Note from BW of Brazil: Incredible! These people NEVER give up! The latest controversy coming out of Brazil involving black (mis)representation and history is neither new or surprising. As has been the modus operandi for decades (or centuries depending on how you look at it), Brazilian society continuously comes up with new ways to make its black population invisible and whitewash its memory all under the guise of “we’re all equal” while simultaneously promoting its whitening agenda. There’s a lot of history in the backdrop of today’s piece of which our readers will need to be familiar with in order to get the full impact of this latest controversy. Start here:
On the historic persecution of Afro-Brazilian cultural practices and “ethnic cleansing” of Rio see here.
On the importance of historic figure Tia Ciata, see here.
Accusations of cultural appropriation, diminishing of black representation in major media extravaganzas and stereotypical representation are as Brazilian as capoeira and acarajé have been ongoing for a number of years. But what is so frustrating and disrespectful is the fact that elite whites feel quite comfortable
stealing “borrowing” facets of Afro-Brazilian culture that so many ancestors were persecuted for when they defended their very right to practice them. A blatant slap in the face, whites/elites continue to persecute black Brazilians for their “uncivilized” cultural endeavors (as we’ve seen in recent violence against Candomblé adherents) but always seem to find ways to profit from it and rock the styles when they feel the need. It seems that everything associated with black Brazil is disgusting unless its wrapped in white skin. And that goes for funk, Afro-Brazilian religious deities and images, turbans, Axé music and even asses. This besides Brazilian society’s ongoing desire to present the country as a white nation, which is in line with its century and half goal of whitening the population.
All of this is also very telling as just last month in São Paulo we witnessed another controversy and debate over the right to display, accept and reject images that may be offensive to Afro-Brazilians. Now, here we go again in Rio! A special shout out to journalist Marcos Romão over at Mamapress for shedding light on this controversy!
Black artists disappear from the landscape of Rio de Janeiro, 2015. Black artists protest at Pedra do Sal
by Marcos Romão
The World Cup has come and gone, and here come the Olympics and “Porto Maravilha” in Rio de Janeiro, getting all ready to welcome millions of tourists from around the world. The removals of the black populations of PEQUENA ÁFRICA (LITTLE AFRICA) (1), that happened from the twentieth century until now, no longer count, they will fall by the wayside. If it were left to the “decree” of Rui Barbosa (2):
“Burn the archives. Eliminate the black stain of slavery”
What matters now is the New Rio, a splendid and eugenic cleaning:
In carrying out the will of the “Águia de Haia” (Hague Eagle) (1), the Cariocas (Rio natives) did it literally, ending the black stain removing the black inhabitants of the region (3).
In 2015, if only in the artistic “fantasy”, we have the impression that the elimination of black protagonism in the cultural landscape of Rio is confirmed. The project “Porto de Memórias” is promoting the show João Alabá e a Pequena África (João Alabá and Little Africa), where instead of a black artist, we’ll see a white artist in the protagonist role of the mãe de santo (holy mother/priestess) of the show, which in the author’s words to rebut criticism for this choice for the role, says on Facebook:
“Mãe Wanda de Omulu (Mother Wanda of Omulu) is a fictional character inspired by the Yalorixá who took care of my religious beliefs, inspired by the studies that I and my team have been doing to stage major facts and highlight important personalities in the history of the formation of Rio society …”
On the same page where the author defends his point of view, a reader called to his attention to the question:
“Completely unknown is the struggle of blacks for visibility and representation in the media portraying a character that historically would have obviously a black woman as a white woman. If today Candomblé generously welcomes whites, at that time it was still an exclusive religion of Africans and Crioulos (4) – and fiercely persecuted by whites. The history of black people has been made systematically invisible and, when they resolve to tell it, place a white as the protagonist!!! This is called usurpation of another’s history. It is ridiculous and regrettable. White face…I recommend that minimally familiarize yourself with the racial debate in Brazil before attempting to take possession of something that does not belong to them.”
The producers of the piece alerted by criticisms, responded with an invitation to hear the opinions of all those interested, that in part the production considered them to be authors of intolerant and prejudiced comments:
“Dear Sirs and Madames,
Faced with an endless display of intolerant, prejudiced comments and truly wanting to have a chance to hear them all and be able to present the argument of our show, the concept of our project without us being judged only by a photograph in the press, I come to call those interested in a frank chat about João Alabá e a Pequena África, to a meeting to be held in the IPN (Instituto Pretos Novos or New Black Institute) next Tuesday, 6/16 at 4pm.”
The author and director of the play Alexei Waichenberg has so far refuted all the criticism in social networks through the press office contracted by him, including using the lawyer of the struggle against slavery, Luiz Gama.
It seems like a mere piece of reverse or negative propaganda, which is when you sell a product through advertisements and arguments that provoke scandal and protests of outrage.
This has been the method of some comedians in search of an audience share, that by making racist jokes, arouse attention and protests and so become better known.
Whatever the intentions of the producers of this show, and whatever the reasons were for not taking advantage of this to give the role to a black artist. The controversy is in the air, or online, protests are already programmed.
Mamapress and the Rádio Mamaterra network will be there to hear the opinions about the “dilemma” of white directors choosing their characters in a labor market that offers little or no room for the role of black artists. A dilemma that the production should know, goes beyond the play, because as much the play to be staged, as in life in Pedra do Sal (5), they represent a reoccupation and racial redistribution of the space of the city of Rio de Janeiro and its cultural and economic scene. And in this reoccupation and redistribution of city spaces, with certainty, black men and women are losing even the little space that could be reserved to them.
Black women have already organized an act of protest on the day of the show’s premiere:
ACT AGAINST RACIST PIECE JOÃO DE ALABÁ E A PEQUENA ÁFRICA
THE HISTORY OF BLACKS WILL NOT PASS INTO WHITE ANYMORE!!!
Tia Ciata (Aunt Ciata)
In Altar gladiator times, the murder of Mãe Dedé de Oyá, by racist religious fanaticism, our ancestry suffers another blow:
The staging of a play about about a Candomblé icon, Pai João de Alabá, where AGAIN several white actors represent black men and women characters, even in one of the holiest places for us in Rio de Janeiro, which is the Pedra do Sal.
What’s next? Will we have Black Face?
Once slap from the project Porto de Memórias: black money going to the pockets of whites on top of the bones of the Pretos Novos (New Black) (6)?
They are whites who earn money from culture edicts!!! Enough!!!
THEY WILL NOT TREAD ON OUR DIGNITY!!!
LET’S US MARCH, IN REVOLT, IN INSURRECTION!!!
LET’S GO THERE AND MAKE A LOT OF NOISE AND WE WILL NOT LET THIS PIECE HAPPEN!!!
Mãe Wanda de Omolu or Tia Ciata was born in Santo Amaro da Purificação (Bahia) in 1854 and at 22 took the samba de roda (samba circle) to Rio de Janeiro. She was the most famous of the Bahian aunts (in their majority, Iyalorixás – priestesses – of Candomblé that left Salvador because of police persecution) at the beginning of the century were black baianas (women from Bahia) who went to Rio de Janeiro especially in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth century to live in the Cidade Nova area, Catumbi, Gamboa, Santo Cristo and the vicinity. Upon arrival in Rio de Janeiro, she met Norberto da Rocha Guimarães, got involved with him then and ended up pregnant with her first child and naming her Isabel. The situation of the two went no further. She ended up separating from Norberto and to support her daughter, began working as quituteira (sweets vendor) at Rua Sete de Setembro (street), always attired with their Bahian clothing. It was in the food that she expressed her religious convictions, in other words, her faith in the Candomblé, a religion prohibited and persecuted in those times. She would go to the vending areas with her Bahian clothing, a rounded, well-starched dress, turban and several necklaces (beaded necklaces) and bracelets always in the color of the orixá to which she would pay homage. The tabuleiro (vending tray) was famous and wide, full of cakes and dishes that were the delight of passers-by of all social classes. Source
TO DENEGRIR (blacken) IS NOT OFFENSIVE, WE WANT TO DENEGRIR THIS PIECE: JOÃO ALABÁ E A PEQUENA ÁFRICA
by Marcos Romão
The play João Alabá e a Pequena África causes controversy before it opens.
With staging scheduled in Pedra do Sal, in the current region Porto Maravilha, which received for three centuries, two million enslaved blacks.
That with Tia Ciata is the “Birthplace of Samba”
The production of the play brings to Pequena África (Little Africa):
A Yalorixá in white skin
In a time when Brazilian society is experiencing a climate of intolerance against religions of African origin and terreiros are invaded, Candomblé children are prevented from going into schools and assaulted with stones when attired in the streets. The publication of the photo of a white actress to represent a Yalorixá caused great anger among the residents of the former Pequena África, in the downtown region of Rio’s harbor, Yalorixás and followers of Candomblé, as well as along Movimento Negro (Black Rights Movement) organizations.
Informed through social networks, about the provoked outrage, the director of the play, asked for a meeting with the representatives of the community, from the Candomblé and the Movimento Negro.
At a meeting on June 16th, 2015, in the Instituto Pretos Novos, were residents of the old Pequena África region, representatives of the Movimento Negro and representatives of Candomblé, as well as producers and black men and women artists, who listened to the explanations of the producers of the play.
In the words represented by the comments of the sociologist and adept of Candomblé, Alessandra Nzinga, “We are here to denegrir, which means to enegrecer (blacken) the play,” emphasized the thought of these leaders, who said they were not there to censor anyone but to submit proposals to the directors of the show, to settle the stir and indignation caused by the publication of the photo of a white actress, exotically attired as a Yalorixá, who would represent the main role in the play dedicated to praise of the black cultural traditions of the region:
– Public retraction of the divulging and exhibition of the photo and offensive characterization of religions of African origin that could be interpreted as racism.
– Replacing the white actress with a black actress.
– Or suspension of the presentation to be reevaluated.
– A response was solicited from the production by the 17th by night’s end.
The Quilombo Pedra do Sal, represented by Maurício Hora and Damião Braga filed a request for action and evaluation of whether there was racism on the part of the production of the show, along with the Coordenadoria de Igualdade Racial (CEPPIR or Racial Equality Coordination), who was represented by the President Lelette Couto.
1. Pequena África, meaning ‘Little Africa’, was the name given by Samba legend Heitor dos Prazeres to a region of Rio de Janeiro understood as the port area of Rio de Janeiro, Gamboa, Saúde where the Comunidade Remanescentes de Quilombos (Remaining Quilombo Communities) of Pedra do Sal, Santo Cristo, and other locations inhabited by freed slaves and from 1850 to 1920. Source
2. Ruy Barbosa de Oliveira (Salvador, November 5, 1849 – Petrópolis, March 1, 1923) was a Brazilian polymath, having excelled primarily as a lawyer, politician, diplomat, writer, philologist, translator and speaker. One of the brightest intellectuals of his time, he was one of the organizers of the Republic and co-author of the constitution of the First Republic along with Prudente de Morais.
As delegate of Brazil at the Second Peace Conference at The Hague (1907), notable by the defense of the principle of equality of states. Barbosa’s performance at this conference earned him the nickname O Águia de Haia (The Hague Eagle). He played a decisive role in Brazil’s entry into World War I. At the end of his life, he was appointed to be a judge of the International Court of The Hague, a position of enormous prestige, which he refused. Source
As Minister of Treasury, Barbosa is also known for having ordered the burning of all documents that referred to slaves after the proclamation of the Republic in 1889. Many have long believed that Barbosa did so to rid the country of the “mancha negra”, or “black stain” from Brazil’s history. Other sources reveals that he did this not to destroy the traces of the lives of the slaves. According to Ciencia Hoje, Barbosa did this because when slaves were freed in Brazil on May 13th, 1888, the law established that former slave owners would not be compensated for the loss of their property. The former slave masters didn’t easily accept this decision and if it were up to them, slavery would have continued and they demanded compensation for their loss. Barbosa thought to the contrary: he thought that if anyone should have compensated , it should have been the ex-slaves that worked their entire lives without receiving anything. Source.
4. After the arrival of enslaved Africans in Brazil, their descendants born in Brazil were referred to as “crioulos”.
5. Pedra do Sal is a historical and religious site in Rio de Janeiro, in the neighborhood of Saúde. The site was originally a quilombo village. An association group still lives there: Community Descendents from the Quilombos of Pedra do Sal. Source.
6. The so-called the Cemitério dos Pretos Novos (New Blacks Cemetery) was, between the late eighteenth century (1772) and early nineteenth century (1830), a shed of the old slave market located in Valongo, of the Rio coastline reaching from Prainha to Gamboa. In this place were “deposited” all slaves that arrived in the long journey of slave ships. Source