Raiz Forte, a seven-episode web series, raises questions about the ways that Eurocentric aesthetics pervade the subjectivities of black women, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. The relationship with hair is always an underlying theme in this work by artist Charlene Bicalho. Even in her performance pieces Gazuas: Bará do Mercado de Porto Alegre and Do pó se faz cipó, the artist, stemming from her interest in the so-called black territories of Porto Alegre, incorporates elements such as the symbolism of the seven keys of Orisha Bará, guardian of the market, and the subtlety of the ritualistic powder known as pemba, recreating them and giving them new life from a kind of Afro-futurist perspective, in constant dialogue with mythical and mystical objects of religions of African-origin in Brazil.
C&AL: You are an artist with an MBA, and your career intersects the visual arts, public management, and collective creative processes. How do you transition between these worlds?
CB: Yes, I am an artist with an academic background in business, from a certificate program to a masters degree. Artistic flow, however, permeates my practice both in my creative processes and in my career as a cultural arts manager. In my case, business management and the arts flow into one other like a river flows into the sea, becoming one. Since 2012, I have worked as creative director at Raiz Forte, a platform built on the three-prong foundation of the arts, culture and education, using the creation of audiovisual content, courses, study groups, interventions in cultural venue programming, exhibitions, encounters for creation/promotion, and residencies — all featuring Black Diaspora artists. I recently worked in public management from 2015 to 2018 as director of the Carlos Gomes Theater, a space associated with the Secretary of Culture of the state of Espírito Santo, where I also sat on boards for the selection and monitoring of artistic and cultural projects. And I see a confluence of waters across different areas. I am an interdisciplinary artist, and the art world allows me to bring together several flows.
C&AL: In your work, you dialogue directly with the street, but you also present your work in institutionalized spaces, such as museums and galleries. How do you manage this?
CB: Wandering the streets inspires me. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been able to spend hours watching people, wondering where they lived, what they did for fun, what they might say to me if they came over to talk to me. Over time, this wandering around has taken on new heights. I started wandering under the water when I moved from Minas Gerais to Espírito Santo, where I lived and spent time with coastal and indigenous peoples, where the Rio Doce meets the Atlantic. There, I died a river and was re-born the sea. In uncovered waters, I visualized other possibilities of existence. Still today I find myself wandering through the streets, rivers, squares, oceans, and markets.