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 Saturday April 30, we visited another impressive community arts organization: Pombas Urbanas. Literally the name means ‘urban pigeons’, which refers both to the symbol of peace and to the irritating pest pigeons can be. Pombas Urbanas is not going away. The group was founded in 1989 by a Peruvian artist named Lino Rojas. Through him, the company is directly linked to the fascinating history of Latin American popular theatre and collective creation that goes back to the 1950s and ’60s. After working in several different locations for a number of years, in 2002 Pombas decided to return to the eastern suburbs where most of the members were born. Just like Estopô Balaio, their parents have roots in Northeastern Brazil. They found an abandoned warehouse in a neighbourhood called Cidade Tiradentes, which is located 40 kilometers from downtown São Paulo.
They turned this place into a community cultural center they call ‘art under construction’. It’s an amazing place. It has offices, studios, two performance spaces, a kitchen where everybody eats together and an impressive history that we will write about in the near future. On Saturday, we spoke at length with Adriano and Marcelo, two of the co-founders of the collective, but we need time to translate their words so we can subtitle their amazing stories. They were 13 and 18 years old, respectively, when they participated in the very first workshops that Lino Rojas conducted back in 1989. They now run the company together with 6 colleagues and cater to scores of youngsters from the neighbourhood.
On Saturday afternoon, Anamaria and I witnessed the premiere of a short circus theatre piece co-created by one of the youth groups from the neighbourhood. It is intended to become part of a larger show later in the year. Even for such a short piece of 15 minutes the community came out in droves, filling the main auditorium of the Pombas Urbanas cultural center. One of the most touching moments was when all the young performers stepped forward after the show to acknowledge their mothers, fathers, grandparents and boyfriends and girlfriends. In the film clip, Marcelo introduces the show. This is what he says: “Hello, I am Marcelo Palmares, co-founder of Pombas Urbanas. Here we are in our cultural center ‘Art Under Construction’. You’re going to see images of the premiere of a short piece we created together with youngsters from Cidade Tiradentes. Every week we have free cultural events and activities for the community. As our founder Lino Rojas used to say: ‘we have to get Cidade Tiradentes out of the police reports and into the cultural pages. Knowledge must be shared with the people so ideas can fly…'”