One of our drives when we founded StoneCrabs was to create work that went beyond the cliché of diasporas or foreign communities in the UK. There was, and there is, still today, a limited space for British Nationals of diverse heritage in theatre and arts to fully articulate and develop their skills, to share their stories and to meet other like-minded artists.
The Brasiliance Oral History project tries to do exactly that; we went out researching and interviewing Brazilians who came to London in the 60s, 70s and 80s, who have lived and contributed to social, economical and political life of the metropolis. We did this in order to bring a different perspective from what London, the UK and the world may be receiving from the mass media, in order to unpick the stereotypes and present a different Brazilian Culture, if there is one. At the end of the project we will have produced a book and DVD aimed at KS3 students, a new play based on the interviews, and archival material for future researchers.
I have been translating some of the interviews and it strikes me how remarkable their life stories are, the struggles some of the interviewees have gone through. Their stories bring many themes up for discussion, not only the current political and economical situation of Brazil as it goes through hosting the World Cup and the Olympics in 2016, but other themes such as interculturalism, identity, racism, bullying – some, unfortunately, still very much part of our society.
As I listen to the oral history interviews, I feel it is like holding a mirror to myself. What was it like to live and contribute to a community as a foreigner? How was the process of adaptation? Well… as a British National, born in Brazil to parents of mixed cultures, I am torn between places and find myself often feeling like a foreigner in both countries: I have been away for too long to feel comfortable in my own country of birth, but I still hold many individual characteristics from the place I was born in (i.e. my accent, my name, etc) to be fully accepted in my ‘home’ country (England) as anything else but a foreigner.
Does it matter? I personally think that it does matter. It matters because there are huge implications as to how you live your life, how people see and accept you and vice-versa, how you see and accept yourself and others. Being a foreigner in the world means that I am forever dealing with feelings of inadequacy and ‘not belonging’, but the other side of the coin is that, having London as my home, being such a multicultural place, it allows me to absorb various ingredients of various other cultures, and that makes me a unique being.
I like to think I have embraced my foreignness through the years, its weaknesses and strengths; and that I have accepted my own uniqueness and capabilities of creating value where I live now. It is up to me to decide where I ‘belong’ and although my self-belief is heightened by the ‘foreignness’ aspect, it is I alone who has the responsibility of addressing it.
I am of the belief that there is space for each single artist, theatre maker or whatever you decide to pursue as your profession, whether you are a foreigner or not. We develop ourselves by sharing our humanity, so these stories also need to be valued, told and shared. The more we share and discuss the better we ought to get at chipping away ignorance, discrimination, inequality and disrespect.
And this is what I hope Brasiliance will do, I hope that people will participate in the events, watch the oral history interviews and the play. I hope audiences will leave feeling that we all have unique roles to fulfil and that this may start powerful dialogues.
Like Rosa, one the interviewees, affirms we ought to believe in ourselves, connect with others and create value in the community we live in. It is up to us to seek knowledge, interact with others and take responsibility in breaking down barriers.
BRASILIANCE DAY– Not going to the World Cup? Come to Deptford Lounge on 7th June for a day of FREE arts events celebrating the heritage of Brazilians in the UK. We’ll be hosting free activities and events including a traditional Capoeira Roda led by Master Silvia Bazzarelli from the London School of Capoeira, Brazilian storytelling for little ones, live Brazilian music, an oral history & photographic exhibition and a pop-up performance inspired by interviews made of Brazilians living in London today.
BRASILIANCE WEEKEND – Brasiliance Weekend will bring to London a different taste of Brazil. Join us for a weekend of Brazilian arts, music, theatre and a performance of ‘Kitchen’, a new play by Gaël Le Cornec about love, politics and biscuits. Free activities include live Brazilian Music, Brazilian Storytelling (for Children with Najlla Kay, suitable for 6-10 year olds), Brasiliance Exhibition (photographic exhibition, photography, film documentary and art installation celebrating the Heritage of Brazilians in London) and Brasiliance Short Plays (that were especially selected as a curtain-raiser to ‘Kitchen’)
Brasiliance is supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund
‘Kitchen‘ by Gaël Le Cornec is supported by The Arts Council England