Note from BW of Brazil: BW of Brazil has long wanted to introduce readers to author Conceição Evaristo, one of the most important black writers in the country. Her name and/or citations from her been featured in a few previous posts, but below is the feature specifically about her. As the blog has shown consistently over the past few years, black women are regularly made invisible or stereotyped in Brazilian society so it should come as no surprise that the average Brazilian has never heard of her or her work. She will surely be featured on the blog again in the future, but for now, here is a brief piece about her by feminist blogger Bárbara Araújo.
Conceição Evaristo: Literature and black consciousness (Conceição Evaristo: literatura e consciência negra)
by Bárbara Araújo
“What I have punctuated is this: it is the right of writing and reading that the people request, that the people demand. It is a right of anyone writing or not according to the cultivated norms of the language. It is a right that people also want to exercise. So Carolina Maria de Jesus had no difficulty in speaking, in asserting itself as a writer (…) And when women of the people like Carolina, like my mother, like me, we incline ourselves to write, I think we’re breaking with the place that is usually reserved to us, right? The black woman, she can sing, she can dance, she can cook, she can become a prostitute, but writing, no, writing is one thing… it is an exercise that the elite believes only it has the right to. (… ) So I like to say this: writing, the exercise of writing, is a right that everyone has. Like the exercise of reading, like the exercise of pleasure, like having a home, like having food (…). The literature made by the people of the people, it breaks with the predetermined place.” – Conceição Evaristo, in an interview conceded on September 30, 2010
Conceição Evaristo was born in 1946, in a slum in the city of Belo Horizonte. Daughter of a laundress who, like Carolina Maria de Jesus, kept a diary which recorded the difficulties of the everyday she suffered, Conceição grew up surrounded by words. As she likes to emphasize in her interviews, it does not mean that she lived surrounded by books, but that she drank in the source of the family memory through the stories that the eldest (members of the family) told her.
Having been exposed since childhood to the cruelties of racism, Conceição became a black writer of international renown, besides a militant that acts inside and outside the boundaries of the academia: she possesses a master’s degree in Brazilian Literature from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica (Pontifical Catholic University) of Rio de Janeiro and is currently concluding her doctorate in Comparative Literature at the Universidade Federal Fluminense (Fluminense Federal University). She published her first poem in 1990, in the thirteenth volume of Cadernos Negros (Black Notebooks), edited by the Quilombhoje group of São Paulo. Since then, she has published several poems and short stories in books, plus a collection of poems and two novels.
However, it is very likely that you’ve never heard her name. Plus, I challenge you to find her books for sale. We, feminist bloggers, we decided to read and discuss her poems this month and we are faced with great difficulty to get the books. One of the most important black women writers of today doesn’t figure on the shelves of major bookstores in the country, neither in large manuals of Brazilian literature. Why is it? What is it about the work of Conceição that prevents it from circulating widely, despite the prestige that she obtained in specialist circles, meaning in “black” circles?
As Cuti, writer and researcher of black literature, says, “literature is power, power of persuasion, of feeding the imagination, inspiring source of thought and action.” The work of Conceição Evaristo has the clear goal of revealing the veiled inequality in our society, to recover a memory suffered by the Afro-Brazilian population in all its richness and its potential for action.
November 20th is the national day of consciência negra (black consciousness), the day that is common to evoke the great Afro-Brazilian contributions to our society: music, gingado (1), capoeira (2), feijoada (3)…but the aggregation cannot stop there. It’s necessary to bring out the struggle, conflict, impediments and the demand for equality. It is necessary to remember that we live in a racist country, even as it celebrates blacks, eventually closing them in customs, the playful, maintaining the impediment to the intellectual and political domain. Conceição Evaristo tells us this: the black woman is not only to be the body, the beauty, the dance…“Negro é lindo (Black is beautiful)”, but beautiful too because he/she thinks because he/she writes, because he/she debates, because he/she fights.
Carolina Maria de Jesus (1914-1977) is the author of Quarto de Despejo – Diário de uma favelada (1950) (translated as Child of the Dark). Best-seller at the time of publication and translated into 13 languages since then, the book chronicles the ills and discrimination experienced by the author on the outskirts of São Paulo. But I also bet that you must not have heard of her. Get informed!
Source: Blogueiras Feministas
1. Gingado is taken from the word ginga. Ginga can be defined as the fundamental movement in capoeira which literally means to rock back and forth, swinging. The swing of one’s happiness expressed through joy and dance. It is also defined as the walk of a malandro, a cunning figure in Brazilian terminology describing a trickster or street hustler.
2. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, and is sometimes referred to as a game. It was developed in Brazil mainly by African descendants with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for leg sweeps. Source
3. Feijoada is a national Brazilian cuisine. It is made with beans, beef and pork and served over rice.