But there are no longer ghosts on the clear day,

everything is so simple,

everything so bare,

the colours and smells of the present are so strong

[and so urgent

the stenches and rouges, the reeks and golds of the

[18th century pass unnoticed.

O vôo sobre as igrejas. (The flight above the churches) Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Sentimento do mundo, Pongetti, 1940.

Strona ze szkolnego podręcznika. (c) Alice Zanon

Strona z podręcznika szkolnego. (c) Alice Zanon

Pamiątka mojej ceremonii chrztu. (c) Alice Zanon

1. The Extant Memory on a Clear Day

Carlos Drummond de Andrade died four years before I was born. Living in Minas, having been born in the same city as him (Itabira), I would read and memorize some of his poems during my childhood. I found them sad, ironic, and beautiful, and tried to imitate the style. If we walk the paths he walked through Itabira, we will find metal signposts engraved with his poetry and a public library in his name. The city was the space I shared with this writer who had lived in another time, and had expressed himself so well, I would think. He was acerbic and melancholy, we itabiranos1 were, too (I was, at least). In the literary reading, the space I inhabited existed in the past when my eyes were absorbed in the book, and in the present when my nose raised above the page2. It was a sensible, poetic time, that stretched from the past to the present.

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

The now from my childhood readings has become a yesterday. Nevertheless, the poems, the city, and a feeling of identification between me and the story of that place endure.

Confession of the Itabirano

For some years I lived in Itabira.

Especially I was born in Itabira.

That is why I am sad, proud: irony.

Ninety percent of iron on the pathways.

Eighty percent of iron in the souls.

And this absent-mindedness of what in life

[is porosity and communication.

The will to love, that suspends my work,

comes from Itabira, its white nights, devoid

[of women or horizons.

It is the habit of suffering that amuses me so,

sweet inheritance from Itabira.

From Itabira I brought an assortment of gifts that now I offer you:

this Saint Benedict made by the old saint-man Alfredo Duval;

this tapir leather, thrown over the living-room sofa;

this pride, this crestfallen…

I’ve had gold, I’ve had cattle, I’ve had farms.

Today I am a civil servant.

Itabira is just a picture on the wall.

But how it hurts!3

Especially to be born in Itabira is a seal to Drummond and to me. In the second grade at school, the teacher Elza would ask our class to write our own poems, inspired by Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s poems, on subjects like poetry and primary school. I liked to imagine that he had studied in that same school, and considering that he had died and I wrote beautiful poems, I could easily follow his steps. Some years later, while reading his chronology in a selection of poems about childhood, I discovered he attended private schools in the capital and a boarding school in Nova Friburgo. During that time, I studied in a public school.

The poet and I didn’t share the same story, after all. But there was something we shared. In school, I tried to rationally grasp that “something” I perceived between me and the city, the poems, and real life. I tried to grasp how the past had brought the elements that constitute the present.

Strona ze szkolnego podręcznika. (c) Alice Zanon

The school subject Brazilian history was firstly introduced in the curriculum of the Colégio Pedro II (Pedro II Secondary School), in Rio de Janeiro, in 1849. Ever since, the history of the country has been written about from different viewpoints (in that time, the students had to memorize the dates of the deeds of great men, like the “Discovery” of Pedro Álvares Cabral, in April 1500). The way in which Brazilians learn about their national history varies according to the socio-economical class and the geographic region of each student, since the textbooks used at private schools are very different from the free4 textbooks distributed by the governments responsible for the municipal and state public schools. In 1970, during the dictatorship in Brazil by deliberation of the Médici’s government, the Ministry of Education and Culture became co-author of the didactic books in the country. The following year, the same ministry became fully responsible for the analysis (and approval) of the textbooks used in all Brazilian schools. From the 1970s onward, principally in the 1980s, a great number of researchers in different areas of education, mainly in the areas of geography and history, published papers analyzing the schoolbooks. These researches concluded that the books distributed by the government were outdated, biased and not suitable for learning, and proposed a curricular improvement based on their results as well as a critique of the institutions responsible for national education.

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

During the years I studied in the Major Lage school, the books on which my education was based were unsatisfactory for my comprehension of the relations in the space I occupied in the history of the country. Despite revisions of the teaching content in the beginning of the 1990s, that updated concepts such as “third-world countries” or “undeveloped countries” for “developing countries,” the didactic literature didn’t manage to show me how the relations surrounding me worked in their social, economic, and racial complexities. According to the authors I read during high school,5 the cultural changes in Brazil would occur in spite of the state’s economic cycles. These cycles were successive and concomitant: the cycle of the Brazilwood, of the sertão drugs,6 of sugarcane, of meat, of gold, of diamonds, of coffee, of grains, the cycle of oranges, of metals, of water. We studied more closely the cycles of gold, sugarcane, and coffee, and from them, their societies and their productive peaks and decline. We learned that the society would shape itself after its commercial vocation (the exported goods),7 which would create cultural distinctions linked to the specific politics developed by the capital with the aim of controlling the economy of each region. The culture was, then, dependent on the economy. History said that I was the daughter and granddaughter of the mining extraction cycle. That sounded fitting; once my grandfather had worked at Vale and now my mother worked there. Eighty percent iron in the souls.

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

2. The New, the Newest, and the Modern

After finishing high school, I moved from Itabira to Belo Horizonte. I chose, I was able to choose in spite of recent political changes, not to be the third generation of my family to work for the ore extraction from Itabira, so I moved to the capital to study arts at the university. I still didn’t clearly understand the effects of colonization, slavery, or mining. The landscape was made up of mountains that had been cut through, but I was already used to that. Unable to find answers in books, I decided to look for history in the story of my family, assembling my family tree starting with my mother. When I started the search, I found out my grandfather and his closest brother had already done all the work, retrieving even the coat of arms of the Zanoni and Beteli families. They had had, in the last years of their lives, the same desire I would have in my twenties.

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

It’s common in Brazil to say we descend from some nationality.8 When I was younger, this inspired some nobility in me. My grandfather loved pasta and would get emotional over soap operas that addressed Italian immigration as a subject. With the family tree assembled, and kept by an aunt after my grandfather and great uncle died, I noticed this path would not lead me to the past-in-present feeling I had been searching for since the first poems and lines from my time in school. To go looking for history from the viewpoint of my blood didn’t sooth the strangeness I felt when I strolled through the new city, not knowing if I really belonged there, doubting what had really brought me there. The opportunity to attend university, in the capital of the province had, up until the generation that preceded mine in the family, been a privilege held by the rich.

My story had to fit into larger and older one, I insisted: there was gold, diamonds, emeralds, silver, and there is still iron. Back then I walked among the last ore deposits in town, and now I would cross the capital designed to be modern. My body in its micro-story: the city’s streets named after the states of Brazil are perpendicular to the streets that take the names of the indigenous tribes that existed nationwide and are parallel to the streets named after the Inconfidentes.9 I memorized the space. Tiradentes’10 monument faces the gallows in the central region of the city; the Acaiaca building holds two large and tall sculptures of natives solemnly facing one of the main avenues. The buildings are both old and new. Maria Angélia Melendi, teacher of art courses at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, wrote that “Brasil is still part of a world where the ancient doesn’t exist: only the decadent; a world where the new always appears out of nowhere and, if it doesn’t remain forever new, shall be destroyed.”11 Between the monuments to the martyrs and the American fast-food chains, how is it possible to notice the presence of the old in the new?

Strona ze szkolnego podręcznika. (c) Alice Zanon

3. Anthropophagy: The I Is Made Up of the Others

In 1996, Tadeu Chiarelli wrote about the first manifestations of the country’s art in Arte brasileira ou arte no Brasil12 (Brazilian art or art in Brazil), dividing them into two groups: the manifestations of marginalized segments of society, the ones derived from indigenous, African, Portuguese and other peoples, with a fundamentally folk aspect; and the erudite, heirs of European art, systematized by the actions of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts of Rio de Janeiro in the nineteenth century. According to Tadeu, what characterizes the main current of Brazilian art in the first centuries is “precisely its ability of appropriating certain postures and procedures of the folk art, appropriation that would culminate in distinguishing this art production from the art of other countries.”13 The appropriation of postures as a main characteristic of Brazilian art in the nineteenth century draws near the idea of anthropophagy as modernism, as thought up by the group of intellectuals from São Paulo in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Anthropophagy as a cultural practice of Brazilian modernism, inspired by indigenous rituals, is a metaphor that intends to conjure a founding myth of the national culture. In the anthropophagic rituals, after a battle the winning tribe would cook and then ingest certain body parts of the warriors from the rival tribe that had lost, in the belief that they would then absorb the qualities of those warriors killed in battle. It was also a practice of anthropophagy to ingest a small amount of ash from the incinerated body of one’s beloved kin, usually by placing the ash on top of a kind of banana pudding.

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

The birth certificate of Brazilian modernism is the Anthropophagic Manifesto. Written by members of the elite coffee producers that had come into contact with the European modernisms during travels for their studies, the manifesto proposed an appreciation of the mixed Brazilian reality. We would then be something like a culture that consumed cultures. The main inspiration, according to the intellectuals of the Modern Art Week of 1922, was the indigenous culture, the Tupi,14 because of its primitivism. Despite recognizing the cultural importance of the native groups by the modernists, that kept the importance of the black population invisible to the constitution of Brazil, even after the abolition of slavery, in 1888, it was only after many popular strives, that in 1992 it became compulsory, in the subjects of artistic education, literature and history of Brazil, to teach about the role of the native peoples from Latin America and the Africans and African-descents in the configuration of history.15

The official history of Brazil was written by white people and remains guarded by them. During the occupation of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in 2016,16 the students protesting in the Faculty of Letters broke into a barred deposit in the university building and found, locked there and kept out of circulation, hundreds of educational books regulated according to Law no. 11645. The lack of a point of view, and place to speak from,17 18 of the blacks and natives in history holds back the full comprehension of the relations between Brazilians. Incapable of sharing the experience of racial segregation, how is it possible for me to understand the effects of the establishment of the space I share with the non-white other? The lack of contextualization of the past allows for a relation of false non-continuity with the space. In Ouro Preto, it is common to spot families taking their children to play at Morro da Forca, a pelourinho, a place originally associated with the spectacle of the hanging of black people who were enslaved during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Nowadays, the pelourinho is used as a promenade, leading up a landscape-lookout. When I went there, only once and for as long as a handful of minutes, I felt there was something wrong, something strange. Gilberto Freyre wrote that the Portuguese colonization was the smoothest of all but setting foot on that place did not reiterate the sociologist’s perspective, one that was fundamental to research on racism in Brazil.

Can I find in my Brazilian body the story of the other that is black, the other that is indigenous? I am white: I do not live the experience of the other; white is as the others see me, how they treat me. But I do feel empathy. Through the ideal of an other, as it is the case with the modernist production, this empathy floats, bodiless. Up to where does this empathy feel, see, perceive? Up to where is it instinct, and where is it projection?

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

Anna Bella Geiger has a series called Brasil nativo x Brasil alienígena that touched me deeply when I first saw it, during graduate school. It made me think about the place from where one speaks and empathy. While writing this text, though, I came across an interview19 where the artist spoke about this work, and I understood I had read the pictures in a decontextualized manner. Geiger was born into a family of immigrants from Poland and intended to question her own Brazilianess in relation to native Brazilians. According to Anna Bella, she “wanted to say that at that specific political moment they [the natives] had no rights as citizens, as well as us, all the ‘other Brazilians.” The photographs of the native women stamped on the postcards that inspired the artist were being used as state propaganda by the Brazilian government under the military regimen at that time, and romanticized the reality in the country, as well as its bonds with the primitive folks. When I saw the photographs of the family and friends of the Brazilian artist side by side with the photographs of the native families, I didn’t understand that Anna Bella was claiming her place as a Brazilian. I saw, and still see, because I believe art allows this dislocation between what the artist designed and what the receptor seized, in the forged pictures by Anna a delicate irony, an impossibility, a juvenile, and stigmatized imitation of the indigenous (in the same way we did when we celebrated the “day of the Indian” in primary school, making up paper panache headpieces). It is delicate to speak about the prejudice suffered by European foreigners in Brazil, especially in relation to the indigenous and black people. I don’t know if it is possible to place on the same ground the rights of the white and those of the indigenous people, even if during the years of dictatorship, there was an attempt at “drawing a relationship about the deprivation of democratic possibilities on a very simple level.”20 With a basis in the theory of racial democracy and the positive Brazilian miscegenation, thought up by Gilberto Freyre and disseminated by many doctors, psychiatrists and sanitarians in Brazil and elsewhere, the blending of Brazilian blood with European blood was praised, for it would cause the whitening of the future generations.

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

This year the black and feminist philosopher Djamila Ribeiro published the first book of the series Feminismos Plurais, entitled O que é lugar de fala?.21 The author is also the editor of the series, and selected solely black and indigenous activists as authors for the upcoming volumes. These works aim to discuss topics such as rights and privileges, focusing on a black and indigenous epistemology still non-existent in the universities. According to the researcher and activist, “to define oneself is a meaningful status of strengthening and marking down possibilities of transcending the colonizing norm.”22 Anna Bella defined herself through photographs, but who defines the indigenous? In order to understand Brazilian history, established by the colonizing thought, it is important that I identify the place I speak from. Each classification that fragments my existence draws me nearer to a social identity: my sexuality, my access to university, my race, my gender, my social class, my economic class. This pinpoints my experience as a Brazilian and unfolds the possibilities of more than a single National History.

4. In Histories, the I Crosses with the Other

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

Z osobistego archiwum. (c) Alice Zanon

When I look at myself in the mirror, the similarities my face shares with my mother’s are undeniable; I can find the personal memory in my body (genetics, years, marks). But how do I find the memory of a social, national body, when it is not explicit in this space? If the social body is an amalgam of real bodies (alive and dead alike), how to encompass the memory that endures in the other? Djamila speaks about the importance of the right to speak up. If the other, Brazilian like me, is not heard and is represented (in postcards, in schoolbooks, in media) in a stigmatized way, how is it possible to transcend the consciousness of history in its colonizing bias? If these social identities have been silenced and denied, where can I listen to them?

Autorka: Josi Tainá. (c) Josi Tainá. Dzięki uprzejmości artystki

Autorka: Josi Tainá. (c) Josi Tainá. Dzięku uprzejmości artystki.

A to Josi Tainá. Studiowałyśmy razem na UFMG. Zajęło mi trochę czasu zanim zrozumiałam jej działania jako artystki. Jej prace to szkice będące autoportretami (tak jak na zdjęciu) i zdjęcia w niskiej rozdzielczości, które trzymała dla siebie przez jakiś czas. Dziś jej prace dotykają mnie sposobem w jaki się portretuje - argesywno-afektywnie. Te grafiki przypominają mi o wyjątkowości danej osoby, która jest w tym samym momencie ciałem społecznym. Jest ono stworzone z historii, tak mocno się ujawniającej, że przeszłość mogłaby żyć w teraźniejszości. (c) Josi Tainá. Dzięki uprzejmości artystki

When I started writing this text, I had in mind that violence would be the only possible conclusion to the colony’s linear story. It is impossible to ignore the hushing of these marginalized identities when it culminates into violence. I planned to recall the images of Rosângela Rennó’s The earth summit (Atentado ao poder).23 This work was shown at the end of the United Nations’ Conference on the Environment, known as ECO 92 and took place in Rio de Janeiro. The meeting put Brazil under the international spotlight, and during the two weeks of conferences, Rosângela collected images of newspapers portraying people murdered on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and displayed the photographs of the disfigured bodies as the final piece. This type of imagery has a guaranteed effect: they shock, surprise, invoke horror, pity, and indignation.

Violence in Brazil is a reality internationally acknowledged, and an obvious result of the social and economic exclusion suffered by most of its population. I thought of proposing a genealogy of violence, “a restoration of memory that encompasses us, capable of interrogating and, eventually, altering the convictions and values that contributed to obscure the theoretical recovery of such past.”24 However, while writing about the violence that took place during the first conflict between the Portuguese and the natives, I could not help but think that I had only shared the same physical space (crossed paths, in the sense of passing by a common space) with indigenous people twice in the span of twenty-six years.

Both events took place while on a bus, one on the intermunicipal transports and the other in Belo Horizonte. On the first, I was returning from a town up north in Minas Gerais, Águas Formosas, by bus. One of the neighboring places was Machacalis, a municipality I had only heard of, where a few of the remaining tribes of Minas Gerais, from the Maxacali indigenous group were resisting. In that trip, a few inhabitants of Machacalis, people of indigenous origin, I supposed, by their physical traits, were riding back on the same bus with me. Back in the city I had departed from, white people had advised me to be careful, for many of these men worked with the surrounding crops, were usually drunk on cachaça,25 and could be dangerous. They got off when the driver stopped by Machacalis, and there were no incidents along the way. The second time happened on the city bus to the university, where the usual passengers are mostly white. When the indigenous people got on, I did not know how to react. Issues of theoretic empathy, that floaty matter, with no actual contact. Should I glance over with a strange look? A sympathetic unfamiliarity? Kindly? Should I smile? Act normal? I believe that day I opted for the gentle unfamiliarity with a smile.

How can I write about the story of the indigenous people, if to me they still occupy a mythic imaginary? Djamila suggests the creation of “new places to speak from with the objective of allowing the voice and the visibility of individuals that have been considered implicit in this hegemonic normalization.”26 When the other has no right to speech, it is impossible to name his reality.27 Being coherent with the reality we share among Brazilians is impossible in a context where there’s no listening, no attentive listening.

5. Violence: Against Existence and for Existence, Resistance

Strona ze szkolnego podręcznika. (c) Alice Zanon

Strona ze szkolnego podręcznika. (c) Alice Zanon

Pedro and I entered university a short while after we finished high school. Originally from Patrocínio, he is a year my junior. Because we were born in the beginning of the 1990s, our stories crossed paths in Belo Horizonte for both political reasons and because of personal choices. Coming from low-middle-class families, we entered university thanks to the increase in vacancies in the public federal universities, one of the benefits of the populist measures of Lula’s government. Pedro and I studied in the same building, and he did Drama. He was one of the few black students in the building. During the occupation of the School of Fine Arts, in 2016, he was among the protesters actively against PEC 24128. The son of militant parents and the grandson of quilombolas,29 he would go on to be the first generation of his family to graduate from university.

Shortly after the state coup that transferred Dilma’s presidency to the hands of the vice-president Temer, austerity policies began to take place. After freezing the investments allocated for education for the following 20 years in the country, teachers from diverse subjects presented their analysis of the public university’s likely future, where only recently students that are black, indigenous and/or of low socio-economical classes have started to attend and take part. There were weekly assemblies at EBA (the School of Fine Arts) and at other faculties on campus, and during that year, private universities were occupied by solidary protests with the students and teachers of the public-schools’ system.

At this moment of political effervescence, the School of Fine Arts published an open call aiming at performances that dialogued with the political scenario. The call formalized an organic movement that had gained momentum through the horizontality of relations: the main resistance against government measures was by high-schoolers from all over the country. Thousands of these students had occupied their own schools for over a month by then, sharing tasks, taking care of the educational space more zealously than the political authorities responsible for such things. Without taking part in the call, Pedro, whose artistic and political name is Preto Amparo,30 told the occupants at the movement that he would perform on the same day as other performances would take place. His performance lasted fifteen minutes, in which Pedro undressed, cleansed himself, smashed a children’s police car using a hammer, smoked a cigarette that he put out in his hands afterwards, and ate popcorn. During the performance, the school director closed the doors of the building, that are normally open on school days.

The audience questioned the director’s behavior. She had reacted with something between horror and disdain. The attempt of gathering artists from Belo Horizonte in a performance act held up by UFMG31 clearly shaped the borders for race inside the University.32 Teachers at the School of Fine Arts protested through public letters, mentioning episodes where the nudity of white bodies had been previously welcomed in that same space. That was the beginning of the play Violento. (“Violent.”), written with a period, just like the phrase we the whites conjure when we read the black body.

Zdjęcie zrobione w trakcie sztuki Violento.(c) Alice Zanon

6. Violento.

The fifteen-minute performance was worked-up through open rehearsals and, in dialogue with the participants of Segunda Preta (Black Monday, a group of black artists, researchers, and activists in the dramaturgic scene of Belo Horizonte), with the director and the producer that are now part of the show, is now a 50-minute play. It contains two speaking parts, a quick reference to Pedro’s 25 years, and a line spoken in Kalunga, a dialect from the Bantu culture. It is a performance play of silence, symbols, and gestures.

I am 26 and I didn’t understand the line spoken in this different tongue during the play. It is necessary to make the body strong, so it can also become sweet – I later found out. What sort of violence was this? Sweet, sensible, real, and bare? What was the story I missed, reading that sweet body as a violent one? Who was Pedro, Preto, the black man in Brazil? Would I be able to comprehend?

While writing this text, I described my ramblings in the quest for a historical sense of the present. I had gone through emotion in literature, reason in school, the body in my family tree and in the identification with the other as the impossible body. Yet instinct or spirit made me distrust the answers I came across.

The impossibility to speak for the Brazilians, to tell our story as a people, and the experience of a spectator in the process of the erection of the self of Pedro in the play coincided with the timing of this conclusion. I noticed, in this meeting of the queries, for the individual stories, yet also cultural, historical, political, that to comprehend the present time, as Brazilian and as mineira,33 I would have to cross ways with the other. I borrowed the symbol of the crossroad from the play Violento. When I saw the shadow of the cross reflected upon the stage floor, I assumed it was related to the suffering of the martyr, as the symbol of Jesus on the cross. Then, after the play,34 I could conceive of a sense other than that of the crucifixion (extremely canonical to me). The cross as an intersection, a junction, an encounter.

In anthropophagy, men eat men, culture eats culture. Perhaps a more fruitful relation between the I and the other happens at the crossing: one facing the other, at the intersection. The search for the incorporation and comprehension of the past in this text, as in art and in life, led me to the play.

Zdjęcie zrobione w trakcie sztuki Violento. (c) Alice Zanon

Zdjęcie zrobione w trakcie sztuki Violento. (c) Alice Zanon

In what concerns the play, I quote Soraya Martins, researcher at UFMG about African-Brazilian theatre: “It is re-signifying violence out of the violence suffered by the black bodies. It is the aesthetic violence that, in the crossroads of the black culture, performs gestures and movements beyond a representation: in action, Preto Amparo produces images that weave meanings, tell us stories that the official texts and traditional narratives often mask. Preto carries on the skin he inhabits a repertoire of embodied knowledge, summoned through pain, smell, music and memories, traumatic or not. He connects the profoundly private with the socio-racial practices of exclusion.”35

Zdjęcie zrobione podczas sztuki Violento. (c) Alice Zanon

A Berimbau,36 a red flower, popcorn, coffee, a cross, a tongue I don’t understand. Symbols white people don’t understand, resignified through art. According to Pedro, it is through resignification that an exchange may happen in a place of equality, for the dislodging of symbols puts them in suspension, making them no bigger nor smaller, nor subversive nor integrated. To speak about race may sound old-fashioned, as an outdated concept. In Brazil, thinking about racism has been avoided for centuries, thanks to the myth of the racial democracy. Talking about violence with bodies covered in blood may sound subversive, but the effect of the violence of existing has touched me deeper as a conclusive thought.

The bare body in the scene was Preto’s. Even with the ancestral symbols, time crossed the actor’s body and made me present. In the racism that I have never been a victim of. I haven’t been aggressively inspected by the police, or looked at with fear or hatred. The violence about which I wrote (an undeniable, though simplistic inference) seemed to me the ugly face of a prism that holds other faces, even beautiful ones. It made me think about the violence of being. Of resisting. Of being an “I” in the space, in the now. A space not available to all Brazilians. In Pedro’s case, as Djamila cares to remember, many lives had to shift places to give him this place. In order for him to take his message to the stage, many generations resisted, exist.

Violento. makes me present, as if it allowed an intersection of living memory triggered by the other (me, spectator). Maybe because it doesn’t portray the outer face of violence, the piece worked upon me therapeutically, as if the racism repressed through the official History and Culture was confronted in contact with the assertive presence of the other in a sensible realm. A kind of crossing, a relation among internal, symbolic, gestural experiences, beyond the rationality of written history. The violence of existing does not seem less painful, on the contrary, it has the power of the living body. Present.

[A final note from the Portuguese-English translator: Born and living in Belo Horizonte in the same epoch as the author, a few facts seemed more than sheer coincidence as I proceeded with the translation. For all my teenage years, I studied in the same school as Drummond studied when the poet moved from his hometown to the capital. A private school, with very few black or lower-class students, except for the ones that would get in with a scholarship program the school held, from which I benefited. In my school, however, I never got to study his poetry in class as Alice did in the city where they shared their infancy. Instead, my steps traced his later on, when I would walk alongside my high school friends that were also poets, they would climb the viaducts Drummond infamously climbed with his friends when he was the same age as we were back then, and I would photograph them, standing from the street below. The bravest of these friends was a black girl, and also the best poet among us. The crosses of the encounters trace themselves with our bodies without our ever noticing it, if we decide not to be present. N.T.]

Translated from the Portuguese by Carolina Santana


Alice Zanon is a writer and visual artist from Belo Horizonte in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. She was born in Itabira, a city founded at the end of the seventeenth century, where the giant corporation Vale is the largest employer in the city and is to this day still haunted by the spirits of iron ore. According to the indigenous tribes of Minas, these spirits are the evilest of our land and should never be awoken by men. Until now the spirits lived inside the mountains until they were released by white invaders. If you do not sweep the floors and do not vacuum the furniture regularly, the next day everything will be covered with a layer of silver dust and the iron ore is then breathed in. Iron ore has been the reason for the city's constant territorial distortion, and has defined its past and its future. Alice explores issues related to the memory and history of Minas Gerais. In her literary and artistic experiments, she combines the threads of mining in colonial and contemporary times with the social and individual costs of this experience.

*Coverphoto: photo taken during the play Violento. (c) Alice Zanon

[1] Plural form of Itabirano, a person born in Itabira. Note from the translator (hereafter marked by the initials N.T.). All the quotations in this article have been freely translated from the Portuguese unless otherwise stated, and are only intended to allow the reader to comprehend the information used by the author in her work.

[2] Italo Calvino, Mundo escrito e mundo não-escrito – Artigos, conferências e entrevistas, translated by Maurício Santana Dias, Cia. Das Letras, 2002. In this lecture Calvino points to the necessity of knowing, observing and experiencing reality, and only then to write about it.

[3] Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Sentimento do mundo, Pongetti, 1940.

[4] In 1996, the Brazilian government initiated a partnership, known as MEC/USAID (the Ministry of Education and Culture/United Stated Agency for International Development), aimed at the foreign sponsorship of didactic books to be freely distributed to Brazilian students of the public-school’s system. Between 1964–1968, the military government signed a number of partnerships with the North-American Government.

[5] This generation of authors followed the influence of Marxist historiography.

[6] Sertão is the name given to the Brazilian deserted inlands, and the drugs here mentioned stand for spices native to the Brazilian territory, such as cocoa, Brazil nuts and guarana. N.T

[7] Eduardo Galeano, As veias abertas da América Latina (e-book), translated from the Spanish by Sergio Faraco, L&PM, p. 713. (Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, first English edition published by Monthly Review Press in 1973, translated from the Spanish by Cedric Belfrage).

[8] Pedro Nava, a writer from the state of Minas Gerais, considered the greatest memorialist of Brazil, traced his family tree back to his tenth-great-grandfather, and published it in his first memoir in 1972. He wrote five volumes of memoirs, personal, familiar and national, inspired by Marcel Proust’s book series. Nava was a well-known anatomist which lent his memorialist fiction a scientific rigor. Drummond was friends with Pedro Nava his whole life. They met during their teens, in Belo Horizonte, and were part of the Brazilian Modernist Movement (even though they were outside the state it had actively happened, mainly through correspondence).

[9] The Inconfidentes were leaders in a separatist movement during the colonial period in Brazil that ended unsuccessfully in 1789. N.T.

[10] Tiradentes was the major martyr from Inconfidência Mineira, one of the political movements demanding Brazil’s independence from the Portuguese Crown. Hanged, maimed, and his body parts exposed throughout the mining towns, he became one of the first heroes praised by Brazilian historiography after more than a century of his murder.

[11] Maria Angélica Melendi, Estratégias da arte em uma era de catástrofes, Cobogó, Rio de Janeiro, 2017, p. 74.

[12] Tadeu Chiarelli, Arte internacional brasileira, Lemos-editorial, São Paulo, 2002.

[13] Idem, emphasis added by the author.

[14] Tupi was one of the largest indigenous groups in Brazil, comprehending a range of peoples that inhabited the coast of the country before its colonization. N.T.

[15] The law intends to establish the inclusion of “diverse aspects of history and culture that characterize the configuration of the Brazilian population, from these two ethnic groups, such as the study of the history of Africa and the Africans, the struggle of the black people and of the indigenous people in Brazil, the black culture and the indigenous Brazilian culture, and the black and the indigenous people in the configuration of the national society, rescuing their contributions to the social, economic and political areas, pertinent to the history of Brazil”. In http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_ato2007-2010/2008/lei/l11645.htm (in Portuguese). Accessed 28/03/2018.

[16] After the discovery of a great oil reserve in the pre-salt layer of the Brazilian bay, an episode known as Pre-Salt (Pré-Sal, in Portuguese), during president Dilma’s government, the state allocated an investment of 20% of the oil royalties in the areas of public health and education. After the impeachment of the president, considered by many as a state coup, the interim president, Michel Temer, proposed an Amendment to the Constitution of Brazil, known as PEC 55, that would freeze, for 20 years, the investments from the federal government in the areas of health and education (including the Pre-Salt’s royalties), and propositioned also a Provisory Measure (746) to reform the high school system. Despite the demonstrations and occupations in many schools and universities all over the country against these proposals, the measures were approved.

[17] Djamila Ribeiro, O que é lugar de fala?, Letramento, Belo Horizonte, 2017, p. 64.

[18] The place one speaks from is a term that aims to pinpoint the place the speaker occupies in their society. Is it a place of privilege, or a place of the minority? The place where one speaks from resonates with the experiences one encounters in relation to others from different backgrounds. N.T.

[19] We Shot Ourselves in the Foot: An Interview with Anna Bella Geiger by Agnieszka Sural http://culture.pl/en/article/we-shot-ourselves-in-the-foot-an-interview-with-anna-bella-geiger [last accessed 25/03/18].

[20] Anna Bella Geiger by Dorothé Dupuis http://terremoto.mx/article/anna-bella-geiger/ [last accessed 01/04/ 18].

[21] There aren’t so far English editions of the mentioned titles, but a free translation would be, respectively, Plural Feminisms, and What is the place I speak from? N.T.

[22] Djamila Ribeiro, O que é lugar de fala?, Letramento, Belo Horizonte, 2017, p. 44.

[23] Rosângela Rennó, Atentado ao poder, Rio de Janeiro, 1992 http://www.rosangelarenno.com.br/obras/exibir/20/1 [Accessed on 01/04/18].

[24] Maria Angélica Melendi, Estratégias da arte em uma era de catástrofes, Cobogó, 2017, p. 246.

[25] Distilled beverage made from sugarcane. N.T.

[26] Djamila Ribeiro. O que é lugar de Fala?, p. 73.

[27] Idem, p. 41.

[28] Introduced in 2016 by Michel Temer's goverment constitutional amendment called PEC 241- referred to as the “End of the World Amendment” by its critics - is an enforced Austerity plan which will freeze public education and health spending for 20 years regardless of population increase. (ed.)

[29] Quilombola is the name given to the resident of a quilombo, settlements and shelters of black slaves who escaped from slave plantations in Brazil before the abolition of slavery in 1888. N.T.

[30] Words that in Portuguese, despite their common use for personal names and nicknames, mean, respectively, black and safeguard. N.T.

[31] UFMG: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Federal University of Minas Gerais). N.T.

[32] Here with a capital U to refer to the name of the specific university the author talks about, UFMG. N.T.

[33] The person who is born in the state of Minas Gerais. N.T.

[34] http://picumah.com/violento [last accessed on 02/04/18]

[35] Sobre presenças, cheiros, estilhaços e pipocas. MARTINS, Soraya. http://www.horizontedacena.com/sobre-presenca-cheiros-estilhacos-e-pipocas/ [last accessed on 02/04/18]

[36] Brazilian single-stringed bowed instrument commonly used to accompany capoeira. The word comes from Kimbudu, an Angolan language, originally from the word mbirimbau. N.T.

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