The fact that Dantas was the only Black diplomat alone made it clear that there was no racial democracy in Brazil, and that, in the same way that whiteness marked the bodies that made up Brazilian international politics, it also defined the choices made by them. The selection of who would represent Brazil abroad also passed through this filter, and this is made explicit in the formation of the Brazilian delegation for the first two World Black Art Festivals, in 1966, in the city of Dakar, and in 1977, in the city of Lagos, capital of Nigeria.
White People as Mediators of Afro-Brazilian Art
Brazil, the only South American country to participate in the event, sent a delegation to the 1st World Festival of Black Arts that included Rubem Valentim, Heitor dos Prazeres, Vicente Pastinha, and others. The festival was part of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s government policy as well as the ideals of the Négritude movement, and aimed to bring together agents of different countries through African and Afro-Diaspora arts and cultures. We can see that the group was made up of Black and white artists, who, probably from the point of view of the Brazilian government, helped to build the image of a nation of racial democracy.
According to playwright and artist Abdias Nascimento, in his well-known Carta a Dacar (Letter to Dakar), published in 1966, this committee was set without prior consultation with the Afro-Brazilian artistic class and excluded some artists whose work contained political content that was linked with confronting social and racial inequalities, as was the case of Teatro Experimental do Negro (TEN), where Nascimento was coordinator. It is important to remember that the criticism made by Abdias does not fall on the artists, but on the curatorship of the Ministry, which reaffirmed the position of white people as mediators of Afro-Brazilian arts, in addition to reinforcing a political discourse contradictory to those of Black movements.
Nascimento’s open letter revealed that, despite the growing diplomatic relationship between Brazil and African countries in that period, on the Brazilian side, the discourses of the Black Movement were not the ones guiding them. In addition to international suppression, TEN suffered from internal ideological and political persecution, ultimately ceasing its activities in 1968, when Abdias Nascimento went into exile.
Ties with Afro-Diaspora Countries
Abroad, the playwright undertook a professorship at the University of Lagos, capital of Nigeria, where he contributed to the teaching of the Performing and Visual Arts and where he was able, without intermediation by Brazilian diplomacy, to witness the 2nd World Festival of Black Arts, in 1977. Titled the Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, and with its new host Nigeria, the event sought to establish ties with Afro-Diaspora countries, as well as strengthen support for African countries that were still grappling with the independence process, as was the case of the former Portuguese colonies.