. The word “Exú” means, in Yoruba, “sphere”, that which is infinite, which has no beginning and no end. Exú is the beginning of everything, the force of creation, the birth, the negative equilibrium of the universe, which doesn’t mean a bad thing. Exú is the mater cell of the generation of life, which generates infinity, infinite times. It is considered the first, the firstborn; responsible and great master of the paths; which allows passage at the beginning of everything. Exú is the living natural force that fosters growth. It is the first step in everything. It is the generator of what exists, what existed and what will still exist.” (Excerpt from the presentation text at www.segundapreta.com)
To pave the way for dealing with the persistent duality of being a negation and at the same time having to permanently invent our (re)existence in a society that places on the bodies, on the skins, fictions of restricted possibilities. To open the way to move from an object of discourse named by the colonizing fictions of branquitude (whiteness) to a “self-referential subject of saying” (Aimee Cesaire). Tell-make-think about the scene, the audience and what makes this meeting happen; in what makes the event. Occupy the spaces and the imagination on segundas-feiras (Mondays), the day of Exú.
“Resistência negra” (black resistance) in various spaces (not only physical)”, in becoming a black collective, “is a phenomenon of aquilombamento” (Beatriz Nascimento). The quilombo as a metaphor points to its possible toponyms – favelas, bailes funks (funk dances), rural black communities – and other conformations that bring together black people in order to recognize, celebrate and strengthen their blackness. But aquilombar (quilomboing) and becoming are not given facts. Becoming is a permanent rite movement.
*The terms aquilombamento and aquilombar refer to the cultural history of the quilombo, the maroon societies established by enslaved Africans in Brazil who would escape from slavery plantations and create their own independent societies. Villages in the colonial period in the which became a symbol of resistance of the povo negro (black people). Thus, aquilombamento and aquilombar means to make a quilombo of something. In this case, the arts and specifically the theater.
Ori – the head to be made (or undone-redone) – is part of the epistemologia PRETA (BLACK epistemology), a parameter of thinking-acting. Ori is a call to an individual and collective rite of passage, both self-induced and assisted by a fellowship. For the quilombo.
“Ori means the initiation into a new stage of life, a new life, a new encounter. It is established as a rite and only by those who know how to make a head articulate with itself and complete with its past, its present, its future, its origin and its moment there.” (Beatriz Nascimento in Ori, a documentary by Beatriz Gerber)
The subjective implication of this new stage of life is the perception of oneself as PRETA (BLACK) not in relation to another, of an “I” like the other of the culture, but of a self as a possibility of power. Ori is an evocation of the forces that direct us toward or within that power. “It is not a state of power in the sense that we understand – political power, power of domination – because it does not have this perspective; each individual is the power, each individual is the quilombo” (Beatriz Nascimento). Quilombo as a place of a possible power from within and without, to build belonging and to implode the notion of the otherness of culture. PRETA is also THE culture.
“Not perceiving the black population represented on the stage and audience of the theater in Belo Horizonte, which is a reflection of society, we need to be present. The question about structural racism, in this action, crosses the field of creation and reflects on the productive structure of the segundaPRETA. We meet, black men and black women artists and the Teatro Espanca (Espanca Theater), to “beat on this concrete slab”. In this sense, to undertake a day of the week with quality shows means to touch the root of Eurocentric cultural structuring of this language and to promote significant changes in theatrical enjoyment.” (Excerpt from the presentation text at www.segundapreta.com)
“Perform other possibilities – practices – insertion in the imagination and cultural habits of the city, with other notes on doing, thinking, making one think and thinking about doing. Opposition to historical epistemicide. segundaPRETA comes to light as a project willing to think and build spaces for new knowledge and new narratives, to speak of the place of the production of desires, of fluid aesthetic concepts, of artes negras (black arts) in the plural, of tensioned dialogues, of critical rectitude.” (Soraya Martins, theatrical critic and researcher, in a text published in the journal Pensar of the Jornal Estado de Minas, 12/15/2017).
Cracking the possibilities of space and belonging where there seems to be no ground for expansion. Subvert to (re)exist. Management? Mutirão, or joint effort, in the traditional knowledge, is the work that is done together, for one and for all. Aquilombamento management technology. Ancestral innovation of production forms and peripheral BLACK sociability.
The creation of the segundaPRETA movement project was inspired by the “Terça Preta”, by Salvador’s Bando de Teatro Olodum (Olodum Theater Band). Making room in Belo Horizonte’s cultural agenda on an atypical day – Monday – and in the lower city center – Aarão Reis street – also brings a provocation to attract the public from the periphery: half-price for people who live beyond the limits of Contorno Avenue.
The segundaPRETA movement project creates room for experimentation in performing arts proposed and presented by black women and black men artists and discussed by a diverse, mostly black, audience. Welcomed by the Espanca! Theater, the performances, debates and reverberations are held in cycles of six weeks per season. Since January 2017, there have been five cycles with more than 40 scenic experiments.
“A space created also for the tense dialogue on the production of black aesthetics, it has become a certain destination for artists of the city. Scattered to the four corners by the winds of (orisha) Iansã, it has been materially and symbolically reconfiguring the common space of the arts in Belo Horizonte.” (Excerpt from the presentation text of the first cadernoPRETO – black notebook)
Adyr Assumpção, Rui Moreira, Gil Amâncio, Ricardo Aleixo, Black Amparo, Danielle Anatolio, Cia. Espaço Preto, Anderson Feliciano, Demétrio Alves, Andrea Rodrigues, Elisa Nunes, the Teatro Negro e Atitude group, Evandro Nunes, Sabrina Rauta, Priscila Rezende, Eneida Baraúna, Cia Carolinas, Juhlia Santos, Giovanna Eliodoro, Josi Lopes, Michelle de Sá, Alexandre de Sena, among others artists, interact in make-think in and out of scenes. “The band of gente preta (black people) discovered that together we are stronger and set up their quilombo” (CadernoPRETO). The knowledge of black matriarchs is revered.
“The segundaPRETA is idealized and performed by black women and black men artists from Belo Horizonte. A collective desire to have a space where we can show our arts and also establish dialogues and criticism about the contemporary black scene,” explains Soraya Martins, actress, black theater researcher and project member.
As anyone who has paid any attention to the mainstream media in Brazil, in 2019, on television, in the cinema or in the theater, the presence of black actresses and actors is still very limited. This limitation can be seen both in the number of black characters in front of the cameras and the technical professionals behind it. “segundaPreta is a quilombo, it’s resistance, it’s our people showing where they came from,” says journalist and bookseller Etiene Martins, a member of a movement dedicated to giving visibility to black theater actors and actresses in Belo Horizonte.
Recalling segundaPRETAs’s first season, Andréa says that the idea of the project came up allied to the fact that the city housed, until then, few projects dedicated to black artists. “The thing was born and constructing. A month after the first meeting with other artists, we launched the first season of the project and hoped to see what would happen from now on,” she says. “And, in fact, it happened. The full house, just at the premiere, in January this year, was more than expected. “By the end of the first season, we already had a huge group of artists also wanting to participate and the proposal had a huge adherence of black artistic classes in BH. People already have this space to conquest new ones,” recalls Andréa, who is keen to make it clear that the segundaPreta is a collective of people who “make it happen”.
In order to promote visibility and reflection on the art produced by and for pessoas PRETAS (BLACK people), the position of the segundaPRETA proposes and announces, in a desire to point out other ways both in the artistic making and in the creation of a memory of the processes, thinking and dialoguing about the works. In addition to the presentations and debates, registrations are made in various media, to show the production and reflection on the works, their processes and developments. By May 2018, three editions of CadernoPRETO were produced, with photographic records, programming by season and critical-analytical texts, as well as a photographic and video-graphic collection. The project movement also makes the material available online on websites and social networks, active since the first season. Between one season and another, training activities are held – in lectures, conversations, reading groups and dramaturgy residencies – and bridges are created with other arts, such as the cinemaPRETO (black cinema) exhibitions.
And segundaPRETA unfolds around the theater-space. On the sidewalk, the performing arts are joined by gastronomy, fashion and literature. Kitutu Gourmet Food truck brings Afro-Brazilian cuisine; Zora Santos presents her creations in accessories such as patuás (amulets worn by people of the Candomblé religion) and fabrics dyed in African ancestral methods; the Bantu bookstore, which specializes in works on blackness and black authors, exhibits part of the collection for sale. Encouraging the presence of this circle of commercial initiatives by black people in Belo Horizonte meets the objectives of strengthening black identity and sociability and opening up other possibilities of being in the city.
Up to its seventh season, the segundaPRETA had already paid special tributes to its honorees, a list including Ruth de Souza, the legendary actress who just departed us a few months ago, the multi-artist Zora Santos, the poet and essayist Leda Maria Martins, the writers Ana Maria Gonçalves and Conceição Evaristo, and the publishing house Mazza Rodrigues.
With its 8th season ending on Monday (28), the honoree chosen for the prosaPreta (black prose) event is Nilma Lino Gomes. A graduate in the area of pedagogy from UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais), and PhD in Social Anthropology from USP, Nilma was the first black woman appointed dean of the University of International Integration of Afro-Brazilian Lusofonia in 2013 and 2014. The author of books that deal the racial issue such as Sem perder a raiz, O movimento Negro Educador: Saberes construídos nas lutas por emancipação and Betina, her first book of juvenile fiction.
“In her research and literary work trajectory, she draws attention to the achievements and powers of the struggle for the emancipation of black people in Brazil,” says Elisa Nunes, a member of the segundaPreta. Elisa also points out that through Nilma’s records she can access a new perspective on the black movement as an educator.
Also, according to Elisa, the objective of the segundaPreta is to generate a space for sharing art made by black men and women black artists, where it is possible to present embryonic or already well-developed works, with the loom toward blackness on the scene.
As black people and persons of African ancestry make up such a huge part of Brazilian history, collectives and projects such as segundaPRETA brings a representation of the black experiences that one wouldn’t know existed if they based their opinions on simply Brazilian television and film. Invisibility in the media is a way of erasing a people’s existence and symbolically removing its citizenship, a point that Soraya Martins furthers expands on.
“Bringing black people into the arts is fundamental. Thus, we deal with racism in society that reflects in the means of production. We think of the artist as a citizen. Tracing the history of the black person is a gain that goes beyond the artistic and political. Theater is a form of sensitivity and has a function of making the viewer think of the other’s place and other narratives,” points out Soraya.
The making-thinking of the segundaPRETA reverberates to other aquilombamentos, such as the Segunda Crespa in São Paulo, and the Segunda Black in Rio de Janeiro.
“Spaces of fabulation and other joys. We are those seeds planted by Abdias do Nascimento sprouting and bearing estranhos frutos (strange fruits). “(cadernoPRETO 1)
Every Monday, after the show, an open mic chat is held, where artists share with the public reflections on the evening’s work.
With information from segundaPRETA, Culturadoria, EM, O Tempo, Notícia Preta