All photos taken from the spectacular O Negro, a Flor e o Rosário
Note from BW of Brazil: Black theater is a genre that is very important in Afro-Brazilian representation on stages as numerically, Afro-Brazilian actors, characters and themes are vastly under-represented in Brazil’s mass media. The stage represents another avenue for presenting this culture, history and aesthetic that is consistently made invisible on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis as if it is normal. In general, it is considered acceptable and no one complains when the media presents the nation as if 95% of the country was white but when blacks take the lead and represent more than the normal menial roles they usually fill in productions, they are often presented as living stereotypes (see here and here) and face accusations of “ghettoization”. For these reasons, we can only hope that more black theater groups continue to spring up across the country and bring a more balanced representation of the Brazilian people.
Black thought in Belo Horizonte
By Joyce Athiê with information from Raíz Africana
Groups in Minas Gerais’s capital city dedicate themselves to research in black theater languages
O Negro, a Flor e o Rosário: On stage, heroes and myths of Afro-Brazilian culture tell their stories
Although the examples are many, the situation of discrediting is still current. It’s not necessary to make use of white paint to make this space busy – if this were not an aesthetic choice, but of first representations of Brazilian theater today, some things have changed and others remain the same.
Recently, some criticisms have been allocated to the Grupo Teatro Invertido, of Belo Horizonte, which brought, in Noturno, directed by Monica Ribeiro and Yara de Novaes, a black character in the role of a wet nurse. Without many advances, Leonardo Lessa, an actor of the group, emphasizes that next season, which takes place between March 12th and 29th, already has a revision of dramaturgy, thought of from contact with the public.
Speaking of the capital, the city is experiencing an important moment in black scenic creation with an increasing number of collectives dedicated to the theme. “I, at 36, didn’t see before this occupation made by black actors. Now it’s time to think about how it can turn into something that is, aesthetically, constructed with more complexity,” reflects Alexandre Sena.
An example worth mentioning is Cia Burlantins, which in its second guise, works with an exclusively black cast. “This choice came from the necessity of putting blacks in the artistic market. But whoever hires us is white, so, we must show capacity to do good works,” said Maurício Tizumba, in front of the company.
Asked if the path to coexistence and even overcoming racism wouldn’t be the mixture of casts with black and white actors, Tizumba is categorical. “Whenever there is the mix, blacks start to lose again. Before that, I need to organize this side,” pointing out that this is not radicalism. The actress Soraya Martins reinforces the thought. “Every time we get together to strengthen ourselves, here comes a white making this suggestion. It’s important that we empower it without this being seen as reverse racism, which is nonsense,” she says.
One of the works of Cia Burlantins is the play O Negro, a Flor e o Rosário (The Black, the Flower and the Rosary), from 2008 that brings heroes and heroines made invisible, divided into six short stories passing off to the full extent the official histories of Orixás, Zumbi dos Palmares and Dandara, and Cosme and Damião and Nossa Senhora do Rosário and characters such as Saci-Pererê, immersed in the universe of the religious and folkloric. “I’d rather be careful with the word folklore that can be seen as something minor. I prefer to speak in myths. The use of these elements is not a problem. It speaks of issues that are part of the reality of these subjects and this spectacular does so beautifully weaving myths and religiosity,” reflects Marcos Alexandre.
“So I decided to tell a few stories. Stories that speak of the Negro, da Flor e do Rosário (black, flower and the Rosary). Strength, beauty and faith.” It is with this sentence that Negro, da Flor e do Rosário begins, created by singer and composer Tizumba, in partnership with the cordelista (1) Vítor Alvim. Dealing with the stories of struggles and the religiosity of the black Brazilian people, in 20102 the play passed through various cities in the state of Minas Gerais, including Pains, São José da Lapa, Betim, Prudente de Morais and Sarzedo. The presentations, free, were held in public schools, but open to the community. “We wanted to go to schools because of the importance of telling this story to young people. A story often ignored by official historiography, but that says who we are,” said Maurício Tizumba.
Presented in a fun and humorous way, the trajectory of mythological or real characters that contributed to the creation of imaginary that involves Afro-Brazilian culture.
Using dance, drums, songs and puppets as scenic resources, the Negro, da Flor e do Rosário has in its cast the actor, singer and dancer Benjamin Abras accompanied by the Trupe Negra (Viviane Coelho, Elisa de Sena, Débora Guimarães, Eneida Baraúna, Simone Meireles, Tásia D’ Paula, Daniele Anatólio, Maíra Baldaia and Josi Lopes).
The movement has sponsorship from companies such as Ical, Eimcal, Mineral Mineração e Mineração Usibrita, with funds from the Lei Estadual de Incentivo à Cultura (State Law for the Encouragement of Culture).
O Negro, a Flor e o Rosário
1. A cordelista is a person who does Cordel literature (from the Portuguese term, literatura de cordel, literally “string literature”), which are popular and inexpensively printed booklets or pamphlets containing folk novels, poems and songs, which are produced and sold in fairs and by street vendors in Brazil, principally in the Northeast. They are so named because they are hung from strings in order to display them to potential clients. Source