Note from BW of Brazil: Ya know, this is actually beginning to be a worn out topic. Many people, including myself, have weighed in numerous times on why displays of blackface should not be tolerated, so I don’t feel the need to waste time presenting arguments on the topic again. The bottom line here is that, Brazilians, whether everyday people or people in some position of influence, obviously don’t give a fu*k about who such an obvious acceptance of an historically racist practice offends. We’ve seen debates on the topic as well as numerous everyday people (see below) voicing their objection to this repugnant de-humanizing display. So, if so many everyday people get it, why do people who make decisions to put on such displays still not get it? Answer: They know exactly what they are doing and 1) Don’t care about the history, 2) Want to continue the humiliation of Africa’s people and 3) Know the controversy attracts press.
In regards to Rio’s Salgueiro samba school’s Carnaval theme of the black woman as the mother of mankind, the display would have been incredible had they chosen to use black women as they actually look rather than making use of blackface. The decision-makers of the parade actually discussed and explained the makeup. Weak and worn out excuses, but let’s get to the story.
Exalting black women, Salgueiro generates controversy with blackface on the avenue
Commission at the front of Salgueiro, which caused controversy by using blackface
By Rafael Lopes; all photos by Bruno Prado except where indicated
The Salgueiro escolar de samba (samba school) came to the second night of parades of the special group of Rio, at dawn on Tuesday (13), with the proposal of paying homage to the black woman, but ended up generating controversy.
The bateria (drum troupe), with Faraós Negros (Black Pharaohs) costumes, came out with its rhythm artists wearing rosto pintado de preto (blackface), a popular 19th-century theatrical practice in which white actors painted their faces to represent black characters in an exaggerated and stereotyped manner. In social networks, Internet users pointed out the incoherence of using a practice with a history of racism in a parade that should exalt cultura negra (black culture).
– Rodrigo Soares (@rodrigosoares): A school like Salgueiro, which has such a cool history of portraying black culture, should have more responsibility for the parade and the moment in which we are living today.
– J O H N (@Johnsilvacomedy): SALGUEIRO IS PASSING SHAME ON CREDIT OR DEBIT??? BLACKFACE ??? REALLY ???
– Tamires Nagatani (@tamiresnagatani): This blackface from Salgueiro’s bateria in general broke hearts. The theme was great, but they erred in a rude and ugly way with this.
The commission of the front (see note one), which staged the creation of the world, was also criticized for using blackface and for being composed mostly by men, even representing the first women who gave birth to humanity.
– John Dantas (@essejoaodantas): Correcting: impeccable front commission, taking away the fact that they should be black passistas (Carnaval dancers) and not painted black #Globeleza #Salgueiro
Verão Carioca (@ BeatrizOlive93): People, I had so much anticipation for Salgueiro because the theme is sinisterly good. But Blackface is rolling through in the bateria and in the front commission. The front commission is (portraying) the plea for fertility and it doesn’t have a woman ‘-‘
– hi (@flordesols): – Hello #Salgueiro, instead of painting the dancers in black to represent black women, why not hire bailarinas negras (black dancers) ??????
At the end of the parade, UOL questioned mestre de bateria (drum master) Marcão about blackface, but he denied any negative connotations, remembering that most of the rhythm artists are black. “They are black people painting themselves black. It’s the color, it’s in the blood, there’s no way. And whoever is not is also in the blood, I think we’re all friends, we’re brothers, we don’t have this stuff of racism. There’s a lot of people taking it to the other side, but inside the bateria, no.”
“We know full well that, unfortunately, racism exists. Even being little, but it does exist,” added Marcela Santana Pereira, 31, a part of Salgueiro’s bateria for ten years. “But the intention of our bateria or the Carnivalesco (Carnaval expert), master, president, wasn’t at any moment with this issue of racism. If we took off the blackface, [the costume] it was not going to give the impact that it had to give,” he believes.
Salgueiro’s front commission also generated controversy using men to represent women. But choreographer Hélio Bejani said he didn’t want to motivate negative reactions.
According to him, the choice was a joint decision with the Carnavalesco, Alex de Souza:
“I don’t want controversy. This is an artistic manifestation, we have a poetic license. The plot is afro (African). And it’s a most historical afro. We needed those darker features. So we decided to paint and to use men representing women. I wanted to be robust. Make-up was the only way to get the right tone.”
For the president of the Salgueiro, Regina Celi, the painting was part of the conception of the plot: “It was in the reading the Carnavalesco, it had to be like this.”
The rest of the parade set out to exalt black women who have left their mark on the history of mankind and are not always remembered, the “Senhoras do ventre do mundo” (women of the womb of the world) theme.
The story began in the African Eden in cars on the wings, recalling characters like the Queen of Sheba, passed through Egypt, with the rainha de bateria (queen of the drumbeat) Viviane Araújo as Pharaoh Hatshepsut, and also focused on warriors such as Tereza de Benguela.
The school, however, faced problems in finishing various allegories. In the wings, for example, two giraffes were damaged and had to be arranged hastily in the concentration, but the cracks in the animals’ necks were still visible in the parade. At the end, the last car re-read Michelangelo’s famous “Pietà” sculpture as a black woman.
Note from BW of Brazil: What really amazes here is that the responses to accusations from the makers and participants almost seemed rehearsed, as they make little sense and hark back to the manner in which Brazil has historically deflected cries of racism. How so? Check it. Marcão tells us that even those who are not black are so in the blood, which is reminiscent of the words of influential anthropologist Gilberto Freyre, whose writings since the 1930s are generally held as being the source of Brazil’s mythical ‘racial democracy’ ideology. You be the judge. Freyre once wrote:
“Every Brazilian, even the white, with blond hair, brings in the soul, when not in the soul and in the body … the shadow, or at least the stain, of the Indian and the Negro. In tenderness, in excessive mimicry, in Catholicism in which our senses are delighted, in music, in walking, in speech, in the little boy’s lullaby, in everything that is sincere expression of life, we, almost all, bring the mark of black influence.”
Marcão goes even further in referencing Brazil’s past and present in his belief that “we are all brothers”, reminiscent of the ever popular “we’re all equal” phrase that so many Brazilians will utter when confronted with the issue of racism. He even concludes by basically co-signing on the totally debunked ‘racial democracy’ theory by telling us that “we don’t have this stuff of racism”. Of course not!
Bateria member Marcela Santana Pereira believes that taking off the blackface wouldn’t have the same impact, as if to say, black people presented as their authentic selves wouldn’t be good enough for “showtime”. Choreographer Hélio Bejani also seems to suggest that seeing black people in their real skin wouldn’t be good enough because “make-up was the only way to get the right tone”. Really? What type of logic is that? The skin tone of black people is “the right tone” whatever the tone of the skin. And with darker skin tones, viewers will know that these people are black from any seat in the stadium or on television. The contradiction in this phrase can also be noted in the brown skin tones of the black baby dolls that the samba school members utilized during the routine. They didn’t seem to believe that the dolls needed to be painted black to get the “right tone”, now did they?
Perhaps Salgueiro’s president’s comment sums it all up and gives us the answer to this madness that we’re looking for. After all, they weren’t going to be talked out putting on this display because someone made the decision that “it had to be like this”. In other words, they didn’t really care what anyone thought because the ridicule and objectification of black skin must go on. And it’s no wonder. For it is a regular practice of Brazil’s media.
- The comissão de frente is the front line of a samba school, the first group of components to parade, and this is a mandatory condition. It consists of about ten to fifteen people who perform a choreography, introducing the plot. Except for the front commission, there is no other rule regarding the order of elements during the samba school parade. Source