Decolonizing Brazil / Descolonizando o Brasil., 2018.
Decolonizing Brazil is a project and website-work by Maria Thereza Alves in collaboration with indigenous students from UFSCar (Universidade Federal de São Carlos) in Sorocaba:
Aldine Tukano (Aldine Daiana Barreto)
Cagüücü Tikuna (Lucas Quirino)
Kaly Tariano (Agostinho Brazão Barbosa)
Ñorõ Tuyuka (Reginaldo Ramos)
Omawalieni Baniwa (Eliane C. Guilherme)
Potira Kambeba (Rosangela B. Braga)
Rayana Atikum (Rayana S. Freire)
Sileia Tukano (Sileia Massa Alves)
Sunia Yebámahsã (Jonas Prado Barbosa).
The work was realized in 2018 as a result of an invitation made by the students and Sesc Sorocaba.
It was made possible with the support of Sesc, FLONA and UFScar.
Decolonizing Brazil is a result of a series of workshops held from July through August 2018 at the UFSCar Sorocaba Campus, at Flona (National Forest of Ipanema), the Guyra Pepo Reservation and Sesc Sorocaba. These encounters resulted in performative actions, an e-book, seven language magazines, 9 audio recordings, vídeos and theater pieces, which are available in the website and were exhibited at Sesc Sorocaba.
During the workshop at FLONA, the students learned about the local history of the area which had the first ironwork mill in Brazil installed in the beginning of the 19th and which resulted in the decimation of the forest for the fuel, along with the use of the labor of enslaved Tupiniquims and Africans, used in the industrialization of Sorocaba.
As a response to the denial of indigenous history, the students realized performative actions to “retomar” (re-take) an ancient indigenous path that cuts through the area and which has a result of contemporary colonial practices been named after a ‘white’ male. These actions strenghthened a local movement that would like to rename the indigenous trail as the "Tupiniquim Trail".
After the workshop that took place at UFSCar-Sorocaba Campus, the students decided to write on people who they consider to be contemporary indigenous intellectuals and also about their own personal experiences. The result is an e-book that is available on the website.
Due to the lack of any courses offered on indigenous languages at UFSCar students produced seven language magazines and 9 audio recordings on their maternal languages: Ticuna, Baniwa, Tuyuka, Kambeba, Tukano, Kuripako, Cariri, Wauja and Yebámahsã.
During the process of constructing “Decolonizing Brazil” news came about the Guarani Myba of the Guyra Pepo Reservation in Tapiraí who were experiencing difficulties. The students decided that this history would be part of the project and website.
And lastly, theater pieces and videos written, directed and acted by the students were realized that portrayed their quotidian life at the university and in society.
All these actions confronted the complexities of negotiating spaces that do not admit their colonial past and are therefore deeply entangled in contemporary colonial practices which are routinely manifested, such as in the daily use of the derogatory colonial misnomer of "Indians", rather than the term, indigenous peoples.
Within her art practice Maria Thereza Alves offers space for reflection and action, and to speak and act upon colonial history and its contemporanities. During the process of the work’s making the students of UFSCar elaborated their histories, voices and ideas about who they are and how they want to be heard on their own terms. They developed their own expressions to resist quotidian colonial forces adversely affecting indigenous realties.
Through the many levels of interactions between artistic practice and decolonial movements a new ground was tested and elaborated on which the students enabled themselves and us to create ideas. We hope this work contributes to the beginning of a truly decolonizing discourse in so that we can together imagine a future.
The Decolonizing Brazil Group
Beneath you find the English translations of the Portuguese menu texts about the different parts of the project:
(Re) existência – (Re) exist”
As a result of a series of workshops, the students conceived of several plays and a photo essay. The pieces were written, directed, staged and filmed by them, and deal with the quotidian racism in their lives: in the classroom, the hospital and the restaurant. The photographic essay portrays social exclusion on the Campus of UFSCar.
E-livro – B-book
The e-book "Decolonizing Brazil" is the result of a request from students who wanted to write about indigenous intellectuals that they consider important and that are not included in the narrative of Brazilian official history.
Revistas de Idiomas – Language Magazines
The students developed seven language magazines and 9 audio recordings in their langauges: Ticuna, Baniwa, Tuyuka, Kambeba, Tukano, Kuripako, Cariri, Wauja and Yebámahsã.
During a workshop held at FLONA (National Forest of Ipanema), the students had contact with the history of the site, which was home to the first iron mill in Brazil in the early 19th century, and whose existence resulted in decimation of the forest, as well as the labor of enslaved Tupinquim and African people - that was used in the industrialization of Sorocaba. The presence of the students reactivated this part of the history of Brazil, whose narrative is officially silenced.
Aldeia Guyra Pepo
During the process of the construction of this work, we had news that the Guarani Mbya community, from the Guyra Pepo Resercation in Tapiraí, was experiencing difficulties. The students met with local indigenous leaders: José Fernandes Soares, William Macena and Nilson da Silva, who in June of 2018, along with more than 60 Mbya Guaranies, returned to these ancestral indigenous lands. This process occurred as a form of compensation for the loss of land, where they had previously resided, during the construction of the Rodoanel Beltway. The government transported the families to Tapiraí in the winter, leaving them there without housing or food.
Retomar – Retake
The "Retomar" (Retake) action was created as an attempt to deal with the results of erasure and ignorance about the indigenous history of Sorocaba and surrounding areas. Through performative actions the students "retake", symbolically, indigenous spaces. In FLONA (National Forest Ipanema), an ancient indigenous path has the name of a "white” man. There, the "retomar" actions joined forces with a local movement trying to rename the trail as the "Tupiniquim Trail". At UFSCar, where there is also an indigenous past, the students, who face several situations of exclusion, have again performed the process of "retomar".