“In the beginning was the Word”
This is not the first text i write (thinking) in english here in this blog. If you go to the “english” section, there’s a kind of “welcome text” i did, saying basically that: “you should try to learn portuguese”. This is, at the same time, colonial and utopian. But there’s no bad mood on my reasoning. I only tried to put a linguistic hobby (or addiction) of mine in propaganda: Learn strange languages! It’s nice! So, that’s my agô(*) to the english speakers (native or worldly) all over, since English is the global lingua franca.
So, why do i stress this point? Because i just came from one such experience that, at the same time, challenges and excites my linguofilia: meeting people who speak many different languages. Of course, that also means people who are, in many aspects, very different. Difference, not as a sign of miscomprehension or any kind of hierarchisation or xenophobic classifying people. In a strictly aesthethical sense, difference is richness of forms and sensations. That’s what it’s all about.
HOW DID I MEET THESE GALERA ?
Galera is a general term to ‘crowd’, [tinha uma galera no show : there was a crowd at the concert] or, more commonly, refers to a group of friends and/or family: “minha galera : my people“. Originally, galera is a technical term: the place where workers or slaves had to row, inside his “masters” ships. ‘Galley’ would be the equivalent in english. Curious heritage.
I keep the communal sense of galera, since i think these are my people also. See: the differences don’t prevent us to be very similar. Artists with some need to feel and discuss issues like: ways to exist with or without money, how to teach as a form of art, what’s the taste of cajarana, how to cook a healing meal, etc… people with whom i have something to talk about. And we did it a lot.
Well, first i met Ruth, her professor. Ruth is herself an artist, an educator, mother of a boy the same age(±) of my own son, granma of a beautiful energic one year old boy, and a curator and researcher on issues that seem to me important and necessary. She brought these two questions:
1 – how to exist as an artist [even with low or no resources]? An urgent question in places like Brazil (but let’s not romanticize the hardness of needs, yet…)
2 – teaching as a form of art? something i pursue, and still it never ocurred me explicitly. I even recognize now that my improvisations in teaching are like my improvisations in music. Sometimes it flows, sometimes it sinks. Depends on mood, on focus, on preparation… In this sense, teaching IS ART, or so it seems.
These are questions Ruth poses to her students and we have posed to ourselves. Me and the other brazilian involved.
Involved in what? Well, Ruth brought ten of her students from the Dutch Arts Institute to make fieldwork in Salvador with very practical proposals. The students would be divided into three groups/missions: make a museum in a school, work together with a collection of books and art (that already existed then) in a quite poor neighbourhood and a third group, that was meant to do some research on urban issues (there was a reference to one of the “invisible cities” of Calvino, one in which cristal balls showed each citizen’s the particular view of the city).
The last group was the biggest one. Or, better, that which had more people involved. Six DAI students and, ideally, six artists from Bahia. But this organization was a fast B plan: a first plan was to do this work with local students of a certain institution, what could not be managed somehow. The solution was to find some artists friends to engage in mutual research and creation process. At first, Ruth planned to make pairs: one of her students with one of the local artists. Soon as Ruth told us her plan, and asked us to help, i ran after both (1) finding some friends who could join and (2) to stalk my possible partners, trying to find idea-links. I didn’t want (and almost could not) see their faces or their summer pics, I just wanted to, somehow, feel what could we do together and, if i had to choose only one partner, to catch some match features.
The fisrt day we all met was like first day in a new school (and indeed). All those gringos looking curious (both for us and at us), the old scene, in a broader vibe. Soon we started to introduce ourselves and it was, as i can remember, a nervous moment, but exciting too. So many interesting things to talk and to do. The specific difference of being brazilian/other was melting during the conversation, because among “them” there where so many “theres” (australian, dutch, german, belgian, spanish, palestinian, turk, greek…) that in a while we started to see our own differences: baiano, cearense, gaúcho, preta, branco, mulher, arquiteto, filósofa, professor, dançarino, artista…
Uma pausa no inglês. A experiência de falar inglês deve ser computada: todos, mais ou menos, falamos. A maioria entende. Mas o português parece sempre, do lado de cá, um código secreto estranho. Voltemos ao english…
O GRUPO SEM NOME
Then, the “nameless group” got many names… “I’m with Leon group”, was officialized at ‘zap-zap‘ group (zap-zap is how much people – including me – call that famous phone app in Brazil).
On the first day we went to a walk, a derive more or less, following this rule:
1 – one of the gringos would decide which way to go or which direction to take on each corner or crossroands. 2 – after the corner, another person would decide the next direction, and so on. 3 – everybody should go this direction, unless i said no, for security issues (some places have specific rules of circulation, those who are in the streets know it well). It was a good walk.
A PAREDE DOS URSINHOS
At some point, an odd meeting.
There’s a place in the neighborhood where we were wandering [say it aloud!], an old empty and half demolished three floor house, whose façade is decorated by furry toys like teddy bears and giant Tasmanian Devils and other kinds of objects like tv screens and smaller plastic toys… I knew this place by passing by bus in a daily basis, since i lived many years in the surroundings. So, coming from an inside street during the dérive, we got to this place. There’s a construction materials store (bricks, tools, sand, cement…) just in front of the “little bears wall”. Floris, a dutch guy in the group, asked one of the men at the store – they were painted white by the sand and cement mix – “who did that?”
I translated the question. One of them laughed and said:
“Ele que é o artista aqui, ó!”
“He is the artist!” [aqui, ó = Here, look]
They had done all the installation. The men who work in the store, carrying heavy weight the whole day long, had collected a lot of objects found in the garbage, mainly puppets and toys, but, as i said, also other stuff that could fit in the logic of the instalation, like the TV sets they put in the windows. The building has no ceiling, and it’s possible to see the sky trough the windows. Floris asked to go inside the, but the men strongly disencouraged: “Não! é perigoso, esse prédio tá condenado, pode desabar aí…” (“No! it’s dangerous, the building is condemned, may be about to fall”…). Tragically and curiously, another old building in this same street fell down on a house, killing 3 people some weeks later…a sign of how the so called authorities treat historic buildings and ordinary people here.
Back to the teddy bears wall…I got a little amazed by this meeting: they have been setting that display for some YEARS, as they told us and i already knew, since i noticed the bears on the wall some time ago (about 2 or 3 years) when i used to live around. It’s really interesting to think about what motivated those man to decorate a big wall of an abandoned building in the old center of the city, taking off some time of their work and leisure routines for this task and not earning a cent for doing so. It seems they had the idea and managed to put into practice.
The appreciation of this awkward art work [also nice to say aloud…] made my day!
The other day we would test another action/experiment. We planned to cook some food with healing properties. Each one should bring something to prepare. everyone’s dishes and drinks would compose the meal.
I was not in a good chef mood (i mean it, i could have made one of my uhu-fishes…), then i was very minimalist and brought just yam, sweet potato and spices. I also brought my little sound recorder. Slimmer and smaller than an ordinary mobile phone, i like to use it to get environment sounds and, even more often, speech. Maybe it has not the best quality (fidelity, etc) of recording, but its size makes it go almost unnoticed.
Here is a slice of healing food: