Note from BW of Brazil: With the story of black women being, for all intents and purposed, non-existent in the mainstream media, books, websites, seminars, projects and organizations that shine the spotlight on this segment of the population are increasingly important. And in these productions, Afro-Brazilian women are playing a leading role in telling their own stories. Brazilian society is one in which the role of race, racial identity and racism are consistently downplayed within a discourse of “we are all equal” or we are all Brazilians while simultaneously clearly favoring the physical attributes and experiences of the group that considers itself white. As long as this discourse is so pervasive, such organizations and projects will continue to be necessary and we hope to see more of them in the future.
Raiz Forte (strong root) project launches website about black women and their experiences
By Magalli Lima
Raiz Forte was born in 2012, with a web-series project with the intent to raise questions about black women in society; the black aesthetic and its social inferiorization; and the acceptance of cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair). The idea was to address such issues from the profiles of women who see themselves as negras, or black women, and resist with their afrodescendentes (African descendant) cultures and aesthetics. The project maintained activities on You Tube, in social networks and now enters the phase of debuting a website that will concentrate all activities of the project as well as act as a blog with articles, research and audiovisual material.
The Raiz Forte site goes live on Sunday (25th) at 5pm. To celebrate the new space on the Internet, at the same time there will be a planting of the seeds of African and Brazilian trees in Casa 10, of Escadaria Cristóvão Colombo at the entrance of Parque Gruta da Onça (park), in downtown Vitória.
“This is the first time, as a group, that we created a virtual platform to vent issues that concern Afro-Brazilian identity,” explains Charlene Bicalho, creator of the Raiz Forte project. During the premiere of the site, she says that the space will be destined to present the profile of women, entitled Mulheres de Raiz Forte (Women of Strong Root), will be inaugurated with the profile of Xis Makeda (featured in the teaser above), a 38 year old carioca (Rio native) who lives in Vila Velha and is a mother of three children.
Makeda will address issues that concern the body itself and the racial oppression that seeks to erase black identity through aesthetic denial. “Not only Xis Makeda, but all women who enter this wing of the site will talk about their position regarding the presence of each of the places where they are; their relationship to their own hair; professional lives, and how they position themselves in society as black women – these are the conductors of the discussion,” adds Charlene.
Makeda’s profile will be presented in video as well as text and photos in a proposed multimedia site. The project also includes women from diverse places such as Rejane Bicalho dos Santos, a Brazilian living in Portugal and mother of two daughters; Uana Mahin, a singer and resident of Recife, Pernambuco; and Yalorixá, a percussionist and cultural producer of Ponto de Cultura Coco de Umbigada in Olinda, also in Pernambuco, among other women.
Charlene reveals that the contact with these women, who will become, soon, profiles of the site, was made from the places where she and the other members – some of them spread throughout Brazil – Raiz Forte circulated. “I met Xis met at a gathering of quilombo women, in São Mateus. Some women were recommended; others had contact through the internet itself. They are usually people who represent places where we transition and can converse with and create a relationship.”
Raiz Forte: Episódio 3 (Preview)
The proposal of the content that will be posted on the website is to investigate the adaptations that black women suffer, even today, to suit their hair the Eurocentric aesthetic standards. And, in addition to testimonials, diverse content about women and cultura afro (African culture) will be disseminated, accepting contributions from anyone who is interested in divulging research and material of the type. The site will initially have biweekly updates.
The Raiz Forte project site will be put on the air on Sunday (25th) at 5pm, at the website: www.projetoraizforte.com.br
Educator, musician and artisan, Gisele Jesus Vicente is the Xis Makeda – a character that opens this new stage of the Raiz Forte Project. 38 years old and currently a resident of Vila Velha, in Espírito Santo, she was born in Rio de Janeiro and has lived in (the state of) Minas Gerais and in Italy. Coming from a family of matriarchs, since very early on she became aware of her blackness from contact with her grandparents and her mother – lessons that she seeks to convey to her three children.
Xis Makeda – Teaser
The adoption of the name “Xis Makeda” is an explicit reference to Makeda, sovereign of the kingdom of Sheba that, in antiquity, occupied the present day territory of Ethiopia and Yemen. The new name came along with awareness of her ancestry expressed in her body aesthetics, in her way of dressing and acting, that is, the full experience of her black identity.
Having her body as a conflict of space between her black identity and an aesthetic that seeks precisely to delete this blackness, Xis Makeda speaks optimistically about her role as mother, artist and educator in the process of deconstruction of racism and appreciation of African culture.