For performing artists Carol Dall Farra, Rool Cerqueira and Vic Sales, the Slams das Minas all-female poetry slams are spaces that bring representation, reclaim black women’s self-esteem and give visibility to their voices, acting as strategies to combat oppression.
Slam das Minas: seja heroína, seja marginal (documentary). Imagem: Juliana Santoros and Mylena Fantini.
Carol Dall Farra. Photo: Andressa Guerra.
Rool Cerqueira. Photo: Liz Santana.
Vic Sales. Photo: Personal.
When a black voice speaks, there is ancestry and struggle contained within it. And this diasporic life-force is present in the performances at the Slams das Minas (“Girl Slams”), poetry slams headlined by women and which have been taking place since 2015 in several locations across Brazil. These spoken word events bring together the strength and wisdom of women on the outskirts of society, making way for black, homosexual and trans bodies – all forcibly ‘othered’.
Incorporations and Evocations
Slam performances evoke the ancestral force of Xangô, an orisha who speaks with his entire body, the ruler of words and speech. And like the Yoruba deity, slammers speak with their whole bodies during their performances: since oppression is rooted in the control and submission of bodies, slammers appropriate words and creative bodily movements, in order to reject the role of second-class citizen in which they are systematically placed.
Born out of written works, slam performances gradually take shape during the performative act itself. They evoke life and ancestral forces, which become truly present through words put into action, as well as through gestural choices and bodily movements.
Although poetic expression is preconceived in the written form, slams make use of resources that extrapolate the literary world, intertwining spoken word poetry, acting, musicality, stage design, clothing and accessories. And there is also participation from the audience, which acts with autonomous bodies and voices, placing themselves as an essential transformative element of this performance art.
Slam das Minas in the performers’ own voices
Carol Dall Farra, Rool Cerqueira and Vic Sales represent countless women who have refused to be silenced once again. These female performers are unanimous in situating the Slams das Minas as spaces of resistance, acceptance and visibility.
Slam das Minas represents the embodiment of a space for women and LBTQ people to speak, a place of acceptance within a homophobic and transphobic society. So, I see Slam das Minas as a tool for breaking down prejudices and equipping the fostering of culture.
MC Dall Farra studies geography at UFRJ. She is a poet, rapper and slammer from Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro. She is part of the collective Poetas Favelados and of Slam das Minas, which organizes poetry interventions in public spaces. She tackles issues such as gender and class discrimination in her songs and poems. Her first experience acting was in MC Jess (2018), a short film that tells the story of a black dyke MC and her encounter with poetry – experiences that relate directly to Dall Farra’s own path.
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Slam das Minas Rio de Janeiro Final, 2017. Video: Slam das Minas RJ.
“Slam das Minas represents the embodiment of a space for women and LBTQ people to speak, a place of acceptance within a homophobic and transphobic society. So, I see Slam das Minas as a tool for breaking down prejudices and equipping the fostering of culture,” says the slam poet.
Rool Cerqueira. Photo: Olivia Porto.
Slam das Minas is a perfect strategy for subversion and for coping with the oppression minorities experience, a way of being heard and becoming representatives of our community through art and literature, like a big stage that shows we are producing quality, black literature from the favelas, which is one of the prospects for my people to climb the social ladder.
Rool Cerqueira, a black dyke from the hood, is a member of the ZeferinaS Collective and the Baobás project, an activist, and a “Bikuda” (activist and student at the Steve Biko Cultural Institute, a community-based educational space located in the Pelourinho district of Salvador, Bahia). She is currently pursuing an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in art at UFBA, and lives in Cajazeiras, on the outskirts of Salvador. She is an outsider poet, actress and was slam champion at Slam das Minas Bahia in 2017.
Slam das Minas Bahia Final, 2017. Video: Slam das Minas BA.
“Slam das Minas represents the liberation of voices from the streets. It’s a perfect strategy for subversion and for coping with the oppression minorities experience, a way of being heard and becoming representatives of our community through art and literature, like a big stage that shows we are producing quality, black literature from the favelas, which is one of the prospects for my people to climb the social ladder,” says Rool Cerqueira.
Vic Sales. Photo: Arquivo pessoal.
Slam das Minas is, for me, synonymous with home. It's where I feel completely comfortable reading poetry I haven't memorized, to talk about love and stuff. For me, Slam das Minas is the scene's most welcoming space, a safe space where women listen to and protect one another. I've made great friends at the events, women I'll carry in my heart for the rest of my life.
Vic Sales was born in São Paulo, grew up in the state’s interior and now lives in the capital. She holds a degree in library science from UNESP. An art educator, she has worked at the Centro Cultural da Juventude, among other institutions. As a poet and slammer, she leads workshops and competes in slams. She was part of the DasPre Collective and in 2017 she released the book Um jazz pra duas and the zine Das águas. Her photographs appeared in the exhibition Diaphragm: light, expression at Instituto Ação Educativa.
Slam das Minas São Paulo Final, 2017. Video: QuatroV.
“Slam das Minas is, for me, synonymous with home. It’s where I feel completely comfortable reading poetry I haven’t memorized, to talk about love and stuff. For me, Slam das Minas is the scene’s most welcoming space, a safe space where women listen to and protect one another. I’ve made great friends at the events, women I’ll carry in my heart for the rest of my life. Slam das Minas gave me my first paycheck as a poet. Before that I didn’t think it was possible to live off poetry, I never thought that the things I wrote were interesting or that they would touch people, but this collective gave me the gift of seeing my poetry take flight,” says Vic Sales.
Cecilia Floresta is an Afro-Brazilian writer, a Candomblé practitioner and a dyke. She researches Yoruba ancestral narratives and poetry and their use in the contemporary Black Diaspora, lesbianism, and the literature of insurgency. She is the author of poemas crus, published by Editora Patuá in 2016.
Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.