From 22 April to 6 May 2016, ICAF artistic director Eugene van Erven and producer Anamaria Cruz travel around Brazil to scout community art projects that have links to the ‘Movement’ theme of ICAF 2017. This is their journey.
On Tuesday, Anamaria and I travelled from Fortaleza to the South. After a 3 and a half hour flight, Anamaria got out in São Paulo and I (Eugene) travelled on for another hour to the beautiful state of Santa Catarina. Upon arrival, a southern cold front from the Arctic has caused a huge flood in Florianopolis, causing local traffic to come to a standstill. Fortunately, my host, Dr. Marcia Pompeo from UDESC university, managed to get through and take me to her home in the small lakeside town of Lagoa da Conceição. After dropping off my bags, we immediately went to see a community theatre show in the covered backyard of a primary school. The cast consisted of three generations of local residents. It was their second performance of the evening.
The first show, which took place an hour or so earlier, had been interrupted by a power blackout, prompting the audience to light the stage with their mobile phones. The play, collectively created by the participants under guidance of one of Marcia’s PhD students, was entitled E se eu fosse um Camarão [‘if I were a shrimp’]. In a style that reminded me of Argentinian community theatre (with lots of choral singing and acting with occasional brief dialogues), the production dealt critically with real estate speculation and environmental destruction. Apparently, in this community outsiders from São Paulo and abroad buy up the best lakefront properties, blocking views and preventing access to the shore for locals. I very much enjoyed the show, which was performed energetically and with visible fun by the cast, which also included 4 live musicians.
On Wednesday, Marcia took me around the town to show me the sights that the play talked about. I also took the opportunity to interview her briefly, because, after all, she is one of the pioneers of the practice and theory of community theatre in Brazil. In the late afternoon, she took me to the arts campus of UDESC (Universidade do Estado der Santa Catarina), where I presented an illustrated talk about the origins of community art, its relation to ICAF and the connection to urgent political developments both in Brazil and in Europe. It led to a fascinating discussion about the political crisis in Brazil and the refugee and terrorist issues in Europe.
I am writing this on Friday April 29, from the location of our next stop: São Paulo, a metropolis with more than 20 million people. In this huge urban environment we will be meeting with four different community arts organizations about which we will report in the days to come.