(Originally posted on July 29, 2014; updated on July 30, 2014)
Note from BW of Brazil: It would be a huge understatement to say that the 2014 Festival Latinidades was a success. The objective of this blog is to bring visibility to the black women of Brazil that the nation’s media consistently ignores and stereotypes. For six days in the Brazilian capital, the festival did exactly that. The festival that is timed to coincide with the Afro-Latin American Caribbean Black Woman’s Day is the perfect lead in and follow up to a day that was recently signed into law by the Brazilian government.
Bringing together artists, intellectuals, scholars, designers, entrepreneurs and producers from around the African Diaspora from countries such as Equador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mozambique, the United States and of course, Brazil, the seventh edition of the festival presented a diversity of talented and successful black women that one would never know existed if judging only from the Brazilian media. Of course there is no way to be able to cover everything that happened over a nearly week long festival, but the report below (along with images from the official website and Facebook page) will give you some idea….and maybe even entice you to be there next year!!
Report on 2014 Festival Latinidades
Writers participating in the opening conference of the Festival Latinidades
By Adriana Izel and Maíra de Deus Brito
The writers Ana Maria Gonçalves, from the northeastern state of Bahia and Paulina Chiziane (Mozambique) participated Wednesday (23/7) in the opening of the Diálogos Afro-Atlânticos (Afro-Atlantic Dialogues) conference. An author of the emblematic Um defeito de cor (A defect of color), Ana Maria addressed the construction of identity of black women and the stereotypes they face. “Often times, black women are not considered good enough to marry, but good enough for sex. They have the right to love and to be loved as much by white men and black men,” she said. “Another prejudice that they face is the image of the unbeatable woman. All have the right to cry and be sad. The deconstruction of these representations is important to leave their lives lighter and fuller, besides the improvement of individual self-esteem. However, it is important to remember: these stereotypes are a problem of the whole society,” adds Ana Maria.
Author of Ventos do apocalipse (Winds of the Apocalypse) (1995) and O sétimo juramento (The Seventh Oath) (1999), Paulina Chiziane is the first Mozambican woman to write a novel (Balada de amor ao vento meaning ‘Ballad of Love to the Wind’ was released in 1990). About the title, Paulina warns: “They say I’m a novelist and I was the first Mozambican woman to write a novel, but I say that I am storyteller, not a novelist. I write books with many histories, big and small stories. I’m inspired by the tales around the campfire, my first art school,” says the writer.
The observation Paulina is in the ear of the Portuguese edition of her latest book, Niketche, uma história de poligamia (a history of polygamy) (2004), which shows the trajectory of a Mozambican woman in discovering that her husband is polygamous. The shock and surprise to learn that there are other wives and children is followed by a surprising decision: the protagonist decides to go after the other families and a foray into the unknown and the cultural differences. In Brasília, Paulina addressed African identity and world religions.
Attentive to cases of racism in literature, originally from the state of Minas Gerais, and based in Salvador, Bahia, Ana Maria Gonçalves has already manifested about episodes in which various writers preferred omission. About Caçadas de Pedrinho and Monteiro Lobato, Ana Maria recalled the racist and eugenic origins of Emília’s father (1). In the Carnival of 2011, the writer published “Carta aberta ao Ziraldo” (open letter to Ziraldo), criticizing the cartoonist for drawing on t-shirts of Rio’s Carnival “Que merda é essa” (What is this shit)?, that stamped an image of Monteiro Lobato embracing a black woman in a bikini. “I was curious to know if you knew the opinion of Lobato on Brazilian mestiços (persons of mixed race) and, really, I wanted that you didn’t. I respected you, Ziraldo. I hoped it was your sense of humor talking louder than ignorance of the facts (…),” wrote Ana Maria.
American sociologist, feminist, professor of the University of Maryland, Patricia Hill Collins, called on black women to not adapt themselves and to engage against racism and discrimination still present in various spheres of society. “We who believe in freedom cannot rest,” she repeated several times during the conference.
“We need to see what kind of racism, classism and sexism we are dealing with and how it continues to reproduce all kinds of inequality,” Patricia said. According to her, in the United States, where racism was latent with the separation in ghettoes, the struggle in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was for the conquest of rights. “The solution seemed to be not excluding but integrating. But in doing so, there is the impression when we see blacks in power, that the actions were successful and that these people represent us.”
Also during the festival, Patricia told reporters that having a black president in office, Barack Obama, did not solve the issue of racism in the country. “I suspect and I know that in America people think that the situation of blacks is better because we have a black president. We have images, we have the media saying that things are better, but maybe they are not,” she pondered.
On Thursday, before an audience consisting of mostly black women, the sociologist called on young people to engage in different ways, be they in social movements, academically or even in everyday life, in an activism present in everyday actions.
Angela Davis criticizes lack of black people in power and on television in Brazil
By Mariana Tokarnia
The philosopher, writer, teacher, and American activist Angela Davis (2) criticized the lack of blacks in positions of power and in the media in Brazil. “I cannot speak with authority on Brazil, but sometimes it doesn’t take an expert to realize that something is wrong in a country where the majority is black and the representation is largely white,” she said. According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), more than half of the Brazilian population (50.7%) is black.
Angela Davis joined the group Black Panthers and the Communist Party of the United States and came to be on the list of the Ten Most Wanted fugitives by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States). She was arrested in 1970 and inspired the Liberate Angela Davis campaign, which raised supporters worldwide.
“How many black senators are there in Brazil? If we look at the Senate we wouldn’t know that blacks constitute more than 50% of the population,” she said, in her participation in Festival Latinidades 2014: Griôs da Diáspora Negra (griots of the Black Diaspora). “I always watch TV in Brazil to see how the country represents itself and Brazilian TV never allowed itself to think that the population is predominantly black.”
Despite the finding, Angela has warned: “It doesn’t mean only bringing black people into the realm of power, but to ensure that these people will break the spaces of power and not simply fill in these spaces.” The activist cited the case of the United States, where there was a time when there were no black politicians and is currently chaired by a black man, Barack Obama. “What’s changed?”, she asked, without answering.
Angela returned to comment on the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Palestine. “We must recognize Israel as the sole colonizer State of the 21st century that continues to expand. In the same way that we challenged apartheid [in South Africa] we have to fight against Israeli apartheid. Lives of children are being destroyed in Gaza,” she said. “We have to express our solidarity with the people of Palestine.”
On Wednesday (23), Angela defended the boycott of Israel as a strategy to stop the conflict. The latest Israeli military offensive in Gaza began on July 8 and was followed by an intervention starting last Thursday (17). Nearly 900 people died, including 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, 34 of them soldiers. Today, Hamas and Israel have accepted a truce until 12pm Saturday.
Cinema negro (black cinema) will be the theme of Latinidades in 2015
By Andreia Verdélio
The Festival Latinidades 2014: Griôs da Diáspora Negra ended yesterday (28) and has already set theme for the next edition in 2015: cinema negro (black film). This is a theme that has been thought of from the beginning of the festival, said the founder and coordinator of the event, Jacqueline Fernandes.
“We want to discuss the role of black women in this cinematographic network, her leading role in the production as well as an actress. In Africa, for example, people don’t know the broad production in Nigeria, in works that span the world.” According to Jacqueline, who is a producer and journalist, the goal is to circulate and be able to be in all administrative regions of the Distrito Federal (DF or Federal District), the festival headquarters. “We want to form film clubs that can come out of the Plano Piloto [central area of the DF], just as we are today in a sacred house in the periphery.”
The activities of the last day of Latinidades – a collective lunch and planting of a baobá (baobab tree) – were in the Ile Axé Oya Bagan terreiro (house of worship). The representation of plants brought from Africa was also the subject of debate and the imposing figure of the baobab composed environments of the festival. The baobab trees are sacred and are present in many aspects of African society and culture. According to Jacqueline, the planting of this species should continue in other terreiros.
For Jacqueline, when thinking about negritude (blackness), people have in mind scenes that revolve around Salvador or Rio de Janeiro, and it is important that the festival is in the Federal District. “They don’t have in the imagination the presence of blacks in Brasilia – people think they are in the minority, when in fact, research by Codeplan [Companhia de Planejamento do Distrito Federal or Company of Planning of the Federal District] says that the black population in the DF is more than 50% of the total. The research also says where the population is present: in the peripheries and in the bus stops in the Plano Piloto.”
According to the producer, having the festival in the capital is strengthening the black presence, which is the majority, to encourage people to self-declaration and celebration. “There are people coming from all over the world coming to Brasilia to discuss racial and gender equality, debating public policies. This is the space of protagonism of the black woman, here is the capital and it’s expected that she be a mirror for the country,” stressed Jaqueline.
The organization of the event do not have concrete data on the presence of the public in the shows and other cultural activities but estimates that about 45 thousand people have passed through the Museu da República (Museum of the Republic). Conferences and round tables, for which one needs to sign up, recorded the presence of about 4,000 people.
Jaqueline points out that all the debates had a proposal of intersectionality. “We had people debating about the griots of the diaspora and punctuating diverse knowledge. We released a look at what a griot really is, these amazing women who have expertise in various areas, with practices at different times, capoeira workshops, healers work, a meeting of knowledge within academia, popular culture and samba, for instance.”
The Festival Latinidades 2014: Griôs da Diáspora Negra began on the 23rd in Brasilia. There were conferences, debates, exhibitions, concerts and soirees, and other activities, with the presence of personalities and artists from several Brazilian states, Latin America, Caribbean, the US and Mozambique, for the promotion of racial equality and tackling racism and sexism.
More information about the event, which was created in 2008 and consolidated itself as the biggest festival of black women in Latin America is available on the event website.
1. Emília is one of the main characters in the children’s story Sítio do Picapau Amarelo, created by Monteiro Lobato. In recent years, Lobato’s work and beliefs have been highly scrutinized by activists of the Movimento Negro who point out racism in not on’y the author’s characters but in his personal views as well. For more, please see the notes section of a previous post here.
2. Davis, a highly revered figure among black women activists in Brazil, has made several trips to Brazil in support of this movement and also pledged her support for the 2015 March of Black Women scheduled to also take place in the nation’s capital. While in Brazil on this most recent trip, Davis also appeared in a public television interview along with journalist Juliana Nunes among others.