São Paulo, Brazil
Oi, tudo bem?
Yes, that's right! I'm currently in São Paulo, Brazil doing an artist residency. Ayyy! Thanks to Another Route, Artsadmin, Risco and Kuir. Shout out to all of them! You should check them all out as they’re doing great work.
I am currently internationalising my artistic practice. And for the first time in a long time, I’m happy and comfortable calling myself an artist. I haven’t wanted to make performance work since my experience with JUMBIE. But this trip has been giving me so much inspiration and motivation to potentially continue. Although, I have been working on something else, more on that soon.
Going on this trip is such an achievement for me, as I am here due to my artistic practice. And I’m not going to lie, that makes my ego feel so good, haha. I can see myself living here. Maybe I'm being delusional there because I am here under an artist fellowship, which of course comes with many privileges. But a boy can dream and manifest.
There is so much I could write about but I need more time to reflect and digest all that has happened. And it's only been one week, I got another week to go! I feel there is a lot of heart here in Brazil. Everyone does everything with so much love. I believe it is something that's lacking in the UK. No shade, that's just tea.
Outside of Nigeria, it's the place in the world that has the most Black people. That's one of my main reasons for wanting to go. I ain't going to sugarcoat it, ha! I have engaged enough with Black American and Caribbean histories and I’m interested in exploring another.
Currently making a body of work exploring African diaspora religions through a queer and pop culture viewpoint.
Idol - Combining African diasporic rituals, movement, music and storytelling, Idol is a spiritual journey that asks what happens when you don't see yourself represented.
3 Monday Midnights - A three-part series that uses prose and poetry to transport me into a supernatural world where I explore the history of Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
JUMBIE - Part ritual, part sex dungeon, part dance party and fully WTF. This work resurrects the Jumbie dance of Montserrat from a contemporary and queer perspective.
Pastor Fi Dead - A play. 3 friends plot to sacrifice a pastor out of vengeance, as he killed a Black trans woman.
Charles Dolly aka Dr Tickem - I'm interested in this Obeah Man who was convicted on five occasions for practising Obeah in Montserrat between the years 1898-1908. I want to make him a superhero.
I am also interested in martial arts and acts of resistance. My time in Brazil will echo the work I have done, or plan on doing. In Brazil, I have been exploring Capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial art), Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion) and Umbanda (Afro and Indigenous Brazilian religion).
I am in São Paulo with:
Ginalda Tavares-Manuel (writer/producer/performer) - Interpreter
Rheima Robinson (writer/performer/events coordinator) - Emotional Support
I LOVE THEM BOTH! And I'm so grateful for their support whilst being here. I don't think I could’ve done this trip without them. I have been looked after by Natalia Mallo (curator) and Indra Haretrava (artist). Who are both well-connected in São Paulo and have introduced me to some amazing people, events and venues.
Below are some things I have done so far:
I have attended an Umbanda ceremony where I got a reading and I was blessed. What a magical experience. I was told that linear storytelling is only for white people. And for me to move forward, I need to let go of some things. DRAG ME! I was reminded that everything was going to be okay. It was a Caboclo (indigenous) spirit that was looking into my soul and telling me about myself. And I loved every second of it.
Attended a Samba (music genre and dance) night watching a set led by singer Ayô Tupinambá.
Walked around Beco do Batman, an area which has stunning graffiti.
Watched performance rehearsals by local artists at Love Cabaret.
Went to an advanced capoeira class at Casa de Cultura Os Capoeira. LOL. That was fun.
Had dinner with Brazilian rapper Dani Nega. And was told about slam poetry here in Brazil, if you didn't know, I'm a retired slam poet.
Went to the Museu Afro Brasil, and saw a beautiful exhibition inspired by the Orisha Eshu.
And so much more, I can't tell you everything!
Things that have stayed with me:
Learning about the artwork that has caused controversy here in Brazil. One example is a play where Jesus Christ is played by a trans woman. It’s called The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven. It was originally written and performed by Jo Clifford. In Brazil, Jesus Christ was played by actress Renata Carvalho. And this version of the play was directed by Natalia Mallo. Yasss! I'm well connected. In Brazil, it caused a lot of controversy to the point that those involved received death threats. And if you know me, I am a sucker for controversy. I believe, if people want to harm you because of something you created, they need help. But that shows to me you're doing something right, and if one continues to showcase what they have created, regardless of the backlash, they have my respect. I am mentioning this because I was recently told that something I am working on could create the same reactions as the book Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. If you don't know about the controversy, I recommend you check it out. I take that as a huge compliment, and both the comparison and the controversy for the play have encouraged me to keep on going.
Some other things I have learnt, but don't have enough knowledge to fully articulate are the racial tensions here in Brazil. Anti-Blackness is worldwide. Sigh. It's been sad but insightful to learn about how race works here. Some people may have my skin colour and hair texture and wouldn't identify as Black. And or wouldn’t acknowledge or know they were Black until later on in life.
I think it's also important to mention seeing poverty here, as I am here under a fellowship. A beautiful place, but as one can expect not everyone is living an easy breezy life.
Orisha (Yoruba deity/spirit) is so ingrained here. I love how even though people may not engage with Orisha practice, they still have some awareness of it. However, that doesn't stop those who practice it from still experiencing prejudice, which is due to the lasting effects of colonialism and Catholicism. I have found it fascinating learning about the similarities and differences between the African diaspora religions here in Brazil, and how they compare to other syncretic practices in the Caribbean, such as Santería, Haitian Vodou, Jumbie Dance, Trinidad Orisha and others.
Okay, let’s wrap this up!
It’s nice to have the space to just research without the expectation to deliver anything. Nonetheless, I am sure I will do some sort of delivery at some point. I am learning so much from just walking around and engaging with other artists. I have always wanted to go to Brazil, and I am so ecstatic that I am finally here.
São Paulo is such a vibe. I'm already so depressed at the thought of going home.
Will let you know how the rest of the trip goes!
Sending you all love, light and positive energy!
Another Route is supported by Arts Council England, the British Council and the Jerwood Developing Artists Fund.