C&AL: Your video work “The Margin of the Margin” (2017) was recently part of the Dakar Biennale. Can you talk about your artistic career and how you came to video/performance art?
RMK: Despite my degree in Dance, I had a very diverse training process in the arts, which made me understand the interconnection between the various artistic languages. And since my earliest creative studies in contemporary dance, I’ve researched the imaging processes: first the physiological process of the gaze and how the body’s movement is linked to ocular movement; then, the intersection with the Theater of Shadows and projections of images on the body, and, finally, the video itself.
On the other hand, through my research in Afro-Brazilian cultural manifestations, my whole career was spent unraveling the dance, and understanding movement as a pulsating and communicating whole, which traverses and is traversed by music, theatrical action, props…, and that is always imbued with our biography. That awareness led me to understand my artistic practice as an act of multidimensional performance, as conceptualized by the Argentinian anthropologist Alejandro Frigerio.
C&AL: How and when did you develop awareness of the social conditions of Black women in Brazil?
RMK: The racial structure in Brazil is complex and has inherited its values from Portuguese assimilationist racism, and so, the closer the person is to the Caucasian phenotype, the better treatment s/he will have socially in diverse environments. However, racism pervades all social environments and institutions, and that same logic operates within multiracial families, where the darker son in the family is going to, in most cases, face grave negative discrimination in his own family. It should be noted that sometimes the darkest son in the family is light skinned and as such will also suffer from serious psychological damage. This complex reality results in a profound process of denial on the part of Afro-Brazilians regarding their condition, which manifests itself in the process of “mitigating” the Negroid traits of their body, trying to be as close as possible to whiteness and then not accepting their own blackness. In Brazil many Afro-Brazilians often say “when I realized I was black,” but I don’t believe that’s quite how it works. We realize that we’re black in our earliest social and family encounters, and that reality is so painful that we chose to deny what happened to us, but the consciousness of being black is there in the straight hair, the self-hate, low self-esteem, etc.
My awareness of being a woman and of being “disadvantaged” also came about in my childhood, since I was raised in a traditional Christian family, where the separation of boy things and girl things was always very pronounced. So, in that sense, I’ve always had a sense of the position I occupied in society. But, I only acquired a critical awareness of my condition when I got to university, having had shocking experiences so frequently in the university environment; while, at the same time, being close to people who, in São Paulo, were connected to the black movement. That was when I realized that “my problem” wasn’t personal; it was social. It was around the age of 21 that I was able to distinguish between those two questions: of being Black and of being a woman, and then I began to seek out more knowledge on the subject.