Black Women of Brazil is a photographic and informational blog featuring a diverse array of Brazilian Women of African descent. As much of the English speaking world is not familiar with the history of African descendants in Brazil, it also features news, essays, reports and interviews spanning an array of topics including race, racism, hair, affirmative action, police brutality, etc.
“May I speak to the lady of the house?” Video satirizes Brazil’s belief that a black woman in a middle-class home must be a maid or cleaning lady
By Marques Travae
As many of us no doubt know, sometimes it’s necessary to smile or laugh in order not to cry or to conceal your anger or outrage. The video featured in today’s post illustrates this quite well, but in order to understand what’s happening here, a little background is necessary.
The video called “A Dona da Casa” was produced by a group from Salvador, Bahia, known as Ouriçado Produções and the clip pokes fun at an all too common situation that, in reality, isn’t really funny, but it IS a reality that many black Brazilian women are all too familiar with and once again demonstrates how Brazilian society is clearly divided in the minds of its people into those who are perceived to be “the haves”, usually white, and those perceived to be “the have nots”, usually non-white.
The New Black Middle Class – Man: “I wanted to speak to the owner of the house” – Woman: “You may speak” – Man: “I know that he must trust you very much, but I would like to speak to him personally”
The name of the video, “A Dona da Casa”, means ‘The Lady of the House” or “Owner of the House”, and when one sees a nice, middle-class or luxurious home, it is often automatically assumed that the owner or resident must be white and that if a black woman opens the door she MUST be the family maid. As such, situations often become quite awkward, embarrassing or infuriating when, say, a salesperson when greeted by a black woman a the door continuously insists on seeing “a dona da casa” because Brazil as a whole believes that ALL black women must be servants of white families if they answer the door in a middle-class neighborhood.
These incidents, assumptions and reactions are so common throughout Brazil that any black woman watching the video will immediately understand its meaning. But just to sum up the video frame by frame, a young white woman rings the doorbell of a house and, after the door is opened by a black woman with braids, she identifies herself as a saleswoman of Maria Kátia products. She then requests to see the “lady of the house”. The black woman then allows her to enter the house.
Once in the house, the black woman re-affirms that the saleswoman wants to see the lasy of the house and goes to call her. Clearly annoyed, she then calls upstairs to “Juliana” and says that a saleswoman from “Maria Keila”, wanted to see her. Note that she purposely said the name of the company wrong. The scene then shows another woman coming down the stairs. Arriving downstairs, another black woman, with an afro, greets the saleswoman.
Seeing another black woman, the saleswoman says that there must have been some mistake as she was looking to speak with the lady of the house. The second black woman then calls to another person, “Thayná”. She then informs the person that a businesswoman, “Mariana Keisia”, wants to speak to her.
A few seconds later, a door inside the house opens and another woman, wearing a red outfit and also black, comes out and announces that she loves “Maria Karen” products. Clearly annoyed, the saleswoman makes a correction of the company’s name that had been misspoken three times, again asks to see the lady of the house and on top on that, asks for some water. After all, the woman in red must surely be the maid.
The woman in red says the “Dona DONA da casa” as if to say “Oh, you wanna see the owner lady/real lady of the house.” She then calls out to someone named “Fátima”, who turns out to be the first woman who answered the door. “May I help you?”
Realizing that the lady/owner of the house was in fact the first woman that answered the door, the saleswoman reacts in a manner that anyone would after realizing she had put her foot in her mouth: She faints.
As I wrote above, it’s funny, but as these scenarios play out across the country every single day, it’s actually not funny. See the full video below or here. Ye another great example of how Afro-Brazilians are no longer waiting on a mainstream media that continues to ignore their existence, their perspectives and stories that portray Brazil in another way.
Note from BW of Brazil: Over the past decades, few slogans that sum up the struggle of black populations against inequality, police brutality, oppression and homicidal police actions as well the phrase “black lives matter”. And there is good reason for this. Based on what I’ve seen, read and witnessed for most of my life, there does seem to be a general consensus that when black folks die it’s somehow not as a big a deal as when people with white skin die. And as much as news of the murders of African-Americans such as Mike Brown, Travon Martin, Eric Garner and so many more make world headlines, the murders of Afro-Brazilians such as Amarildo Dias de Souza, Evaldo Rosa dos Santos, and Pedro Gonzaga and so many others hardly causes a collective raising of the eyebrows by the majority of Brazilian society. This in a country in which the police are far more lethal than those in the United States.
With the latest report showing that 75% of the victims of homicides in Brazil are preto (black) or pardo (brown), there is arguably a more pressing need to insist that “Black Lives Matter” in Brazil is an even more urgent matter that the situation in the United States. And with more and more black Brazilians understanding the connection between skin color and the higher likelihood of losing one’s life in a violent matter, the exact translation of the slogan, Vidas Negras Importam, has become a popular phrase and consistent present at protests and marches against Afro-Brazilians see as the genocide of the black population.
As such, with such parallels between the senseless murders of black people in both countries, it was only a matter of time before the groups began to form allegiances in a common struggle and the organization Center for Studies on Labor Relations and Inequalities, or CEERT, is making this happen by bringing in a key member of the Black Lives Matter movement to São Paulo, next Saturday, July 27th. As I fully support the slogan “black lives matter” but don’t fully support the movement itself, I am simply sharing the news. See the details below.
CEERT brings co-founder of Black Lives Matter to Brazil for the first time
By Leonardo Fabri
The activist and writer, Opal Tometi, comes to Brazil for the first time. Action is the result of the articulation of CEERT and partners. Activity is part of the Julho das Pretas (July of the Black Women), with the March of the Black Women of São Paulo being a major event.
Black Women Moving the Structures: Dialogues with Black Lives Matter
The Center for Studies on Labor Relations and Inequalities – CEERT and the Social Service of Commerce – SESC invite everyone to honor the Human Rights activist and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Opal Tometi, on her first visit to Brazil.
The driving force behind this activity is to think about the impact of state violence on the lives of black populations, the genocide of black youth and the current political-economic-social scenario; as well as to contribute to new strategies of resistance in the fight against structural and institutional racism and its unfolding in the form of extermination of black populations.
The event counts on the partnership of the Coalizão Negra por Direitos (Black Coalition for Rights); of the Articulação Nacional de Negras Jovens Feministas – ANJF (National Articulation of Young Black Feminists); UNEAFRO and the March of the Black Women of São Paulo.
Featuring: Opal Tometi (Black Lives Matter); Angela Mendes (ANJF); Cida Bento (CEERT), Sara Branco (CEERT) and Neon Cunha (March of the Black Women of São Paulo).
Black Women Moving the Structures: Dialogues with Black Lives Matter
Sesc Santa – Av. Luiz Dumont Villares, 579 – Theater
Note from BW of Brazil: As I often say, I’m never surprised when examples of Brazil’s allegiance to the idea of white supremacy are clearly shown, but it does amaze me that so many Brazilians continue to put up the facade that they believe “we are all equal”. Examples of the belief in white supremacy are quite abundant, as I have documented for a number of years now, whether we look at common, everyday people, or people in some sort of position of authority or influence. Take for example when a city councilman, Cid Ferreira, of Campinas, stating that he was handsome and had blue eyes, while he said the man with whom he was arguing with, a black man, was ugly. The councilmen also pointed to his nose, showing how thin it was. Then there was the infamous beach incident in Rio that made headlines when one woman berated a black woman, and even screamed, “next time be born white!” Then we have the media and the public’s fascination with white people falling into situations of homelessness or drug addiction. We see this preference for whiteness even in scenarios in which the situation’s very existence would “prove” the non-existence of racism: interracial families. Yes, Brazil’s adoration of whiteness is quite obvious and it plays out everyday in ways that are so common that most don’t even notice it. A recent comment made live on television makes this sort of racism as clear as negro (black) and branco (white).
At left, ‘Alterosa Alerta’ host Stanley Gusman
From an official government advertisement to TV: racism as a mark of communications
Commentary of TV host and MEC advertisement reflect racism as part of the institutional structure of the media
Speaking live, Alterosa TV “Alterosa Alerta” program host Stanley Gusman said, “I know who owns Ibope. The guy’s name is Montenegro. If he was good, he would be called Montebranco.” (see note one)
If the intention was to criticize the president of Ibope, Carlos Augusto Montenegro, what the host of the Minas Gerais station did was offend the almost 116 million black Brazilian people (self-declared pretos/blacks or pardos/browns, according to data from the Continuous National Household Sample Survey of IBGE), approximately 56% of the country’s population.
After all, for Gusman (who, amazingly, is president of the Commission for the Defense of the Rights of the Child, Adolescent, Youth and Elderly of the Lawyer’s Guild of Minas Gerais), black people, for the sole fact of being black, are not “good people” and represent everything that is negative. If the host was able to make this reference to a white man who has “negro” in his name, what he does not think about people who have “negro” in their skin, hair and aesthetics?
Although by different language and platform, Stanley Gusman’s commentary comes close to a Ministry of Education (MEC) publicity piece from June of this year. In the material, disclosed in the social networks of the ministry, a young black girl, after earning a scholarship and graduating, her skin became white. Thus, a part of the girl – without a college education – is black, while her hand holding the diploma – that is, after being able to “win in life” – is white.
Targets of expressions of repudiation – from the Union of Journalists of Minas Gerais (in the case of Gusman) and of the Committee of Culture of the Chamber of Deputies (in the case of MEC advertisement) – both Gusman and MEC issued later statements trying to deny racist intentionality.
In a statement on the motion of repudiation of the Chamber’s Culture Committee (CCULT), Federal Representative Aurea Carolina (PSOL/MG), a member of the Commission, said: “A campaign like this of the MEC reinforces imagery of racial superiority, our colonial slave-owning past. We will not tolerate the promotion of the symbolic whitening of the black population or the erasing of the racial identities. We want to affirm them. There can be no selectivity in educational policies and any official government communication must be in line with these principles.”
MEC campaign on Prouni accused of racism
More than discursive elements, it should be emphasized that the words of the Alterosa TV host and the advertisement of the Bolsonaro government are reflections of racism as part of the institutional structure of the media in Brazil, raised, as the journalist and professor of the UFRJ Muniz Sodré says, by four articulated factors: denial (when one tends to deny the existence of racism); recalculation (when, in their different modes of production, the media re-press identity aspects of symbolic manifestations of black and indigenous origin, for example); stigmatization (when the media construct identities fed by a tradition of prejudice and rejection) and professional indifference (when, being companies that aim for profit, the media is guided by market dictates and have little interest in issues like discrimination).
In addition to the racist nature, in the debates on the examples in question, one cannot lose sight of the aggravating fact that we are talking about an advertisement of the Federal Government, that is, financed with public resources, and of a comment made in a public television concession, which, as such, has a series of determinations and limits to be fulfilled – such as the prohibition of promotion of a discriminatory campaign of class, color, race or religion, according to article 53 of the Brazilian Telecommunications Code.
According to Muniz Sodré, it is worth mentioning that racism in the media operates and permeates aspects such as representation and visibility in the various contents, production and direction of programs and ownership of radio and television vehicles.
In more objective terms: what do we have in the programming that values characteristics of Afro-Brazilian culture and history? How many children’s television programs in Brazil deal with ethnic-racial diversity? How many independent producers have contracts and partnerships with television stations so that their production reaches Brazilian households? How many black women and black men are in the presentation and leadership spaces of the Brazilian media groups? What public communication policies, throughout history, have established affirmative measures so that representative groups of the black population could create and develop communication media with the capacity to influence public opinion?
The answers to these questions lead us to only one certainty: almost twenty years after filmmaker Joel Zito Araújo entitled his documentary about the stereotypical and negative representations of black men and black women in national novelas (soap operas) A Negação do Brasil (Denying Brazil), we continue to see the constant negation of the black population and of ethnic-racial diversity in Brazilian communications.
In Portuguese, negro means black, while branco means white. Although the last name Montenegro isn’t as common as names such as Silva or Santos, it isn’t rare. Thus, the host’s comment of the owner of IBOPE’s name is a direct manner of equating the terms negro and branco with negative and positive meanings respectively. IBOPE is the company that measures television ratings of programs on Brazil’s television airwaves.
Note from BW of Brazil: As I’ve followed this particular topic (the influence of race on dating patterns) for many years, I’ve always believed that if someone were to do a study, fully supported by data in one of these online dating sites, we would clearly see what I have long believed: ALL men in Brazil, regardless of their race, have a preference for white women, and if not white, women who are not easily categorized as black. Over the course of studying this topic and reading the stories of countless black women on this subject in social media, conversation, blog posts, etc., I conclude that my assessment, while not a provable fact, is a legitimate assumption. Maybe one day I will conduct this sort of research, but for now, I will continue to consider what so many black Brazilian women have been saying for years. In today’s piece, yet another black woman shares her experience, this time in the wonderful world of online dating.
“Apps and Affection: A black woman’s experience on Facebook dating
By Simone Freire
Triscila Oliveira is cyber-activist and reported her experience of black affectivity in the new tool to Alma Preta (website)
Facebook recently launched Facebook Dating, a relationship platform that works within the application. A kind of Facebook Tinder, which sits in a parallel environment where users can create a unique profile with photos, personal information and preferences in relationships.
Black woman and cyber-activist, Triscila Oliveira experimented with the new platform and reported to Alma Preta her observations regarding the racial aspect of the platform.
“This experiment, although microscopic, reveals how the eugenic plan is still working at full steam in Brazil today,” she says.
Check out her testimony:
My name is Triscila Oliveira, I was cyber-activist a few years ago, owner of the profile @ afemme1 in the Instagram where I address politics, inter-sectional feminism, blackness and other social agendas.
Using the new Facebook tool, Dating, I did an experiment on black affectivity where I used only two criteria: black men and the age group of 28-40 years old, just to stay on an average with my age, which is 34 years in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
I used this selfie of mine, where the light affects leaving the tonality of my skin a few lighter shades was not purposeful, just a photo I liked, and so this light brought up another debate about colorism: in the bio I didn’t insert any kind of specification of what I was looking for in the application: “That dreamy nerd, feminist, leftist, anti-racist & netiflixzera!”that could serve to break the ice and start the conversation.
So we go to the numbers: there were 600 likes and of these only 72 liked back, of which only 25 sent a message. The majority complimenting me and, followed by the classic question, ‘what are you looking for in the app?’ and it was usually there that the conversation that had just begun where I was already beginning to agonize.
All the 25 men who liked me were just looking for sex, BUT they would date me if I was the same color in the photo or lighter, and obviously thin since they asked me for a full body photo, a thing they make a point of posting. Photos with no shirt and in swimwear is almost a rule, some bordering on eroticism… let’s continue…
In Dating it is possible to start a chat without liking the profile of the person, so 55 black men contacted me, some sending the username of their social network or their WhatsApp number; others made a point of bragging about their material possessions, others made clear in their bio only their preference for “loiras e morenas” (“blondes and brunettes/mixed/racially ambiguous)”.
Already here, I need to highlight, only 12 have cited their children and their professional and/or academic achievements, and the interest of knowing each other outside of the network.
What really impresses me is how these men don’t know how to talk about themselves, cite their qualities (beyond their sexual gifts) and recognize their defects, and it is exactly in this gap of self-knowledge that the fragile concept of masculinity shapes the individual.
The white men, almost as a cliché, “liked” me a lot and came into contact in much higher numbers than the black men, the target of my experiment, were 167 men of all ages and with all kinds of approaches and the most indecent proposals, but a common point of hyper-sexualization.
To ALL the men who contacted me, I asked if they would be interested in building a relationship and, without surprises, the overwhelming majority of the answers were a unanimous NO. They cited, of course, that the relationship would depend clearly on the factor of sexual compatibility, as if sex were an audition, almost specifically when it comes to the mulher preta (black woman).
Another point in common between white men and black men: while the conversation evolved, many confessed to being committed to mulheres brancas ou ‘pardas’, (white or ‘brown’/mixed women), BUT that they were in open relationships and even had mulheres negras (black women)…
Meanwhile, women generally use all the resources to introduce themselves, making clear their qualities, interests, aspirations, children… Sometimes even some insecurities, which are demonstrated in their well-produced and even edited photos.
A flood of memories of my youth came to me with each negative in the conversations that were flowered with several words that I am even used to: Fofa (cute), bonitinha (cute), gente boa (good people), sincere, cool woman, funny, “warrior”, etc.
I don’t need to hear them to know everything I am and everything I am not. I just think it’s a shame they’re being used within this mechanism that keeps black women in an affective vacuum, leaving them to be alone and, very often, in abusive relationships, when they have so much love to give.
As a militant and feminist, I couldn’t stop thinking about the words of bell hooks, which in her work Living to Love (1994, released as Vivendo de amor in Brazil) said: “The black woman is not seen as a subject to be loved.”
It is also striking how the same concept of masculinity of whiteness is reproduced by many, that placed black women in a place of disaffection and as a mere sexual object, reinforcing excluding stereotypes that directly impact on the construction of our self-love, self-esteem and affective relationships.
This experiment, although microscopic, reveals how the eugenic plan is still working at full steam in present-day Brazil, and the debates about the construction of our racial identity – in which we are still crawling – collide with a wall of colonized minds that can still be seen through the eyes of the casa grande (big house).
Note from BW of Brazil: When you close your eyes and I say the words “Brazilian woman”, what comes to your mind? In my years traveling back and forth from the United States to Brazil, I often find it difficult to have an intelligent discussion with the average, red blooded American male. From the time I began regularly travelling to Brazil in late summer 2000, when people would learn that I had been to Brazil a few times, invariably, in one way or another, the topic would turn to Brazilian women.
If the person I was conversing with was male, often times I would have to help these men pick their tongues off the ground or help them put their eyes back in the sockets. “Brazil?!?!? Dem bitches is HOT! How long does it take to get a passport?”, sums up a large percentage of those discussions. Even when I would occasionally meet people who were familiar with things Brazil was famous for, such as its music, futebol players or capoeira, the topic would ALWAYS end up back on THE WOMEN.
If I was conversing with a woman, often times, I would get a reaction like, “Brazil?!? What’chu goin’ down there for?”, combined with a look that says, “I know what you goin’ down there for!”. Other times, women were blatant with what they thought my reasons were for visiting Brazil. “I heard about them Brazilian women”, or “I know you messin’ wit’ dem Brazilian chicks,” or variants of these comments were most common.
Back in either 2008 or 2009, when I was taking classes in a Master’s course back in Detroit, I remember showing photos and video of some of the places I had visited in cities such as Rio and Salvador to a classmate, a black-Japanese woman. Upon looking at one of my female friends from Rio, this classmate remarked, “I thought all Brazilian women were beautiful.” As most people have an image of Brazil’s people that is either mixed or some sort of “exotic black”, my friend Kátia apparently didn’t fulfill the image my classmate had. Kátia is a dark-skinned black woman who wears her hair in a short, neatly cropped afro.
Obviously, much of the imagery about Brazil has a lot to do with the images that people see of Rio’s Carnaval season. As many know, year to year, Rio’s Carnaval offers thousands of images of gorgeous, sculptured, scantily-clad bodies wrapped in varying degrees of brown skin, so what are we to expect of what people think when they are consistently fed a diet of such images?
But I have another question. What happens when the Brazilian woman, specifically black Brazilian women, don’t measure up to these images? After all, it’s not just American and European men that have these images of the brasileira stamped on their brains. White Brazilian men also expect black women to be a certain way and these expectations include believing they are all maids, know how to dance the samba, offer quick, easy sex and have bodies of sexual goddesses.
When I have debates with my American friends, none of whom have ever been to Brazil, they have difficulty believing that every Brazilian woman is not “a dime”, a “perfect 10” or easy to get into the horizontal. I’ve been visiting and/or living in Brazil for almost 20 years and I can attest to the FACT that Brazilian women run the gamut of looks: short, tall, fat, slim, sculptured, black, white, brown, racially undefinable, beautiful, average and, depending on your perception of what attractive means, not so beautiful.
But again, how does this affect the black Brazilian woman’s perception of herself? A number of black and non-black Brazilian women experts have debated this issue for a number of years. Below, two of them discuss some of their findings.
In debate: the black woman’s body standard
By Wellington Andrade
In a society marked by the visibility of the body, it’s possible to perceive an impact in this field, especially for black women: the demand for the so-called standard body, similar to that of passistas de escola de samba (samba school dancers). But how do you deal with this when you don’t have that type of body? To try to answer this question, the Notícia Preta website invited black psychologists Ellen Moraes Senra and Lívia Marques.
Psychologist Ellen Moraes Senra
For Ellen, who is also a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy, a black woman’s non-acceptance of her own body can bring psychological problems. “Low self-esteem, anxiety in situations of exposure, such as the presentation of a job in an academic environment or even in the corporate environment, in addition to the much-feared depression.”
The psychologist also points out that other disorders can be developed, such as eating disorders that are usually less reported by the black population. For her, the difference is that the black female body carries marks that are not the same as those of a corpo branco (white body), where the stretch marks stand out and in fact tend to draw more attention.
The self-acceptance of the black woman’s body is a long way off. “From our birth, we are forced to bow to standards, whether by criticism of colleagues, non-acceptance in school or even due to the lack of encouragement from our own. But this scenario is changing, and our representation is present in more and more spheres,” Ellen relates.
Psychologist Lívia Marques
Psychologist Lívia Marques explains that the process of recognition of blackness is a process for blacks and for the black woman. “In this case it involves the physical body and also the psychological part of breaking beliefs and paradigms imposed for so long. Today we see that women who didn’t know the texture of their hair since the age of four and during therapy seeing themselves in a hair transition, which involves the whole of this woman, is very significant.”
But the deconstruction of the ideal body in reference to that of the passista (Carnaval dancer) is still a challenge. “In fact, the media and the indústria de produtos de cabelo (hair products industry), for example, have realized that black women are really recognizing their blackness within a European standard imposed since colonization and the arrival of the black in Brazil. This new reality has changed hair and makeup standards, for example,” Lívia emphasizes.
The psychologist evaluates that the standard body always taught has to be deconstructed in a general way. “A really cool practice that I like is to hang out with rodas de conversa (discussion circles) and feiras pretas (black expo events) where it’s possible to see yours and that really makes you feel embraced. Go with someone that supports you. But I always say if you realize that this woman is not well, seek help from a Psychology professional. It is a process in many cases to break with such deep-rooted beliefs for the mulher preta (black woman),” Lívia finalizes.
In March of this year, the ‘Papo de Preta’ (black women’s chat) YouTube channel discussed how Anitta ‘blackens’ herself in certain appearances, such as in a video filmed ‘In the Favela’ (left) and then whitens herself for other appearances such as ‘At the Grammys’ (right)
In reality, once again, it is Anitta’s appearance, as well as her behavior that is at the center of this latest controversy. As detailed in a previous article, Anitta has walked a tightrope on the issue of her racial identity, coming across as if she wears blackness as a sort of costume that she can put on and take off whenever she pleases, a practice critics have labeled as “afro-conveniência”, meaning one is “conveniently black” or black only when it is convenient.
Ozuna & Anitta - Muito Calor ( Video Oficial ) - YouTube
After reading some of the comments on this topic, I decided it’s not even necessary for an extended breakdown here because Brazilians themselves are taking Anitta to the cleaners on this! Some of the comments were simply hilarious! Don’t believe me? I included a sample of some of them at the end of this article. Check ’em out. And as for Anitta…Girlfriend, folks are already up on your chameleon-like tendencies. You may wanna decide on how you’re gonna market yourself, be it one side or the other. If you keep playin’ this game, your days in the spotlight may be numbered!
…”she turned black again…anira (sic) doesn’t even even hide that every video in the favela she has to appropriate…sincerely, it’s ridiculous, all the videos are the same, this looping started in ‘Vai Malandra’ and up to today they all seem the same”
With release of new video “Muito Calor”, singer Anitta is accused of cultural appropriation and being “conveniently black”
With information courtesy of Varela Notícias, Vix and Extra
After releasing a teaser of her new video, “Muito Calor”, in which she appears with her very curly hair in a Brazilian favela, singer Anitta was accused of cultural appropriation and decided to address her critics.
When criticized by netizens, who accused her of trying to “se passar por negra” (pass for black) in the clip, the artist published a text in response and showed old photos of herself as a child that prove that her original hair is not straight as it seems to be nowadays, but in reality, rather curly.
Anitta and Puerto Rican reggaeton/trap singer Ozuna in the music video for the song “Muito Calor”
Anitta and Puerto Rican reggaeton/trap singer Ozuna recorded the music video “Muito Calor” and to publicize the work, the singer published an excerpt from the filming on her Instagram and the images generated a great controversy in the social networks of the artist.
The clip was recorded on the roof of a community in Rio de Janeiro and during filming the singer wore a curly wig. This is not the first time Anitta has recorded in a favela, but the fact that the singer appeared on the rooftop with curly hair caused some netizens to accuse the singer of cultural appropriation. In other sections of the clip, without the artist’s presence, streets and aerial images of the favela are also shown.
Much of the latest criticism of the singer has to do with the artist “turning black” in her videos, but maintaining a whiter appearance when promoting her career, both in Brazil and abroad
Cultural appropriation is about the adoption of some specific elements of a culture stigmatized by another that does not suffer the same types of discrimination. In this case, people accused Anitta of appropriating characteristics of black women, who represent the majority living in Brazilian communities (favelas), such as cabelo cacheado (curly hair). Similarities with earlier work by the funkeira (funk singer), such as “Vai malandra” and “Onda diferente”, which also generated accusations of cultural appropriation, were pointed out in the comments.
Anitta’s natural hair
After a barrage of criticism, the singer posted photos of herself as a child to prove that her hair once had a curlier texture
In response to the criticism, the singer published a commentary explaining that in her childhood, her hair was even curlier than it appears in the video and that the use of chemicals in adolescence ended up modifying the structure of her tresses.
The singer then decided to show fans what her natural hair is like. She used Instagram’s Stories to post three images of when she was younger and her hair much curlier.
Once again accused of cultural appropriation in new video, Anitta says: ‘You all are never satisfied’
According to internet users, the carioca (Rio native) se transforma em negra (transforms herself into a black woman) to record clips, and abuses cabelo crespo e da pele bronzeada (kinky/curly hair and tanned skin). However, outside productions, she doesn’t exalt black culture or life in the favelas.
Upon the release of the sneak preview of the video and later its full release, critics of the artists began to immediately express their dismay with what many saw as a standard practice for the singer.
A few of the comments went like this:
“Why does every clip with Anitta have to be in the favela? Is it just this view that the gringos have of Brazil?” asked one ‘net surfer, while another made irony of the situation: “Legitimate black woman, Wakanda is having a party.”
“It’s just like the other video she made,” wrote one Instagram user. Another compared her to the singer Halsey, also criticized for appropriation: “Halsey, friend, run so that we can have a visit.”
In the face of the attacks, Anitta made a long outburst on the same publication:
Anitta’s response to criticism of new video
“My god! What madness! 1 – “Onda diferente” is a hit. The clip was shot in Los Angeles. Sung in Portuguese. It features a Brazilian and a very important gringo. They are starting to listen outside Brazil even though it’s in Portuguese. 2 – The only video of MINE recorded in a favela is called “Vai Malandra”. The others are clips where I was INVITED as a guest, just like this one. 3 – The clip shows several points of Rio de Janeiro that the director liked. Among them: the stairs in Lapa, Sugar Loaf, Christ (the Redeemer), beaches and etc… 4 – When I was a kid, my hair was curlier than in this of the video. I used products in my teens and it changed forever. 5 – You all are never satisfied”
Note from BW of Brazil: How is it that the universe came into being? I’m sure most of us have pondered the question and in the West, most are familiar with Christian mythology, which itself is based on numerous other fables from other cultures, but how many of us have ever heard African interpretations of creation? One dance group is presenting just that at the Teatro Municipal Carlos Gomes (Theater) in Rio de Janeiro until tomorrow in a spectacular that has already been playing for audiences for several seasons. For dancer, teacher of African dance and one of the show’s creators, Aninha Catão, “Afro-Brazilian culture works as an educational tool and the redemption of the identity of the black population of the country”.
And as African and Afro-Brazilian History and Culture have been so long demonized but yet so important in the construction of Brazil and its people, the spectacular represents an excellent opportunity to look beyond the stereotypes and understand that no one culture’s spiritual, belief system or mythology should be given more prominence than another. This point cannot be stressed enough with the ongoing destruction of various Afro-Brazilian religious temples of worship by those obsessed in their allegiances with and beliefs in religious systems that are considered the mainstream in the West. Check the report on the spectacular below as well as the videos which can be automatically translated into many languages via YouTube.
African dance spectacular “African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People” presents the myth of the creation of the world from the perspectives of the Yorubas
Based on the work of Marcelo Monteiro, the African Cosmogony spectacle goes back to the creation of the world according to Yoruba culture.
Developed by Aninha Catão and put on by the dance group Tambor de Cumba, the spectacular “Cosmogonia Africana – A Visão de Mundo do Povo Iorubá” (African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People) intends to present the myth of the creation of the world from the perspectives of the Yoruba people (African ethno-linguistic group whose territory expands through the countries of Nigeria, Togo and the Republic of Benin) reaching the cult of the Orixás, first as elements of nature and later as prestigious ancestors deified by their people and now recognized as a living representation of these elements of nature. These Orixás were brought with the negros iorubás (black Yorubas), by the African diaspora, along with their culture and were able to directly influence the formation of the identity of the Brazilian people.
Dancer and teacher of African Dance Aninha Catão
In an interview, dancer Aninha Catão, artistic director and choreographer of the show, highlighted the educational character of art by awakening the public’s imagination. “Art democratizes, makes it playful, through pleasure and fun,” she informs. It was a long path of research and dedication, but all for the sake of our people and the rescue of our cultures, empowerment as povos pretos de matriz africanas (black people of African matrix). People will be able to reflect on those ancestors, orixás as people who existed and had their way of life, cultural habits,” she explained.
By understanding the Afro-Brazilian culture as a tool for education and redeeming of the identity of the country’s black population, Aninha Catão elaborated this project with the purpose of highlighting the impacts of the diáspora africana (African diaspora) in Brazil. Thus, along with its artistic group, Tambor de Cumba, the spectacle awakens in the imagination of the spectators how the first forms of life happened through the Yoruba perspective.
To the sound of drums, typical choreographies of Afro-Brazilian culture explain the role of the elements of nature, such as fire, earth, air and water, as well as the ancestors of this African group, which are related to such elements – the orixás. The African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People is based on the important work, homonymous to the initiative, of Marcelo Monteiro.
Spectacular based on the work of researcher Marcelo Monteiro
“The great importance of watching Cosmogonia Africana – A Visão de Mundo do Povo Iorubá is this opportunity to learn about the ancestral history of the Africans enslaved here in Brazil. This is the chance to know a little about ourselves, our origin and our culture. So the spectacular has the role of evidencing the existence of a magnificent cultural wealth in Brazil, inherited from the African continent, especially the Yoruba people. This spectacular has reached the public in the most democratic way possible, by means of mythological gesturality, not only entertaining it, but also informing. We also propose the deconstruction of the marginalization of cultura negra (black culture), highlighting the protagonism of black people and their ways of re-creating their own existence, with symbols, forms and recognition,” Catão.
The show is staged by six dancers who represent the elements, fire, water, earth and air, which by Yoruba tradition, gave rise to life in Àiyé (our world). The Orixás are also represented on the scene.
For Marcelo Monteiro, the spectacular represents much more than simply a stage production. For Cosmogonia’s researcher, “It’s important that the world knows the vision of the Yoruba people who contributed so much to the existence of the identity of the Brazilian people. Cosmogonia is a historical survey that seeks to raise the self-esteem of the peoples of African tradition and matrix, especially the Yoruba. Aninha was able to translate this feeling through choreography,” he said.
Aninha Catão, a dancer and teacher of African dance, is also initiated in Candomblé by Doné Zoraia de Ògún, for Ọ̀ṣun and Ọdẹ. Aninha revealed to how the beautiful history of Cosmogonia Africana came about.
“I became a santo in 2012, but I’ve been from axé since I was very young, because a lot of my mother’s family is from the terreiro. Since I was a child I went to Candomblé. The idea of the show came in 2013, when I met Bàbáláwo Marcelo Monteiro who initiated me in Ifá in 2015. Bàbáláwo Marcelo Monteiro is a researcher and scholar of black culture, especially that of the Yorubá culture. He teaches various courses and lectures on the subject, and it then that I heard in one of his lectures about the African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People. It parallels the myth of the creation of the world according to the Yoruba tradition, and at the same time legitimizes the facts, with events revealed by them. I was delighted with everything, I became friends with Bàbáláwo, and in one of our conversations in 2014, we had the idea of turning the lecture into a dance spectacular that has now become a reality.”
Marcelo Monteiro and Aninha Catão, creators of ‘Cosmogonia Africana – A Visão de Mundo do Povo Iorubá’
The spectacular lasts an hour and 30 minutes in partnership with Grupo Tambor de Cumba, a pioneer in cultural activities in Cais do Valongo. After the staging, there is an interactive moment with a circle of conversations with Aninha Catão and Bàbáláwo Marcelo Monteiro.
Note from BW of Brazil: Well, I’m sure all of you have heard the controversy surrounding Disney’s choice of a young black woman portraying the fictional Little Mermaid character. I didn’t get totally consumed with the issue because we’ve seen this so much over the years that I can’t really be bothered with getting too hyped up over it. But even not delving deep into the issue, I was still amazed at some of the reactions that I ended up seeing without even looking for it. One person took a picture of herself throwing a DVD cover of The Little Mermaid in the trash can after the announcement that Halle Bailey would be the new Little Mermaid. Then, there were people trying to use science to prove that mermaids can’t be black. Really? Pretty amazing the lengths people will go in arguing over a mythical figure.
The angle I’m taking on this issue obviously goes beyond the borders of the United States, as racial representation issues affect more than only the black folks in that country, but hundreds of millions of black people around the world. This issue touched a nerve with black Brazilians who are also accustomed to seeing black figures, both real and fictional, being portrayed by white actors not only on the small screen but also on stages. And again, as Brazil is such a HUGE consumer of American entertainment products, one can understand why the issue is so important for a country with such a large black population that is also starving for representation in the mainstream media.
In covering Brazil from the racial perspective for a number of years, I KNEW Brazilians would have something say about this and, well, many reacted in the exact manner that I would have guessed. Take a look…
Translation of above comments
(Caption of photo: Blond, blue-eyes Jesus Christ, white Cleopatra, black Little Mermaid)
“MY GOD A BLACK LITTLE MERMAID I DO NOT ACCEPT but Jesus who was born in Israel can WITH ALL CERTAINTY HAVE BLUE EYES AND IS BLOND really because mermaids exist it makes a difference if she is not white that I saw as a child my Ariel is white.”
“@DisneyStudios is not faithful to the original work of the Little Mermaid, where have you ever seen placing a black actress to play the role of a white character, with no good sense”
“Ariel is based on the character, from the Danish fairy tale Havfrue Den lille, and the first film was released in 1989 as The Little Mermaid.”
“She’s WHITE and REDHEAD, and here comes Disney calling a black girl? Spare me #NotMyAriel”
“Okay, bros. it isn’t even racist, but the little mermaid is white, the actress should be. If the princess and the frog is played by a white actress, there would already be mad controversial whore. It’s not that I don’t like the girl but s.o.bs I don’t see the point.”
“Make Shrek black too, it’s not about racism, if the image of the little mermaid was defined as a white character, what’s the idea of change?! Racists are you who see racism in everything”
Note from BW of Brazil: To be sure, there were also many Brazilians, black and white, pointing out the absurdity of the reactions to a mythical figure, but also pointing out the history of media productions whitening figures that weren’t white. It’s funny how some people went into this idea of, “How would you feel if we made (fill in the black character/personality/fictional/historical figure) white?” Well, as I’ve already pointed out, this has already been done. And to be sure, I DO understand/agree that depictions of historical figures should be remain true to the race they were known to belong to, but in this context, it’s not even a fair debate to argue that white figures should remain white and black figures should remain black, because the money and power behind the creation of major film and TV productions are in the hands of white-skinned people.
Anyway, below, I am sharing just a few of the hundreds of reactions that black Brazilians had in relation to this issue over the last week…
“Whites complaining about the black little mermaid because ‘the original culture of the story is white and the character makes no sense black’. People forget centuries of white washing, right?”
Why doesn’t Egypt portrayed as white not bother people?
By Amanda Sthephanie
This week, the making of Halle Bailey as the protagonist of The Little Mermaid has opened yet another discussion on film representation. With arguments that Ariel would be Norwegian, internet users complained about the black actress in the representation of the mermaid.
Initially, it’s worth thinking that, in terms of what everything indicates, mermaids don’t exist. So they could be of any color. But much more evident and important than that, these discussions on the internet brought yet another issue to the fore: racism.
In this sense, arguments like “Ariel can’t be black because her origin is different” would be incoherent even if the story of A Pequena Sereia (The Little Mermaid) was real.
A portion of the population has been bothered by white spaces being occupied, day after day, by blacks. And that this is happening more and more in cinema, one of the most important and admirable arts, so that blacks feel represented.
And that fallacious arguments are not used in order to de-legitimize conquests like a black Ariel. There have been years of representatives of história negra retratados como brancos (black history portrayed as white) or not even portrayed. A black Ariel is just the beginning.
At right: Cris: “Black redheads exist” – Castro: Natural black redheads exist. What doesn’t exist are mermaids” – At left, translation below
‘No black 007, it doesn’t have anything to do with the history of the show, the British climate.” (007 just has to be handsome, fight well and use all that stuff)… “I’m against a central Star Wars character being black, it gets weird’. (being that it’s an Alien, teddy bear and a pair of robots, that’s fine)… ‘It has nothing to do with Hermione being black in the play, since she comes from an English book’ (yes, and the author says it’s possible to imagine her like this)…’Black classical dancers at the Bolshoi breaks the harmony of the group”. (why do they do a show for the Gestapo?).’ ‘Why put a black Ariel mermaid in the film? I don’t think it fits. (Since a mermaid is a mythological being of many peoples, like the brainless presidents, she can be whatever she is).’
Note from BW of Brazil: Coming from an academic perspective, we’ve known that racism has had an enormous effect on Brazilian society as a whole. It was through many of the classic studies on the topic that I educated myself on this issue in the first decade of the 21st century. What anyone who is new to the study of racism in Brazil needs to know that just as racism itself is embedded in the country’s DNA, early as powerful, albeit on a lesser level these days, is the denial of its very existence.
Just as important are the memories of black adults who can clearly remember what this sort of treatment felt like, how it affected them, and perhaps more importantly, how they are able to name this treatment for what it was later in life. In the piece below, Mariana da Conceição de Andrade shares a few of her memories. It’s worth recognizing that, according to many reports (see here, here and here), at the close of the second decade of the 21st century, things haven’t changed much for black children.
Racism in the life of a black child begins in day care
By Mariana da Conceição de Andrade
When I was asked to write about the times I came into contact with situations of racism, when they occurred and how, a lot of memories passed through my mind. Vivid memories of my thirty-two years of life.
The first contact occurred in early childhood. For a criança negra (black child), afrodescendente (descendant of Africans) child, racism has an impact of such magnitude that it can leave after effects for the rest of his/her life.
Once, when I was about four years old, after switching day care centers, I was in the classroom with my classmates and two teachers. Both of them talked while we, children, made several drawings. I always felt a different look from the teacher towards me, but as a child I could not decipher that look. It was then that a white classmate showed her drawing to the teacher in question, who complimented her. I then, in my childish naivete, also wanted to receive a compliment, and did the same as the white child, cited above. I also wanted to see the teacher’s smile and I went up to her full of joy. I showed her my sketch, asked if it was beautiful, and she, at the height of her racist arrogance, dryly told me that the drawing was “ugly” as I was, turning her back to me.
Faced with that racist, unjust, violent manifestation, I, a child, felt something very bad, feeling very much like crying. I isolated myself, staring at the picture, wondering what was ugly about it and why she had said that I was too. At the end of the day, when I got home, I reported what had happened to my mother, who promptly went to the nursery to ask what had happened. The teacher in question vehemently denied it, and said that she “would never say such a thing to a child.” The Director then talked to my mother, assured her that she would be attentive to the situation and begged her not to take the case to the Secretary of Education. I remember well, wounded, that I asked to change classrooms and didn’t spend much time in this day care, because I cried every day when I arrived at the door of the room.
This was the first of many other contacts with racism. And it is notorious that black children are the biggest victims of abuse and violence. There are a few cases reported by the media, of black children and adolescents, outside of the schools, exposed to vulnerabilities.
It is known that there are legal provisions, especially in the Statute of the Child and Adolescent, and organs aimed at the prevention of child abuse, phase of vulnerability and formation of the human being. But few take into account that the childhood of a black child will always be marked by episodes that will never occur with a white child.
As an example, I, as an adult, have no skill with drawings or paintings. I never did. I have developed a blockage that I have not been able to overcome after successive therapy sessions.
So, since it is unquestionable that black children are exposed to vulnerability and violence, even if it is veiled, much greater than the other children, is it up to all of us to persist in what can be done to improve this situation? How can you prevent them from being disrespected, traumatized by racist attitudes and acquiring blockages for the rest of their lives? Finally, what kind of society are we forming, what future do we want for our children?
For these others, I constantly think of giving up motherhood, because I don’t know if I will deal with such issues again. And even if my son is a boy, besides the fear that he might suffer from racist speech and attitudes, there is also the fear of losing him by the lead hand of the Genocidal State, which clearly stands against us.
The future of our black children, whether or not they come from our womb, depends on us. Something must be done to prevent our children from suffering from racism and to have the right to a healthy childhood and development that, so far, only a white child can, as a rule, achieve.
*Mariana da Conceição de Andrade, a graduate in Nursing, from UNIFESO/RJ. Experience in Immunization Clinics and currently works in a home-care company, full-time. She studies and researches foundations in the area of Public Health, Collective Health with a race slant, Health of the Black Population, and race/color influences in health services.
Sure, black Brazilians are slowly gaining more prominence in the media, but this only appears to be the case because any increase in black representation represents an improvement from their invisibility for a number of decades. And if we consider presentations in which the cast is majority black, the selection decreases dramatically. In fact, when there is some production in which the cast is majority black, the media makes a point of highlighting the fact in the headlines as was the case with TV series such as Sexo e as Negas or Subúrbia. Of course, those productions were marred with racial/racist stereotypes (see here and here), but that’s a whole other topic.
Today, we are beginning to see a number of black Brazilian producers and directors who bring black protagonism and stories to the big screen. But even in this case, although the productions are being recognized overseas, black-directed films continue to lack the distribution and marketing investment that introduce these projects to the point that most Brazilians have heard of these productions. As such, this brings back to the original point.
Black Brazilians are far most accustomed to knowing works by African-American directors such as Spike Lee, the recently departed John Singleton or a small list of lesser known black directors than they are the few black Brazilians who have directed feature length or even short films. In fact, it’s difficult to even find a Brazilian film in which a black actor or actress plays the lead character, which is why I am curious to know how the public will react to the upcoming film about Communist revolutionary Carlos Marighella, starring actor/musician Seu Jorge in the lead role. Needless to say, a film like Black Panther could never have been made in Brazil, even if the resources had been available.
In seeking this representation and telling of black stories, it should come as no surprise that many black Brazilians are checking out the recent Netflix production, When They See Us (released asOlhos que Condenam in Brazil), directed by Ava Duvernay. The series based on the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger case in which five black males were accused of raping a white woman and prosecuted the following year. The “Central Park Five”, as they came to be known, were all exonerated after having been imprisoned for several years.
Lázaro Ramos, perhaps Brazil’s most successful black actor of the current generation, recently attempted to watch the series. Attempted being the key word here. No doubt noting the similarities in the manner in which black males are criminalized in Brazil and in the United States, Ramos struggled to watch the series. A reaction that many of us have had when such a gripping story of injustice hits so close to home.
Actor Lázaro Ramos recently revealed that he had difficulty watching the Netflix series ‘When They See Us’
“I found it painful”: Lázaro Ramos could not watch all of ‘When They See Us’
By Silvia Nascimento
In a text for Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, actor Lázaro Ramos admitted that despite the relevance of the film When They See Us (released as Olhos que Condenam in Brazil) by director Ava Duvernay, he was unable to watch the series. “I watched 20 minutes and I stopped,” said the Bahian actor/director.
In another attempt suggested by friends, Lázaro ended up seeing a piece of each chapter and the final half hour of the last of the series produced by Netflix. “I think it’s so painful because it has to do with our daily lives. This agenda jumps in the lap of society every day,” said the actor.
He recalls that in Topo da Montanha (Mountain Top), the MLK-inspired play that he directed and acted in, the concern is always “to suggest a path. And not just stick to the denouncement.”
“Maybe that’s why this series hurt me in a way that didn’t work for me, no, even though it was very well done and executed. In addition to this issue, Ava Duvernay is a director who has already become fundamental,” Ramos finalizes.