C&AL: The last time we spoke at your studio, you showed me a video recording of Seu Djalma, a black man dancing in the street which seems to be a sort of never-ending “event”. When was this recording made?
JS: The recording of Seu Djalma dancing was made when I went to Cachoeira, a city in the Bahian Recôncavo, for the Sisterhood of Boa Morte Festival – a Catholic sisterhood of elderly black women who got together over 200 years ago. They’re a symbol of religious articulation, with great political and cultural mobility in the city. And they organize the festivities with a lot of samba de roda. Cachoeira is the city of the “sambadeiras” (samba dancers). For me, it was very important to go there, especially for the samba and for the articulation of black women through these ancestral rites, their practices of occupying churches and streets. This is a big event in the sense that time stops to care for the souls: eating, praying and dancing samba. I was amazed that Seu Djalma didn’t stop dancing. His dancing was cadenced and full of charm. There he was on the sidewalk in front of the house of the Sisterhood. Wiggling his hips like nothing. It was a state of being.
Samba is a state of being and a way of being in the world, not only a type of music or dance. Samba is a verb, not a noun. Seu Djalma materialized this in that moment. A state of being and a way of being in the world, a way of preserving the present, a metaphor for life. He was a focal point, but that’s how Cachoeira is. At the festival of Sisterhood, everything is samba and everyone is dancing it. All the time, there is music in the square, people tearing it up. There’s a group over there, another one over here, knowing how to samba in the sambiência (sambaconsciousness). That’s how I came up with that term. Seu Djalma represented there, for me, that sambaconsciousness, that ancestral knowledge that comes from the feet. And people never know how they learned to samba. But each person has their way of doing it.