Note from BW of Brazil: Throughout the life of this blog we have consistently featured posts that discuss topics such as racism, racial identity and the effects of living in society based upon Eurocentric ideals on the Afro-Brazilian population. What we see time and time again is that Brazil is country that would prefer its black population simply didn’t exist. We know it historically because of elite plans for whitening the population through European immigration and the promotion of miscegenation and anti-black sentiments. And we see it in nearly every facet of life in the country, from the overwhelming whiteness of images presented in the media, the power structure (politics and wealth), regular reports of racism and an apparent plan of genocide of black youth by the Military Police.
In our view, one of the only means for the Afro-Brazilian population to confront some of these issues that surely diminish the overall self-esteem of this population would be through the re-education of the people. And such a re-education will not happen if it were to be left up to the government. Which is why it’s always great to see the work that people such as Kiusam Oliveira are putting in in an attempt to re-construct what has been stripped away from Afro-Brazilians for so long. We previously featured Kiusam’s work here so we wish success in her latest project, which connects black children to Goree Island, which is famous for being the port from which countless Africans said goodbye to the African continent during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Kiusam Oliveira talks about her book The Sea That Bathes Goree Island
Work was inspired during the participation in the World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal
By David Brandão
Multimedia artist, writer, educator. Born in Santo André, in metropolitan São Paulo region, Kiusam Regina de Oliveira wins is the spotlight with the release of O mar que banha a Ilha de Goré (The Sea That bathes Goree Island), a work that gained inspiration from her participation of a festival in Senegal.
In an interview with DCI, the author comments on this new experience in the curriculum, the current situation of the country’s education system, literature, racial issues, among other important issues for society.
On the eve of the International Women’s Day, Kiusam left a special message for her female audience.
How did the conception of the book O mar que banha a Ilha de Goré (The sea around the Goree Island) come about?
In 2010, when I attended the Festival Mundial de Artes Negras (World Festival of Black Arts) in Dakar, Senegal. At the time I had the opportunity to visit Goree Island and it was a wonderful experience, a lot of inspiration.
You have a PhD in education, right? What is the perspective on the issue of self-esteem of black children in today’s society?
As children in the space of primary socialization, that is, in the family circle, we don’t perceive ourselves as racialized beings: we are considered beautiful to the fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts etc. The understanding that we are racialized begins in the secondary socialization process that occurs at school. What I affirm is that the child knows racism in the school space among classmates and education professionals. It’s in this space that black children hear phrases like “my mother told me not to play with you because you are black” or “you’re ugly because you’re black” or “your hair is hard, steel wool”. Thus, the black child begins to realize that his life will not be easy because it’s influenced by the color of their skin, hair type and exclusion. Thus, the black child begins to develop a negative self-image that converges with the process of building positive and healthy identities and their school performance because at the beginning of our lives, we construct our identities from the eyes of others, of what others say we are. It’s is essential that someone tells us we’re beautiful from the point of our physical characteristics. This strengthens and empowers us. Prejudiced and racist acts provoke psychic ruptures that can take a long time to be sewn.
Kika, the main character in the book makes a way back to the island, what message does she pass on mainly to parents?
The first message is that the black child needs to know his/her origins in African soil, the African role in terms of cradle of humanity. I say African soils because Africa is a continent; it’s plural, multiple, diverse. In this case, I chose Goree Island to tell a story that reminds us of the ancestry, the life of the various elements of nature including placing them as wise because they are here, on the planet since always, they see and know everything.
It’s the second book with Taisa Borges’s illustrations, what is your identity and relationship with the illustrator?
Taísa Borges is unique. This is because she takes into consideration my images, my reflections for the construction of the characters. Besides professionalism and artistic competence she has a huge sensitivity to reflect, draw, illustrate black characters probably because she keeps listening attentively and ancestral observation. Respect for diversity needs to be passed on through the hands of an artist, not only through discourse and Taísa can do this in a generous and overflowing way. Such ability is also a form of activism. My respect to this activist illustrator.
In your opinion how do you assess kindergarten and children’s access to extracurricular literature?
Books aren’t lacking in school libraries whether in the state system or in municipal networks. What is lacking is proper training for education professionals within the perspective of law 10.639/03, which requires in our country, the teaching of African History and Afro-Brazilian culture in schools. Such training would give preference to emphasizing, for example, in a library, books that portray diversity, that because we are so used to, for example, the stories of a European fairy, a specific kind of princess and literary books also form us, they also help build identities. If there are people with different physical characteristics, ways of being, tastes and values, why can’t such diversity be present in children’s and young adult books? It is essential that children see books with characters with disabilities, black and Oriental princesses and princes, black and indigenous doctors etc. to be able to understand or defend that the world should and can give space and opportunities to every human being regardless of their differences such as race/color, gender, sexual orientation, height, body type, age, among others.
How do you, a Brazilian woman, black and with an intense social work evaluate the role of blacks in the world?
The roles of black men and women are fundamental. First, because as a thinker I am part of a group of intellectuals who believe (and who have been confirmed) in the African continent as the Berço da Humanidade (Cradle of Humanity) and thus all began there: human life, technological, accurate and human scientificisms. We must have respect for this continent and the ability of its people has of creating and perpetuating itself in history. Such skills are ancestral and are in the DNA of every human being, regardless of the race/color that each has. This knowledge and historical and socio-cultural protagonism is a part of black bodies and all knowledge, all capacity of social transformation is within us; all the strength and all the power is part of us forever. What we cannot do is let ourselves to succumb to on duty racists who hold positions in various public spaces in our country, for example, in politics, in education, health, safety etc. We need to have the exact notion that we black women who secularly breastfed white children, children of our tormentors, we continue to take care of white children of our country and to organize the homes of these families while at the same time we have to organize our own homes with all the possible difficulties; we black women studied a lot but we continue to occupy subordinate levels in workspaces seeing those who have less titles and experience ordering us; we black women are the ones that developing the same function as a white woman earn a lower salary, among other inequalities. Yet we continue to smile, believe, rolling up our sleeves to dig spaces of autonomy, leadership and visibility of our abilities and talents.
Leave a message for all the women of Brazil to celebrate International Women’s Day (1)
All of us, women, suffer for living in a sexist society such as Brazil. May in this year, once again, you be capable of realizing the existing oppression in male-female relationships and be capable of strengthening and acting in a female collective because our victories came to pass, have come and will come to pass from collective and cooperative actions. We are struggling, make no mistake, constant struggle against those that oppress us. May more and more of you, woman, have the capacity to understand this. May more and more, you black woman, have the ability to understand that we need you in the collective so that we can have more and more achievements through significant public policies.
1. Interview as released before the March 8th International Women’s Day