Project Chama

Poetics of the Black Diaspora

Online platform brings together three Brazilian and one Sudanese artists to map poetics of the Diaspora in the Americas.

C&AL: Are they represented fairly in Brazilian cultural manifestations?

Ana Lira: We have almost 500 years of Diaspora in Brazil. Strengthening the legacy would be fair, instead of continuous negation. What we have puts together what has survived until now and efforts are being made to seek out elements we can still connect. We continue to map and transmute codes in order to preserve what needs to be nurtured.

C&AL: Suelen and Marta, can you speak a little about the productive process involved in responding to this invitation Ana Lira has made?

Suelen Mesmo: It was an incredible process of retrieval and empowerment. While composing the stories, I relived fundamental references for the understanding I have of music and negritude. It was important to return to those memories. More than giving new meaning to many of them, this gave meaning to what I have been designing and building. I felt alive! It was also an important step with regard to participating in the Mercosul Biennial.

Marta Supernova: I have played since I was very young, but, thinking about my artistic process more recently and my experiences as a samba school percussionist and as a DJ, I can say they have shaped me a lot. Ana and I have worked together since 2018. The Chama opens up a space for me to conceptualize and rearticulate my experience with music and contemporary art. It’s a chance to bring the experience of popular art to a space where it would usually be seen through photography or documentary, but not as a source for the creative process.

C&AL: How has the project been impacted by the effects of the Coronavirus, including in the context of its inclusion in the Mercosul Biennial?

Ola Elhassan: For this project, we were unable to complete recording the poems in the studio, thereby eliminating a large part of our vision. Another way it was impacted was the postponement of the exhibition. Although I wasn’t going to attend, it would have been the first time my work was displayed – and along with other artists’ work in a multidisciplinary fashion – who knows what this could have created?

Ana Lira: It’s the kind of work for which the notion of the collective and physical presence is fundamental. It occurs through wandering and articulations. We were creating an installation where people could be together, with books to hold, celebrations and experiences. We were cultivating the festival as a space of belonging. Now communities are suffering, and we have to support activities that are beyond artistic creation. We are building online dialogue, taking care of networks and we opted to strengthen the radio program, thinking of it as a respite from the current situation. We’ve focused on sounds as reception and vibration. In addition to thinking of ways to finance our daily lives during the pandemic.

C&AL: Is it possible to talk about new ways of producing and consuming art after social distancing?

Suelen Mesmo: I believe that in the future, after this period of repression/deprivation, movements will be thirsty for cultural articulation and organization.

Ola Elhassan: I think it is possible, but it would not be a complete production. Reading poetry over a computer is not the same as reading it to a live audience, amongst other poets, and the emotions exchanged in such an organic and genuine format.

Ana Lira: Beyond the debates about meeting in-person and consuming art online, we are also seeing support networks and people experimenting with new forms of cultural financing. A whole symbolic production of black communities that were left in the shadow, in terms of sustainability, has to be seen now, as a matter of people’s survival. This is very important. There are changes in economic flows and we need to understand who is going to be able to support our activities now.

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Fábia Prates is a journalist whose work has appeared in major Brazilian media outlets. She currently writes on topics related to culture and behavior.

Translated from Portuguese by Sara Hanaburgh.