Note from BW of Brazil: In April of 2015, this blog told readers that “Excluding titles about Afro-Brazilian sports stars (Neymar, Anderson Silva or Pelé) it’s almost impossible to find books about important Brazilian figures who happen to be black.” Other articles have also shown how difficult it is to find titles written by Afro-Brazilian authors or even books that feature a black protagonist. As such, for good reason, literature is yet another area of Brazilian society in which if black Brazilians don’t take matters into their hands, they will continue to remain invisible. Back in February, we reported on journalist Etiene Martins new YouTube channel that presents and reviews the work of black authors. Well, Martins is back with yet another initiative with the objective of bringing much needed Afro-Brazilian representation to the literary market.
Writer creates space dedicated to black authors in Belo Horizonte
Courtesy of Alagoas 24 Horas with addition info courtesy of Blog do Afronta
Bantu was inaugurated five months ago and has about 500 adult and children titles. “It’s not just black literature, it’s Brazilian literature,” said writer Cristiane Sobral, whose work can be found in the space.
“I will not wash the dishes anymore, nor will I dust the furniture. I’m sorry. I began to read,” reads Sobral’s poetry, present on the shelves of the Bantu store located in a building a few meters from the Praça da Estação, in downtown Belo Horizonte. “It’s sad that we have to open a bookstore with this theme,” said journalist Etiene Martins, creator of the space dedicated to titles of black authors who deal with racial issues. “The majority of the population is black and yet most bookstores do not have books that represent us. Hence the importance of this initiative,” she defended.
“I’m not going to wash the dishes anymore. I won’t even dust the furniture. I’m sorry. I started reading. Another day I opened a book and decided a week later I won’t take the trash to the trash can. I didn’t even gather the mess of leaves that fell in the yard. I’m sorry. After reading I realized the aesthetics of the dishes. The aesthetics of the traits, ethics” – From Cristiane Sobral’s “I won’t wash the dishes anymore”
A researcher in the field of black representation, Martins found it difficult to acquire books that portray the subject needing to visit several traditional bookstores in the city and sometimes became frustrated. “It’s not uncommon for books with this theme to be out of stock in bookstore inventory even though the publisher is still distributing them. Sometimes I would find a book or another one of great publishers, but as most black writers release with small publishers or even independently we mineiros (native of the state of Minas Gerais) had nowhere to go,” says Etiene.
In view of this scenario, the journalist decided to open a bookstore that was entrusted with biographical, fictional, poetic and religious works, as well as pedagogical materials, Brazilian and foreign literature with African and Afro-Brazilian themes in one place. This ensures a visibility and access to the theme by giving support to the writers who publish independently, small publishers and also bringing together the material with this theme of the great publishers.
Bantu was inaugurated five months ago and has around 500 titles. One of the goals of the bookstore is to promote works that go beyond what is taught in schools. “Africa, in general, is treated as a country. It’s a continent, people. There are several stories. There are Yoruba people, there are Bantu people, Mina Jeje people. It’s very broad. African people are a people of the spoken word. At last we can tell our own story through literature. Our protagonism in history is not limited to ‘ser escravo’ (being a slave). In fact, they are not slaves, they were enslaved beings, which is quite different,” said Etiene.
Today, Saturday, May 13th, the Lei Áurea (Golden Law), which extinguished slavery in Brazil, completes 129 years. But the kidnapping of millions of people who came here to be exploited in mills, mines, plantations and family homes left traces such as social inequality and racism that have crossed years and resisted even today.
“Initially we have to become conscious, to know our history to be able to face all this because only this way can we liberate ourselves,” said Etiene. “We don’t have the right to come and go. We don’t have the right to enter a supermarket in a tranquil way,” she said, referring to the case of racism she suffered last year while shopping.
“Freedom is something very far away because of this false abolition, this unfinished abolition reaches us to this day. I, to tell you the truth, don’t know the word liberdade (freedom). I’m sure none of us black people know what that is,” Etiene said.
For author Cristiane Sobral, who has published four works, there is still much to evolve. “Freedom has not yet been achieved. To be free first must be recognized as human.”
According to her, books can make people fight for a more just and egalitarian society. “Literature can’t end racism, but it can make black readers empower themselves and white readers know more about our history. It’s not just about black literature, it’s Brazilian literature,” she said.