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 Friday April 29, Anamaria and I went to Bras train station to join an unusual community performance by an arts collective called ‘Estopô Balaio’. The name is a slang term from Northeastern Brazil and means so much as ‘an unstoppable urge to express’. The group operates from a house in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of São Paulo: Jardim Romano. Most residents there are migrants from the Northeast and their barrio regularly floods whenever it rains, causing great devastation and havock.
The play, entitled The City of Invisible Rivers is based on authentic experiences of neighbourhood residents. It is the result of a beautiful, reciprocal collaboration with locals and a small nucleus of professional artists, including theatre makers, musicians and visual artists who themselves have roots in the Northeast. They have been working in Jardim Romano [‘Roman garden’] for the past 5 years and have succeeded in establishing a very strong rapport with the community. They offer all manner of arts courses, organize block parties once a month, and have co-created the material for this show together with a group of local youngsters. The result is a stunning performative journey through this amazing area, giving colour and poetry to the environment and bringing out the beauty, the talent, and indeed the magic of what well-to-do outsiders perceive as a no-go area. The sheer love, commitment, creativity and high-level participatory art that artistic director João Junior and his collective bring to this place is a testimony to the incredible power of community art that is integrated fully in the daily life of a community.