Writer Ale Santos researches and shares forgotten passages of black history and grows a large following on social networks

Ale Santos - capa

Note from BW of Brazil: I’ve said it before and it still applies. For those of us who like seeing positive images, be they fictional or historical, being created and shared to feed the hunger of a people seeking affirmation, recognition, acceptance, consciousness and identification of who we are, these are some very exciting times in Brazil! For today, we see an apparent endless stream of talented Afro-Brazilians stepping forward and filling the void of representation that has plagued their existence for decades. Now, mind you, finding this representation on the independent path is usually a long, slow and often times not very lucrative process, but with patience and consistently good work, in the end, it sometimes proves to be the more worthwhile path.

Going the independent route also can’t possibly compete with the mainstream in terms of reach, but then again, when the mainstream continues to ignore you, what does one really have to lose by doing for self? Afro-Brazilians are largely under-represented on TV and when they DO appear, it’s usually to play some stereotype. Thus, many black Brazilians are creating content for platforms that help divulge their talents, such as YouTube. With the lack of willingness of major networks to feature mostly black casts with black directors, production and stories, the rise of teatro negro (black theater) is filling that void, bringing gripping, inspiring stories that go beyond the typical characters that black actors are allowed to portray on the big or small screen. 

We are also seeing the rise and recognition of black authors, bringing a black protagonism in fictional works that is still absent in large chain book sellers throughout the country. It is in the area of the written word that I am seeing some incredible possibilities for exploration, especially considering the film Pantera Negra (Black Panther) that was a HUGE success in Brazil, as in other countries. Exploring this concept of portraying black people and black stories in a fictional setting, or using black history or myth in a cartoon setting, some artists have shown just how powerful this genre can be. Hugo Canuto took his love of Marvel Comic heroes and replaced them with Afro-Brazilian orixás (African deities) in a very visually appealing manner and is attracting investors for the development of his ideas. On the historical front, last July, Marcelo D’Salete won the  Eisner award for his book Cumbe, about the famed 17th century quilombo (maroon society) known as Palmares, written in comic book format.  

Writer Ale Santos is another talent contributing to a re-discovery of a black past that Brazil and other Eurocentric nations have continuously tried to deny, and it’s understandable why. If you destroy a people’s history and knowledge of self, these people are much easier to control, manipulate and belittle. Undermining any sense of pride and self-esteem of its population of African descent has been a powerful weapon of the state and the society in general against black Brazilians. But the tide has been slowly changing, particularly in this age of the internet in which there is such a free exchange of information. With this new availability of information, more black Brazilians have been able to research their history and then easily share such information with the community. This is exactly what the focus of today’s piece, Ale Santos, has been doing with his social networking accounts. Check out the details below. 

ale-santos-arquivo-pessoal
Ale Santos brings the black past to the present with his ‘Threads’

Writer recovers forgotten passages of black history on social networks

By Fernanda Canofre

The writer and publicist Ale Santos, who tells in ‘threads’ on Twitter forgotten passages of black history

‘Threads’ gave rise to book, and author already has more than 74 thousand followers

June 2018, the publicist Ale Santos, 32, decided to tell on Twitter the story of Leopold II (1835-1909), king of Belgium who sponsored a genocide with an estimated number between 8 and 10 million people in the Congo at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th.

Congo
One of his ‘threads’ shares the history of the King Leopold’s brutal reign in the Congo

With ten publications limited to the 280 characters of the social network, the writer from Guaratinguetá, a city in the Vale do Paraíba of São Paulo, narrated the commercial exploitation undertaken by the monarch, as he ordered to cut off members of the workers who reach their target goals or raped women, burned villages that did not accept his rules.

This was the first “thread” – name used for sequential publications on the social network – of Ale that went viral. The first point of it has passed one million views and has more than 16 thousand likes. The idea came a short time earlier, when he wrote about the relationship between epigenetic heritage and slavery, and got 20 republications.

history collage
Ancient Egypt, Osei Kofi Tutu I, one of the founders of the Ashanti Empire and Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman are just a few other topics of Santos’ ‘Threads’ series

With the story of the genocidal king, however, he forced himself to put his cell phone on silent for a few days. “It was when I saw that [that medium] was powerful enough to tell more narratives,” he says. The threads about characters left out of the official history have brought more than 60,000 people to follow the advertiser’s work on social networks last year (in all, he has more than 74,000 followers). His name there: @savagefiction.

warriors
Other threads tell the important stories of heroes and sheroes such as Benkos Biohó, Princesa Aquualtune, Ganga Zumba and others, figures not taught in history classes of Brazilian schools

The theme was the same one that brought the title of champion to the Mangueira samba school in Rio’s Carnival last Wednesday (6), with the theme “Stories to lull great people”. “It didn’t happen that I was studying traditional history and suddenly seeing, ‘wait, there’s a crack here.’ I went to find out the gap that exists [about black stories] recently with my Twitter. I didn’t know they were going to cause such a big convulsion on the social network,” he says.

As a child, Ale read everything he found, but especially history and historical fiction books such as JRR Tolkien, author of O Senhor dos Anéis (The Lord of the Rings). When I was done in the classroom, I would go to the library to read more. The search for characters in Afro-Brazilian history, however, came later, as he began to realize his own identity as a young black man working in the elitist advertising market.

heros 2
Other ‘threads’ includes introductions and histories of figures such as Zumbi dos Palmares, Luís Gama and Zacimba Gaba

The first Afro-Brazilian story he published was that of Zacimba Gaba, an African princess from Angola who was enslaved in Brazil, poisoned her masterand became a quilombola leader. He then wrote about Benedito Meia-Légua, a quilombola who convinced the slavers that he was immortal and created a mystique around himself; Tereza of Benguela, known as the queen of the quilombos of Mato Grosso; Chico Rei, the black monarch of Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais state); and on the repression of black movements during the Brazilian dictatorship.

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The quilombola Benedito Meia-Légua

Some publications are ready in two hours, others take longer, because of the difficulties in finding data and records of black historiography in Brazil, he said.

“Historians and movements that have rescued these stories have emerged in recent decades. The great part was trapped in the orality of some village. I wrote about Balaiada, for example, and only when I went to Maranhão did I find a historian of the black movement who wrote about Negro Cosme and gave me material,” he says.

The stories told in social networks will be published in a book of their own, with more body and bibliographical references. The title is Rastros da Resistência (Traces of Resistance), by the publisher Panda Books, and the pre-sale begins on Monday (11). With the success of the networks, the writer also discovered that telling the story is a political issue. With the followers interested in learning, came the haters and the threats. The messages called him “mimizento” (whiner), “leftist” and accuse him of “wanting to divide the country”.

heróis
“The Unknown Heroes of Slavery”

For him, however, recovering erased stories in a country that celebrates European immigrants, but has a black population that can barely trace more than four generations in the family tree, is a way of creating identity. “It deconstructs the idea that you descend from slaves only, you descend from kings, intellectuals, warriors, queens, empresses, great strategists, and you have an identity that reconstructs the imaginary as well,” he says.

Five ‘Threads’ by Ale Santos

  1. O racismo científico no Brasil pós-abolição: ideologias racistas e o plano eugenista que pretendia diminuir a população negra no Brasil (Scientific racism in post-abolition Brazil: racist ideologies and the eugenic plan that sought to reduce the black population in Brazil)
  2. Holocausto no Congo: como o rei belga Leopoldo 2º conduziu o genocídio que matou entre 8 e 10 milhões de pessoas no país africano (Holocaust in the Congo: How the Belgian King Leopoldo II led the genocide that killed between 8 and 10 million people in the African country)
  3. Os zoológicos racistas: hábito que começou quando Cristóvão Colombo exibiu seis ameríndios na Espanha, em 1492, os zoológicos de nativos das colônias faziam sucesso na Europa. (Racist zoos: A habit that began when Christopher Columbus exhibited six Amerindians in Spain in 1492, the colonies’ native zoos were successful in Europe)
  4. O espírito de Benedito Meia-Légua: Benedito Caravelas ficou conhecido por liderar negros insurgentes por todo o Nordeste. A estratégia, que fazia com que pensassem que estava em todo lugar, vinha de fazer o líder de cada insurreição se vestir igual a ele. Vem daí a frase, “mas será o Benedito?” (The spirit of Benedito Meia-Legua: Benedito Caravelas was known for leading black insurgents throughout the Northeast. The strategy, which made them think he was everywhere, was to make the leader of every insurrection dress like him. From that comes the phrase, “But will it be Benedict?”)
  5. O Dragão do Mar: personagem homenageado no samba-enredo campeão da Mangueira, o abolicionista Chico da Matilde liderou uma greve de jangadeiros para impedir o embarque de escravos que seriam vendidos no Ceará (The Dragon of the Sea: character honored in the samba-enredo champion of Mangueira, abolitionist Chico da Matilde led a fisherman strike to prevent the shipment of slaves that would be sold in Ceará)

Source: A Cidade On

 

About Marques Travae 3067 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

2 Comments

  1. I like this article. It is important that we never forget and continue to let the younger people understand they have great people.

  2. I applaud the work that Ale Santo is doing to record Afro-descendant history. I think it’s also important that we expand the notion of Afro-descendant history and the stories that we recount by trying to resgatar/ rescue seemingly mundane love stories, acts of defiance and merriment. In doing so we represent Afro-descendant humanity in all of its wealth and diversity and develop the notion that despite being historically subjugated and marginalised, black histories are not limited to acts of rebellion in more reactionary ways, but rather daily affirmations of self-determination and humanity that exist outside of the confines of White/ Eurocentric oppression. This I think encourages the development of identities in the present in which consciousness and identification with other Afro-descendants is not limited to struggle.

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