Explode! is a platform that researches and experiments with notions of gender, race and class, based on socially perceived peripheral artistic and cultural practices, also crossing fields like pedagogy and social justice. It carries out immersive practices, which emphasize the coexistence and debate of important subjects for these groups. Represented by the artists, researchers and curators Cláudio Bueno and João Simões, it is organized through a national and international network of collaborators. Among his last activities, as described below, are: Explode! Residency; Explode! Motumbá; Explode! Rainbow Riots and Attack!
From a space of safety to a space of bravery
De um espaço de segurança há um espaço de coragem
For not having been invited to the residency, but brought along with a friend of mine who was invited [Ezio Rosa] to this place that was also new to him, this situation presented me how our bodies still need to occupy certain spaces. How our black, poor, effeminate bodies still must be placed in a movement of inserting ourselves in hegemonically white spaces, at once causing and being an uncomfortable presence. We can try to think about this as from the issues of communication faced during the residency, when translation was constantly required since not all of us spoke English. In there, I was listening much more than talking. Due to the need of translation, I heard twice, first in English, then in Portuguese; and this double exercise of listening was extremely tiring and interesting. It was like a confirmation of what was said, or like the need to reread a hard text in order to understand it. To listen to something more than once and then speak slowly to be understood is not at all a custom for contemporary subjects. What I ask myself is: How to resist the inflictions of a colonizing language? How not to allow oneself be dominated by the tools of dominators, without deliberately excluding oneself from the places dominated by them?
Jo Gada (1991, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro)
Explode! Residency was an eleven-day immersion/residency – from August 23rd to September 2nd, 2016 –, in a house at Vila Nova York, East Zone of São Paulo, the home where Cláudio Bueno lived until the age of 22, and his parents until four years ago. The residency has integrated the Queer City series of events.
This place, located some 20 kilometers away from the city center, was then gathering a community of visual artists, performers, dancers, cultural agents, militants, and researchers, everyone engaged in thinking and presenting, as from this temporary autonomous zone, the potentials of such peripheral urban bodies that, provided with their ideas and presence, were willing to take on the protagonism and transformation of our current world, especially in the Brazilian context, ruled by setbacks, conservatism, and violence.
In addition to the public meetings that permeated the residency, involving different discussions on body, periphery, gender, sexuality, migration, dance, coloniality, and learning, we also counted on the presence of members from the American collective Ultra-red, who shared their methodology of listening. With a research based on the sound and mapping of acoustic spaces as enunciative of social histories and relations, they brought us the intensification of the political perspective of sounds. This group of artists-activists act upon issues involving race, migration, participatory development of communities, and the creation of policies concerning HIV/aids.
Among the sounds heard over the night in the neighborhood – from a chicken thief on the roof to the dry sound of shooting guns –, we danced to different music genres of contestation, resistance, and struggle. Music that potentiates black, feminist, non-binary, transgendered, gay, poor, latino bodies, including other styles, such as voguing – that was duly emphasized by the presence of legendary icon Pony Zion and Brazilian representative Félix Pimenta –, along with funk from Rio de Janeiro, hip hop, samba, and so on. We walked on the surroundings of the house, placed ourselves in the neighborhood, danced on the streets, and shared long discussions and listening sessions.
We believe in this immersion process and in a learning method based on listening as intensifiers of broad discussions and debates, able to trigger the most deep and urgent questions that touch us. Through listening, we glimpse the possibility of producing a knowledge that involves the body and does not repeat (or would not repeat, to a lesser degree) what we already knew beforehand. This way, it might be possible, to some extent, to think about the decolonization of knowledge and the imagination of other worlds, bodies, and experiences.
If the notion of home ideally refers to a physical place of reception and belonging, we sought to establish the grounds for a space of safety and intimacy, not letting go of the potency and madness of coming about in the world, the most susceptible place for conflicts and clashes when it comes to differences: a home-world, without walls. The ideas shared in this enclosed space can now contaminate other people and potentiate new encounters, bodies, affections, sensitivities, policies, and activations, going way beyond this temporary and specific location and situation.
In order to translate here the things we lived in the intensity of a direct bodily experience, along with the most intimate dialogues held between a group of people, we could only resort to a plurality of visions-listenings-speeches-writings-voices from each and every participant. Therefore, we asked all of them the same question we were constantly asked by Ultra-red members Michael Roberson and Robert Sember during the residency, whenever we finished a walk or shared information in the living room: What did you hear?
Aretha Sadick My ID name is Robson Rozza, but you can call me Aretha. I am 27 years old, and I work as an actor, actress, performer, and fashion designer. I came here [to Explode! Residency] through my research of this image, the black identity, the performativity of the transit between male and female; due to my engagement and the consciousness that I am creating, that it is not stable. Also due to this residency experience, the opportunity of spending time together. It is likewise marvelous and brutal as an approach this thing of quitting our daily lives and being with other people, to go to bed and wake up with them, to drink and eat, and so on. Where does the force resides? I usually kid when people ask me: “Are you doing well?”; now I promptly respond: “I’m alive.” And that’s it. To keep oneself alive in such a place, in such a world. I mean alive in broad terms, not only physically, but also emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically. So, I currently understand force as this position of being alive. People like me must think twice or three times before heading to some places. The force lays on this life (this choice), where people tell me not to go, but I simply do it – and I do it indeed. I do so to keep my presence alive in such places. It is a struggle, it requires a lot of work, in the physical, emotional, and mental aspects, all at once. But I still think that’s where the force lays, as well as in this place I see: people like me, coming from the same place as I did. From managing to work every day and still keep seeing places where people like me cannot pass by freely. Here [at Explode! Residency] I reinforced such perceptions. Sometimes we wonder: “I’m going a bit nuts, right? I keep believing in several things other people do not, things that do not make sense.” So it feels good to meet one’s peers, find the commons, people who also believe in the same things. Then you look at people like you and think: “Phew, I’m not alone in this road. I’m not going crazy.” That’s the thing, we start to question everything, all things and how they are organized. Being here was to reinforce such thoughts and realize that I am not simply glimpsing this place for people like me, I’m not alone, there are others who want to build this same space. Not only glimpsing, but actually building; people building together. That was it, quite intense. For me, words mean intensity and healing. As I previously said, all the pain and the load I felt, which I took away when I had the opportunity of leaving the house and to then come back again, as well as to see it healed – it was put out, shared, discussed with other people. An intense healing. There is no such thing as healing without pain. There is no way to heal without feeling the pain. Pain and healing are interconnected.
Aline Scátola I saw resistance, force, and creativity. I heard expressiveness that celebrates origins, surpasses languages, and overflows territories. I saw pain and delight being greeted, the strength of agencies; the force of wills, the greatness of existences. Every body is political, heretic, divine.
Cadu (LaBeija) Oliveira The first thing that amazed me during my time at Explode! Residency was the number of black people along with the diversity comprised in the group regarding not only nationalities, but also experiences and gender-related situations. Unfortunately, it is rare for us to be together and numerous in environments where art and knowledge are produced without exclusively discussing ethnic issues. To get to know the vogue culture, to be able to approach it, and to take a closer look at it for then discovering the ballroom as a “temple” were thrilling moments pertaining to the feeling of belonging and the celebration of identities, that directly relate with the mottos of “free body” and “partying also means struggling” that guide us at the Revolta da Lâmpada collective. The influence brought by being part of a marginalized and excluded people is evident. And that created such an empathy within me that, when listening to Michael, Lee Ann, or Pony, there was some sort of fine tuning with the discussions held with Aretha, Jo Gada, Ezio, or Félix. It was such a strong bond exceeding the limits of language that, during the vogue class, when Pony taught us the drop dead, I did it without thinking twice, even though it was something close to the unthinkable for me before that. We were in a safe environment of learning and experimentation with endless possibilities. That put us in touch with important subjects, such as the rates of HIV infection of black population, sexuality and gender-related issues, the situation of refugees, and even seeing our country through the regard of fellows from other countries, with all its beauties, sounds, and particularities. The artistic production was boiling in our bodies, performances, records, parties, and in the food prepared by Nega. I’ve been tracing a deep, intense path of self-knowledge through techniques of nonviolent communication, aid groups, and gender performances, reason why I am completely grateful to both participants and organizers for allowing me to place this residency among such life-transforming practices. The immersion in Explode! Residency was really powerful, for it brought genuine, striking interactions with admirable people who later became a generous group living together. Even if Brazil has an expressive majority of black and brown population, it is pretty rare for us, black people, to be so widely represented in a space of art and knowledge. Representativeness is something that matters, transforms, and strengthens.
Daniela Mattos The affection stood out amidst the laid-back and heavy things we shared. Binary definitions were unmade, empathy was created between us… Indeed, we lived together.
Danila Bustamante Amid the intensity of colors, the power of each difference, the collective drama, and a whole set of much more than real stories: I saw, I saw myself, and I was seen. This explosive connection brought even more gleam to my questionings on what is the feminine image we convey, and what existence and visibility are real in a moving body.
Ezio Rosa For the first time in the history of this country (LOL), my art was recognized in one of those spaces that ever showed themselves apart from my peripheral reality. I was one of the few requiring constant translation, and after several indications, critiques, and agreements, we managed to jointly identify and solve this major point, the process of decolonizing knowledges. During the residency, me and my sista Jogada Away occupied one of the rooms in the house that looked like an aquarium, and since our place of speech is quite similar, we performed together for some six or seven hours. This performance is called “Mind your Black!,” and it involved me braiding Jo’s hair while we wrote about this whole process on the glass windows. I then realized which art is this: a peripheral art that, although constantly rendered unfeasible in Fine Arts spaces, claims at the top of its lungs for its right to exist. The residency brought along several deep reflections for me, but what remained, indeed, is the force to struggle and create my own narrative, with an art that is tired of excusing itself for simple being and existing. I exist, we exist.
Félix Pimenta About the experience at Explode! Residency, it was pretty important to feel the need of listening. To listen to and experience all stories, especially knowing that I’m not alone, that our backgrounds are somewhat similar, thus leading to many new connections – and, after that experience, being able to build a whole lot of things altogether. And we are!
Jo Gada The whole residency was filled with queer resistance art: the bathroom turned into studio for monstrous camping sessions; from the kitchen real artworks came out to feed us with food that would usually hit the trash; and in the aquarium of one of the rooms, we braided affections, drew a panel of emotions, doodled our contradictions, and burned down our colonized consciousness.
Mavi Veloso Welcome respect conflict guerrilla anger seeking for force to energize oneself in the arms of a fellow person each one with hers brutality each one with hers internal struggle with fellow people with different ones causes still absurdly wronged through difficulties through differences generous affectivity intimacy queens share their thrones all queens whip their hair and braids there are still upheavals some want to pull the rug from under our feet but that’s just not going to happen.
Paulo Scharlach As the hours passed inside the house at Vila Nova York, they looked much more like days while sharing meals, ideas, sorrows, joys, previous stories, future desires, euphories, and much fatigue; sharing our entire lives that we could not imagine to fit in such a few days nor to be so connected, I felt the actual possibility of existing so fully. I felt welcome for just being, and being together as a group, as a society. Even if for brief moment, in such a specific and short example of society, it was impressively transforming and strengthening to keep existing in full pride, happiness, and serenity for being who we feel like being. Unlike too many times in our lives, we felt like we had to change our way of existing so as not to bother the world, which ended up killing ourselves softly. In that house, we multiplied life. In short: I felt the actual possibility of existing beyond resisting, of being different and able to share without fear, of simply listening and feeling whole in my social contribution without having to say something. I saw experiences and sensations be multiplied, I saw life multiplying itself.
Raphael Daibert I felt expansion. Plurality. The force of difference, of (diverse) stories, whether personal or part of the so-called history. I heard possibilities, observed the will to find a space (a political, physical, social one) capable of admitting us all. I saw strength and the courage of (r)existing.
Tiago Guiness It is hard to put into words what was the Explode! Residency, because this strong experience still seems to operate in me. Questions resurface and, all of a sudden, I am taken back to Vila Nova York. Anyway, I believe to have expanded the idea of diversity as from the experiences of exchange and daily living with the other residents.
Nega (Raquel Blaque) Listening, seeing = FEELING, making me notice that people who have potential are essentially exposed, and we cannot escape that. Whether protecting or fighting, we present ourselves as the powerful beings we are, as an anti-industry militant would flee the overexposure of expression. At Explode! Residency I heard a lot about the protagonism of black and trans people before the cultural industry, on how and when some behaviors were actually created by us, making me bloom and realize that we repress ourselves even in struggle situations. I used to repress inner behaviors for thinking they ensued of a colonizing culture. By the age of 37, I saw myself escaping from me, thinking I was boycotting the cultural industry, until I found out that in fact it was the opposite, it was copying us. From this sort of liberation I learned to expose myself the way I am, to render explicit, to occupy places of speech and self-exposure. Steps to the front, to the sides, and especially onward and upward. I walk, dance, cook, and speak always occupying the sidewalks, AND I’m free, my hair is sculptural, my voice is at once ancestral and spearhead. Putting it briefly: I felt generous souls beyond gender, I recapped myself, and left exalted of just realizing to what extent both physical body and soul go forward and leverage expressions of potential and can remove the stains of some expressions. Harsh dramas and soft hearts, long discussions and physical alignments, a shared set of social utopias and desires, structural deepening of vital communications. Polyvalent women with adolescent breasts in eloquent vogues, in memories transcending to convalescent pains, and subsequent struggles into overpowerful forces.
Nube Abe It might be too late, I’m sorry, but I’m sending you this voice note either way. I had this block for a moment, I sort of blocked this experience at Explode! because it recalls too much information and excess, and I did not know how to handle it, but I am now unblocking and recalling it once again, and how wonderful it was. I would sit down and write, but the memories were so strong and intense, bringing back recollections of crises, that I had to stop writing. Explode! was something very strong, intense, and rich in knowledge for me, it was really important to hear all these people talking about their experiences, a very powerful moment. I heard different realities and fierce stories, all the while I was also living a very introspective moment – but I was not able to listen to myself and realize how much I needed that moment. Indeed, we were talking about listening, but how can one silence such a big group, with all that energy to space and lots of things to say? I feel like if we want to think about another Explode!, we must remember that a lot was said and heard, but there is also much more to listen to. A more sensitive approach. I do not know what it actually is, but I feel like we can listen to much more things than we already do. How to listen what is not a word. How to listen what is not a sound.
Yeti Agnew I heard a lot of Portuguese and a lot of English (which was very much appreciated by me) and very kind of all the bilingual people there. I was most impressed by the tangible support shown to others from braiding hair and applying make-up, to providing respectful feedback and encouragement and ensuring that everyone was comfortable and well fed. I experienced a wonderful group of people who listened and shared exceptionally well: who could speak hard truth with love and compassion; who lavished affection on each other; and who, on occasion, courageously dared to expose their very souls to one another. BRAVO!
Lee Ann Norman A beginning . . . a sincere effort to move beyond the surface things like numbers, ratios, representation, but to begin rethinking how people hold space with others . . . the difficult work of facing intersections, expressing empathy for positions that may be difficult to understand or foreign to you . . . plunging into difficult vulnerabilities.
“The Black homosexual is hard pressed to gain audience among his heterosexual brothers; even if he is more talented, he is inhibited by his silence or his admissions. This is what the race has depended on in being able to erase homosexuality from our recorded history. The "chosen" history. But the sacred constructions of silence are futile exercises in denial. We will not go away with our issues of sexuality. We are coming home. It is not enough to tell us that one was a brilliant poet, scientist, educator, or rebel. Whom did he love? It makes a difference. I can't become a whole man simply on what is fed to me: watered-down versions of Black life in America. I need the ass-splitting truth to be told, so I will have something pure to emulate, a reason to remain loyal.” Essex HemphillIt’s an interesting theology, the destruction of black gay men. Wondering when will we get the message about self -love, self- acceptance. The gaps and space we put between us, they seem to eat our souls. My belief is that we are looking to connect to another soul, to commune on a more meaningful level, more than mere surface. There seems to be so many things that play against us. We have been taught that our very existence is not valuable, have no worth, that the supreme, divine being that we serve views us as an abomination. We have theologically been situated outside the Image of GOD, Imago Dei-The Doctrine, and that our love making, to each other, with ourselves, is deviant. How could we ever see ourselves as having value, of being important and significant, that our lives expand more than just the physical, that our spiritual selves connected to this universe is asking and begging to be fed and that can mostly come from our selves healed in a love existing already and innately within. I have been searching for so long, seems like eternity, to find that other, those many who feel and bleed the same sentiments, whose journey is fulfilled never because our lives don’t end at 20 or 21 Or 30, and we can see ourselves living and breathing and exploring and exploding in loving and nurturing ways. Our past is not in the haphazard but as ordained as the day John baptized the Christ, they call him Jesus. I have been searching for a cleansing that only comes from holy ghost, no not in the ways we have been Christianized, yet through my commune with God, cleansed of a past that haunts me even 49 years into my continuum. There seems to be the absence of men who stayed in the fight, who didn’t quit the process when things got hard and difficult seemed, whose political, divine, erotic occupation lies deep within our material bodies. I have learned that deepness of my sensuality is in the ontology of my intersected sexuality; it has carved out a piece of my subconscious that my universe has a striking resemblance. The men who fought the good fight, who had the courage to look fear in its face, acknowledge it, and still, stand and fight for love, for life, for the freedom to love, to love honestly, unapologetic, are the ancestors to my liberation. They are my my own personal epistemology. They helped me to self-determine that men don’t leave but they show up and do the work. They create the nexus to our past and future lives so that we can live peacefully in the presence, and disrupts this notion about the deviance in me loving men. How do we honor ourselves when we have been taught there is no honor in men who love other men, that our lives has been denigrated and objectified through the means of sex? How do we get up every day, take breath, look into the mirror and feel love as reflections of all that is holy and perfect, for we were truly made out of his majestic thought, by GOD’s infinite hand, through GOD’s undying and unconditional love. When do we get to that magical moment, of realization that our biggest threat is not a pandemic of infectious disease, it us our belief in messages that serve us no purpose but to destroy our minds, detriment our spirit, devalue our souls, so that we become spiritually, politically, collectively impotent. Well, today, in this moment, this space, this time, through skies of yesterday, to the clouds that appear when our sun has been dampened, when tomorrow only comes in dreams manifested by anger, the healing has to begin. We have to be willing, to look at self, in the face, and begin the process, and release all those chains that keep us in what feels like an eternal abyss of dismay and disenfranchised memory. Now is the cry from the distant winds that all those things we use to self-medicate our soul, those things that leave indelible marks of pain and misery, of self destruction in longevity on our spirits have to be let go, never to return, for this is a time of a universal paradigm shift, a shift in collective light, new consciousness, cooperative harmonious peace, and one love. It’s in the air. Let’s grab hold for dear life and release back to the universe, for the real truth, love has always been here, in our face, begging us to open and receive, it is our gift from God. Ashe
conceptualization Cláudio Bueno & João Simões.
organization Cláudio Bueno, João Simões, Paulo Scharlach, Raquel Blaque, Raphael Daibert, Todd Lanier Lester.
partnerships A Revolta da Lâmpada, Centro de Cidadania LGBT Laura Vermont, Cieja Campo Limpo, Cursinho Popular Transformação, Família Stronger, Free Home University, Intervalo-Escola, O grupo inteiro, Ultra-red.
support and special acknowledgement ArtsEverywhere / Musagetes, Lanchonete.org, Bueno family, Ligia Nobre.
residents Aretha Sadick, Cadu Oliveira, Cláudio Bueno, Daniela Mattos, Danila Bustamante, Ezio Rosa, Félix Pimenta, Jô Gada Away, João Simões, Jota Mombaça, Lee Ann Norman, Mavi Veloso, Michael Roberson, Nube Abe, Paulo Scharlach, Pony Zion, Raphael Daibert, Raquel “Nega” Blaque, Robert Sember, Shawn Van Sluys, Tiago Guiness, Todd Lanier Lester, Yeti Agnew.
participants Aline Scátola, Armênia “Bolinho” Gomes, Beatriz Matos, Bruno Black, Bruno Mendonça, Caio André, Camila Furchi, Dácio Pinheiro, Daniel Lühmann, Daniel Lima, Dalva Santos, Diane Lima, Eduard Kon Rodrigues, Élida Lima, Élvis Stronger, Filipe “Flip” Couto, Flávio Franzosi, Jean Pierre-Michel, Ju Whacking, Juliana dos Santos, Júlia Ayerbe, Katia Pires Chagas, Laura Daviña, Lucas Matteus, Marcos Ribeiro, Paulo Henrique Rodrigues, Renata Martins, Rodrigo Vianna, Tainá Azeredo, Thiago Carrapatoso, Thiago Hersan, Toni William (Coletivo COLETORES) e todos os dançarinos, colaboradores e visitantes da casa.
photos Carol Godefroid, Danila Bustamante, Leandro Moraes.
General Public Program
8/23 screening of Meu amigo Cláudia, feature film by Dácio Pinheiro. Talk with Aretha Sadick and Duda Babaloo.
8/25 Bodies and Peripheries – screenings and talks with Renata Martins, Ezio Rosa, and Jota Mombaça.
8/26 video-performance shooting + talk with artist Juliana Santos and Dita, her grandmother.
8/27 janta #7; Explode! KUIR rap exhibition; Lesbian Visibility Week – talk with Camila Furchi; introduction to the ball culture in the US with Michael Roberson + waack, vogue, and stiletto workshop with Legendary Pony Zion, Félix Pimenta, Danna Lisboa, Diana project, and guests.
8/28 Explode! Battle with Pony Zion, Félix Pimenta, Danna Lisboa, Diana project, and guests.
8/29 Transit – talk with Jean Pierre-Michel; We won’t obey – with Daniel Lima; Afrotranscendence – with Diane Lima.
8/30 KUIR Policies – discussion with Cadu Oliveira (Revolta da Lâmpada), Élvis Stronger (Família Stronger), Camila Furchi and Salete Campari (Centro de Cidadania LGBT de São Miguel Paulista), and Elida Lima (Cursinho Popular Transformação e #partidA); screening of Lufe Stefen’s São Paulo em Hi-Fi.
8/31 Work in progress presentation for VESTIRCORPONÚ=EXPLOSÃO, with Aretha Sadick and guests.
9/1 Talk with Tainá Azeredo (Intervalo-Escola), Michael Roberson (Ultra-red), Eda Luiz (Cieja Campo Limpo), Shawn Van Sluys (Free Home University).
The residency also hosted vogue's battles and workshops
The Explode! Residency has created context for an international ball at Praça das Artes, São Paulo downtown, 2016 – as part of Queer City programming. For that event the group of work has invited the Legendary Icon Pony Zion and Michael Roberson as special guests. Attack has also programmed workshops, lectures, and performances.
Photos by Leandro Moraes
conceptualization Cláudio Bueno, João Simões, Júlia Ayerbe, Laura Daviña, Paulo Scharlach, Raphael Daibert, Thiago Carrapatoso, Todd Lanier Lester, Shawn Van Sluys
artistic conceptualization Aretha Sadick, Cláudio Bueno, Félix Pimenta, João Simões, Júlia Ayerbe, Laura Daviña, Paulo Scharlach, Raphael Daibert, Thiago Carrapatoso, Todd Lanier Lester, Shawn Van Sluys
production Dalva Santos, Paulo Scharlach, Thiago Carrapatoso
partnerships Praça das Artes, Centro de Cidadania LGBT Arouche, O grupo inteiro
support Lanchonete.org, ArtsEverywhere / Musagetes, Secretaria Municipal de Direitos Humanos e Cidadania de São Paulo, Secretaria Municipal de Cultura de São Paulo, Fundação Theatro Municipal de São Paulo
participants Ariel Nobre, Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba, Aretha Sadick, Beatriz Matos, Bibi Abigail, Bruno Puccinelli, Cadu Oliveira, Claudia CisneyLips, Danna Lisboa, Dani d’Emilia, Darlita Double-Lock, Eduard Kon Rodrigues, Fernanda Rocha, Flip Couto, Félix Pimenta, Jackeline Romio, Júlia Ayerbe, Laura Daviña, Lucas Matteus, Mavi Veloso, Michael Roberson, Marcos Ribeiro, Monstra Errátika (Jota Mombaça), Paulo Henrique Rodrigues, Pato Hebert, Pony Zion, Rodrigo Vianna, T. Angel (frrrkguys), coletivo coletores, Vi Grunvald
photos Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba, Danila Bustamante, Leandro Moraes, Pato Hebert
Interiores – Claudia CisneyLips
A Ternura Radical em um Corpo Político – Dani d’Emilia
Fúria Kuir – Monstra Errátika (Jota Mombaça)
A Cultura do Ball Norte-Americana – Michael Roberson and Pony Zion
Descolonização do Queer – Monstra Errátika (Jota Mombaça), Bibi Abigail, Vi Grunvald
O Corpo e o Direito à Cidade – T. Angel (frrrkguys), Jackeline Romio, Ariel Nobre (Revolta da Lâmpada)
Território e Memória – Fernanda Rocha (Repep), Bruno Puccinelli
Hiv – Flip Couto, Cadu Oliveira (Revolta da Lâmpada)
jury Mavi Veloso, Michael Roberson, Paulo Henrique Rodrigues
chanter Eduardo Kon Rodrigues
special guest Aretha Sadick
vj coletivo coletores
dj Tiago Guiness
Laboratório Gráfico Desviante
popup studio com Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba
Explode! Platform was invited by João Nascimento and Sesc Belenzinho curatorial team to curate the LGBTQIA+ for "Motumbá: black memories and existences" exhibition at Sesc, São Paulo. We did program many activities like: TranSarau, Miniball, performances, spectacles and more.
Photos by Leandro Moraes
The Explode! curatorship for Motumbá has included the participation of TRANSarau – an event organized by students, coordinators and teachers from Cursinho Popular Transformação, focused on education and culture for transgender and non-binary people in São Paulo. It is a space of representativeness of the LGBTQI+ population to manifest through performances, dance, open microphone and whatever else comes. This sixth edition of the event was attended by more than 300 people and more than 20 participations on stage. The event occupied the "Comedoria" of Sesc Belenzinho and had the participation of Danna Lisboa and Liniker Barros, who closed the night with a voice and guitar performance. Thanks for the production made by Invisíveis Produções and the team led by Carmen Garcia, Carolina Munis, Élida Lima, João Pedro Innecco, Raísa Martins, Patrícia Borges, Dannyele Cavalcanti, Preto Teo and Lua Lucas – as well as each of the wonderful performances on stage.
Photos by Bernardo Mota and Luana Carvalho
For more, visit TRANSarau's Facebook page: Transarau
Photos by Cláudio Bueno, João Simões and Renata Martins
Thanks to Salete dos Anjos, Regina Marques, Natália Nolli, Helena Bartholomeu, Cátia Leandro, Simone Wicca, Lilian Sales, Renata Martins, Maitê Freitas and production team.
Explode! Rainbow Riots was a process lived among Explode! Platform, Sesc SP, Umlilo & Stash Crew and guest artists, during APR and MAY 2017, in Sao Paulo. This meeting has instated spaces of experimentation, courage, invention, sexuality´s expressions and lifestyle. It sought to provoke in this way, reflections on a system that regulates and opress bodies, alterities, codes, conducts, subjectivities and people. Given that, this period has looked toward the multiplication of possibilities of existence in cities like Sao Paulo, Johannesburg and also all over the world. The project has held two concerts of the group Umlilo & Stash Crew at Sesc Belenzinho (with a special participation by the drag queen and rapper Gloria Groove) and Sesc Itaquera. We also had a 5 days immersive workshop, addressing issues such as: performance, music, queer activism, fashion and the possibility to reinvent yourself beyond the normative borders. It has included a procession until the gravesite of the LGBTQ+ activist Andrea de Mayo – a transexual woman who has had her social name changed in the tombstone, sixteen years after her death (as you can read and see more below). This project was thought as a continuity wish to strengthen a transational dialogue regarding arts and the LGBTQIA+ community – especially those countries recognized, though imprecise, as "global south". So, how so different scenes like the South African and Brazilian could formulate new questions, processes, ways of think, actions, sensibilities and revolutions from deviant bodies? How to create a space of learning where we can go deeply in our questions, living for five days together in a time and space with more intimacy.
Caminhada “A Revolta do Arco-íris”
“Hamba Kahle Mkhonto
Mkhonto we Sizwe
Hamba Kahle Mkhonto
Mkhonto we Sizwe” Hamba Kahle Mkhonto we Sizwe (Go well Spear of the Nation). This song was played during Nelson Mandela's funeral. It's a struggle chant in honor to Spear of the Nation, a South African movement from 1961 who fought against the Apartheid regime in the country until 1990. The workgroup has sang this song as a homage to Andréa de Mayo.
As part of the "Rainbow Riots / A Revolta do Arco-íris" workshopRainbow Riots/ A Revolta do Arco-íris: workshop that happened between May 1st to 5th, 2017, during De|generadas 3, at Sesc Santana, in São Paulo. The walking day was a collaboration between Explode! Platform and Lanchonete.org., led by the South African group Umlilo & Stash Crew, we walked through the streets of São Paulo downtown toward Consolação Cemetery to visit Andréa De Mayo's gravestone. She was a transgender rights activist. Died in 2000 for complications following surgery to remove industrial silicone from her body, the activist was prevented from being buried in the same grave of her family. Then she was welcomed in another space, given by her friend and spiritual guide Walter Alegrio (father Walter de Logun Edé). Until 2016 only her registration name was on her tombstone. On the initiative of the Funeral Service of the Municipality of São Paulo, the sign was rectified with her social name For the rectification of her name, read also: “A vez de Andrea, Sobre o direito de morrer como travesti”, by Armando Antenore, on Piauí magazine ("http://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/materia/vez-de-andrea/") and “Ossanha de Mayo”, performative act realized by Coletivo Viadas, in 2016, available at Democratize ("http://democratizemidia.com.br/16-anos-apos-seu-falecimento-transexual-recebe-placa-com-nome-social-em-seu-tumulo") and a new one was donated by the professor and architect Renato Cymbalista.
Andréa struggled in the last decades to ensure that LGBTQIA+ populations had their rights guaranteed. Given the strangeness and the aggressive comments heard by this group during the walking, the workgroup did understand the need for continuity of her struggle.
These people, dressed up, strange, effeminate, masculinized, non-binary, queers, black, white, yellow, fags, dykes, etc, walked together through the streets, despite a system that aims to normalize the conduct of bodies in all social spheres. But they also walked in respect and celebration to people like Andréa de Mayo, who actively participated in the opening, strengthening and multiplication of modes of existence. In a country where LGBTQIA+ are murdered and violated everyday, it is still necessary to remember and sing for people like her, as well as for all transgender from Brazil and the whole world.
Umzabalazo!Umzabalazo in Zulu means struggle, strike, revolution! The videoclip reviews places of student manifestations in Johannesburg and criticizes an exclusively online activism.
Find below some pictures of the shows during Música Preta programming at Sesc Belenzinho and Sesc Itaquera:
Photos by Carol Godefroid and Nu Abe
The performance "Vera Verão: occupation in 3 episodes" is based on the iconic character played by Jorge Laffond. With the support of a collection of clothes, accessories and make-up, as well as her own story as black-pop-dragqueen-carioca-peripherical-transviada, the artist Aretha Sadick explores concepts around the performativity of the queer black body in everyday spaces and in the media, from the 80s to the present. "Vera Verão: occupation in 3 episodes" is a co-creation of the Explode! Platform with Aretha Sadick, Gui Larrain (video) and Adalu (sound).
Photo: Pedro Napolitano Prata. Courtesy: Videobrasil
a series of short interviews regarding Explode! issues and intersections, like: arts, race, gender, class, pedagogy, social justice, singularities and affections.
Explode! Residency: Félix, many years separate the emergence of Vogue in the US and its appearance on the Brazilian scene. How did Vogue reach Brazil? How did people down here first get in touch with Vogue?
Félix Pimenta: Vogue first arrived in Brazil along with other urban dances and the professionals who had access to them: mostly people who were going to New York and bringing these references back with them. So, at the same time as various other urban dance forms were being discovered in the early 2000s, so was Vogue, as people started realizing that the dance in the Madonna video was actually an urban dance with a whole history behind it. So it arrived here along with other dances, especially Waacking, which shares the same origins as Vogue. There was a certain confusion as to the difference between them in the beginning, but each came into its own and started to be studied separately. There were people who’d had access to these dances through videos or travel but hadn’t passed them on…clubbers or former clubbers who’d had contact with them. So Vogue really only spread and grew after the urban dance craze, which grew in popularity and started attracting professionals here.
E!R: Was there any particular epicenter? How did the scene spread Brazil-wide?
FP: The first real Brazilian reference in Vogue was André RockmasterAndré Rockmaster is an urban dance teacher and choreographer, with a degree in physical education and post-graduation in sports physiology. He is the founder of Rockmaster Party, Cia. Vertente Única and Desonestas Crew., followed by Tati SanchisTati Sanchis is a dance teacher and choreographer. A graduate in physical education and owner of the Casa da Dança Tati Sanchis dance school chain., because they had this interchange going on with New York. But it was André, who’s from São Paulo, who brought it down here. The first Vogue teacher in Brazil was Archie BurnettArchie Burnett is the grandfather of House of Ninja, and was handpicked by Willi Ninja as a member. He’s a House dancer and teaches Vogue, Waacking and Hustle., who came for the International Hip Hop Dance Festival in Curitiba The festival, held annually since 2002, has featured over 20 thousand dancers and over a hundred international acts. Available at: http://fih2.com.br/novo. Accessed on February 20th, 2017. in 2008, and directed the first course specifically devoted to Vogue here. So it spread from there and people started looking into it. This festival, like many others, promoted a gathering of dancers from various states who were beginning to study dance. Then there was Paulinha Zaidan Paula Zaidan is a choreographer, Vogue and Stiletto teacher and an expert in urban dance forms since 2004. She is a member of the troupe Lipstick., who spent 2008 in the US (if I’m not mistaken) and continued with Vogue in Belo Horizonte when she came back. So, you had Vogue in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and in the South, too, though to a lesser extent, but I can’t say with any certainty where else people were practicing Vogue. Because that’s what it’s about: practicing, training, studying Vogue, passing on the knowledge and creating a scene.
E!R: Hitching a ride on the issue of the domestic scene and these people who were interchanging abroad, I’d like to ask you more about the foreign artists who came down, and who are guests here today because of the scene that’s sprung up in Brazil. What can you tell us about that?
FP: The scene exists because it’s been able to draw folks from all over, and we [in São Paulo] had this reference and the resources to bring teachers over from abroad. People made the most of their presence here to learn more. The Meeting Hip Hop FestivalMeeting Hip Hop School Festival is a traveling urban dance festival that has been taking place in the São Paulo countryside for the last 12 years, featuring homegrown and foreign artists. in the São Paulo countryside, for example, was one of these events that had (and still has) the capacity to attract foreign teachers. That’s how it works on the urban dance scene: through interchange. You take as much as you can from the workshops, you pick up some information here, a little there, then you put a group together, organize another event and invite more teachers. And Brazilian teachers who’ve been able to go abroad come back and travel throughout Brazil to spread the culture a little thicker, taking Vogue and other urban dances, like Waacking and Hip Hop, further afield. And so the movement keeps spreading.
E!R: During Vogue’s expansion nationwide, do you think the culture at the heart of urban dance changed at all, or has it remained true to its origins in the 2000s, when the style first took hold? If there are adaptations today, how different are they?
FP: There’s one important detail to consider, which is how urban dances became popular and how they first came to the fore. The mainstream played an important role in that. Vogue became known in the late 80s, early 90s, but it continued to develop underground and didn’t really proliferate until the 2000s, largely because of TV shows and artists. America’s Best Dance CrewAmerica’s Best Dance Crew is a dance talent show featuring street-dance crews. It is presented by Randy Jackson, a juror on American Idol. One of the show’s highlights was the Vogue Evolution crew, the first all openly LGBTQ troupe, led by Pony Zion and Leyomi Maldonado. is an example of this: once Vogue Evolution joined the show, folks who didn’t know what was going down on the drag ball scene and with Voguing started paying attention. Vogue Evolution showed a whole new angle on Vogue, totally different from Paris is BurningParis is Burning is an American documentary directed by Jennie Livingstone. The film depicts the ball culture scene in New York and the African-American and Latino LGBTQ communities that formed in the mid-1980s., or the Vogue that Madonna used in her video and tour. After that, people started looking for it, and YouTube was a real boon, because it clusters related videos. If you look up Madonna’s Vogue video, it’ll suggest Paris is Burning as well, which I watched at that time, and other videos besides, expanding the circle. So it was YouTube, TV shows and widespread internet access that helped drive this expansion.
Besides that, interchange was changing the way the dance was done, just as it did the other urban dances and Hip Hop culture, which also grew out of this question of access, from private preserve to open availability. So, people who had money had more access, because they could travel to the States to recycle their knowledge, take classes or courses, then come back. However, many others didn’t have these opportunities. In the case of Vogue especially, which is a culture that started and developed underground, as part of the drag ball scene, part of a minority culture, it was the few who had access who found out about it and took it home with them. So, it didn't start among the minorities here, because they didn’t have access to it. A lot of people still don’t know what Vogue is, but they’re living a lifestyle that is very similar to it even so, an experience and physicality that are very Vogue-like. It’s just that the people who brought the dance down here had another structure, so the experience is different, the relationship is different. One of Vogue’s core themes is the LGBT issue, especially trans women, the drags, but it wasn't the trans community that brought it here, it was the heterosexual community, so you have to bear that in mind. Vogue reached Brazil through dance academies and workshops, not through the club scene, or drag ball scene, or any of the Vogue ballsThe ball is the main ballroom event, where representatives of the different houses come together for dance-offs. The ball is a cathartic space where life and death are played out through dance, performance, attitude and costumery. In general, the balls award prizes and serve as a local showcase for newcomers not yet associated with a house. (Vogue competitions), which we’re starting to see down here too.
E!R: You said that Vogue first appeared in Brazil in the early 2000s and the first foreign teachers started to arrive in 2008—people like Archie Burnett. When did the first balls and dance-offs begin in Brazil and how are they developing? Are they still restricted to a white, wealthy heterosexual context?
FP: That was pretty much how Vogue took hold [in Brazil]. It’s only now that the dance is getting through to the minorities and people are discussing it, analyzing its issues and the dance itself is taking off in other circles. It was only once the dance stepped out of the academies and classrooms and people decided to find out how balls are done and started watching videos and making contact with folks abroad who really belong to this culture that anything resembling a real scene began to emerge here, beyond dance-offs and classes. Since then people have been training and sharing information, understanding the categories, and the differences between Vogue categories or genres, which go way beyond the dance-off movement. Even if it was just all about “dueling”, outside the ball structure. Now we’re also seeing Vogue dance parties too.
So there’s a niche for Vogue now, and it hasn’t come from Hip Hop, because it couldn’t provide that—the [Hip Hop] movement didn’t understand it either, and didn’t open that space. Those who started out with Vogue got to know the clubbers, who were trying to set up these parties and were discussing issues like gender, and who knew about Paris is Burning and had a reasonable idea of what Vogue was, theoretically. They were a perfect fit, the clubs and the parties, which began with performances, then dance-offs and now, in the last two years or so, have developed into proper Vogue balls. Here in Brazil we tried to put a different spin on things with ExtravaganzaExtravaganza is a traveling party that shifts between São Paulo and Berlin. In 2016, the party featured performances by the Vogue Extravaganza Voguing Crew, of which Felix Pimenta is a member., and then the girls from Belo Horizonte came onboard with DengueDengue A Festa! is a Belo Horizonte-based event created by Guilherme Morais, founder of the cultural platform This Is Not, which hosts Vogue dance-offs at each edition., which has Vogue dance-offs and duels; they also host BH Vogue FeverBH Vogue Fever is an international meet of Vogue dancers in Belo Horizonte. The event includes workshops and classes with guest teachers and a ball with Vogue duels and dance-offs. It’s organized by House of Afrodite (Trio Lipstick + BH is Voguing).. Now you’ve got the balls in Rio, Brasília and São Paulo… People have gotten the picture, and they have the guts and the structure to organize balls. So things are flowing together, with more information going around, more structure, more discourse, and a target public to hold it all together.
So now there’s a difference between the dance academy set, with their classes, workshops and regular courses, and the gang that really make up the Vogue scene, from training to the organization of mini-balls and dance-offs, all the way up to hosting international mega-events that can draw people down here. This whole thing of access to foreign artists really manifests in these exchanges, which take place mostly at academies, where access happens more easily. The minorities don’t have this privilege yet, even at the balls. You still need to have money, the cash to organize an event, rent a space, bring someone over. You’ve got to have partnerships. The will to organize something isn’t enough in itself. We can organize no-frills balls, but we also want to put on a big international event and bring these key figures from the Vogue culture down here. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
E!R: Of all the urban dances, few are as important or vital as Vogue has been to the LGBTQ community, especially the Afro and Latino communities (in the US). Waacking also belongs in that category. What’s your view on that? Do you believe that, with this new mobilization, this new experience, and with these bodies, which you’ve said are like those from the original scene, we might see some empowerment of LGBTQ and black issues here in Brazil?
FP: Yes, there’s definitely that recognition in relation to Hip Hop and urban dances, which have a lot to do with discourse and place, with the ways people live. There’s a recognition in this discourse, in the image, in the body—when you see a body that’s very similar [to the original Voguer’s], in the way that body moves—, in its expression and experience. All of this helps people see themselves in this form of expression. Even in Hip Hop, and if we look at other cultures outside of Hip Hop, and from different parts of the world, people can identify with them, see themselves in them.
Getting back to Vogue, there’s this strong link with gender issues, which has really helped in its expansion and the interest it attracts. The gang living an alternative way down here see a similarity with the way the LGBT people live up there, the drags, the gays, the trans, the blacks and the Latinos. There’s a real recognition, and not just in Brazil. You’ve got all these Latino movements going on; there’s this need to recognize Latinity now. The fact that one of the biggest and oldest housesHouses, also known as families, are LGBTQ groups that gather under a house mother or house father. In the ballroom community, houses are organized along lines of social rather than biological kinship, where mothers and fathers feature as figures of authority, guidance and care. These house parents also look out for the house’s reputation. The members take the house name as their surname (Ninja, Xtravaganza, LaBeija, Garcon, Balenciaga, Mugler etc.)., XtravaganzaHouse of Xtravaganza is one of the most famous houses in New York. Founded in 1982, it is known for its involvement on the ballroom scene and for its influence in dance, music, the visual arts, nightlife, fashion and community activism. The founder is Hector Valle. Available at www.facebook.com/HouseOfXtravaganza/?fref=ts. Accessed on: Feb 21, 2017., was formed by Latinos is very important to this community’s recognition of itself as Latino. There’s a strong discourse running through it, there’s this recognition.
What’s more, there’s the issue of displacement. A lot of people don’t use this reference, but I like to draw on the Afro-Diasporic movement. Unwittingly, without knowing what the AfroDiaspora was, or what Afro-Diasporic means, you’ve got people doing something very similar. It’s there to see, you’ve got people moving near-identical bodies in the same way without having had any prior contact; and they can recognize themselves very clearly in this. For me, the Afro-Diasporic movement is a really relevant factor, and it’s in Vogue, just as it’s in Hip Hop, and other North-American urban dances that are recognized here in Brazil and elsewhere.
The Afro-Diasporic movement and gender issues are really strong factors in my view, and they give people something to see themselves in. But obviously there’ll be changes, because each country has its own way of living, and its distinct experiences. So, even if my religion is the same as theirs, my representation, my way of talking, for example, will be different; my way of moving and expressing myself will be different from their way in the States. This modification is automatic when it reaches my body. And there’s something they [on the US Vogue scene] also like and which makes all the difference. It’s not stock, it’s not all standardized: each people makes unique use of this culture or strengthens itself through it and grows with it in its own way.
E!R: The houses play a fundamental role as creators and developers of urban dance, not to mention their social role in LGBTQ communities in the United States. When they came to Brazil, Legendary Icon Pony Zion invited you and Eduard Kon to found the House of Zion and take the roles of mother and father, respectively, taking forward what the North-American houses had done in the States. There are other houses here too, each with its own characteristics, depending on their local needs. How do you see the Houses in Brazil and what’s your vision for the House of Zion in particular?
FP: On the houses, we made this connection with the ball scene in Brazil, which has to do with recognizing these kids. It's a little different here, but it’s tied in with the idea of the crews you have in break, hip hop and other groups, and the close-knit experience you get there. It's about self-recognition, recognizing yourself as part of a family where you can see yourself in the other, who’s going through the same stuff as you, and you’re basically living together and sharing very similar ideas. This is something Hip Hop and Vogue have in common. What's different about Vogue, and goes back to the houses in the States, is the way people were living, in areas of total exclusion. These people had nothing, but they came together and there was safety in numbers. You get that here too, but under a totally different structure, though with certain difficulties, of course, some of which are related to historical issues of today and stuff that happened back in the 60s. People club together through interchange between states, at events folks have to make all sorts of sacrifices just to get to, and they connect there, and hang together for a time. So there is this recognition, this connection, which is often not with a close circle, from your hometown, but with people from other states. On one hand it's not at all like in Rio, where you've got House of KínisiHouse of Kínisi is a collective created to disseminate drag ball culture in Brazil through Voguing. Available at: www.facebook.com/houseofkinisi. Accessed on: Feb. 21, 2017. and House of CaZulHouse of CaZul is an art group that specializes in Vogue. Its choreographic conceptions blend various other dances, languages and studies. Available at www.facebook.com/houseofcazul. Accessed on: Feb. 21, 2017., which are formed by kids from the same areas. They’re really tight-knit groups, they cohabit, sleep under the same roof, travel to events together, they're much closer than other groups made up of folks from outside, like will probably be the case with House of Zion.
How do you create bonds between clusters of people who are in the South, others who’re in São Paulo, and others who are up in Belo Horizonte? It's a little different. Some of the girls in Belo Horizonte make a tighter unit, because they see each other more often, so the connection is easier to establish. The houses here happen in another way, gathering sporadically at events, communicating as best they can and trying to come up with actions, ways to expand and spread information, each in its own way. The good thing is that Brazil is attracting attention from abroad now: we're doing what they’ve been doing, so they've started coming down here to teach us how it's done, how to respect the culture and set up houses, official and unofficial, like the Kiki housesKiki is the new generation on the city's queer ballroom scene, where the dancing is as fierce and the issues as urgent. The kiki scene is one where New York's LGBTQ youth of colour gather to dance and compete, just as their forefathers and mothers did on the Harlem ballroom scene in the 20s and 30s. They throw similar shapes to the competitors in Paris Is Burning; they share similar concerns with realness, both on and off the dancefloor. Like the legendary children of the 80s, the new wave also organises themselves into Houses, groupings that form numerous functions from providing a community, an alternative family framework and friends to perform with. The young LGBTQ people of colour can face issues including homelessness, homophobia and transphobia, HIV and AIDS and police brutality.. Faced with all of that, no wonder the kids on the kiki scene wanna dance. But what they also do quite brilliantly is self advocate. The Kiki scene is really a complex support system and a movement for change. Source: i-D magazine: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/kiki-the-new-political-youth-vogue-movement, and showing us how things work at the official balls, if you’re a 007007 is a Vogue dancer who does not belong to any house but takes part in the balls in the hope of being invited to join one, or you represent a house, or Kiki house. There’s a lot to it, which we're trying to figure out, and people have to be careful not to just go for names: like when a big house comes round recruiting, they have to be careful not to exclude potential members by just opting for people who’re already known. They have to take care not to form cliques or niches that keep folks out, but get information across to those who need it. Now’s a time to get information out there, to as many people as possible, not to hoard it. It’s time to make Vogue as popular as possible, that's the least I’m aiming for, and that's the concept I’m trying to establish at Zion. Kon and I have talked about some people who walk the talk, who might be considered House of Zion. House of Zion was technically stalled, I guess, and Pony wasn't getting it moving. He came down here [for São Paulo/Explode! Residency!], was really moved by the events, the Explode! Residency balls and Ataque Queer! and decided that, after what he'd seen here, he'd put us at the front line to get Zion up-and-running in Brazil. And that's exactly what I have in mind, I want to make it grow, involve people who have a good mindset and share our ideas, so that Zion can be a house with its feet on the ground.
E!R: I’d like you to talk more about the Brazilian Vogue scene, is there anything else you think is important to mention?
FP: It’s important to get back to the interchanges and appropriations. Who is Vogue arriving here for? Who is Vogue appropriating? This has a lot to do with the fact that Vogue 's being studied, it's the subject of dissertations, theses, monographs and the like. But you've got to be careful, not just in Brazil, but the world over: who is Vogue being directed towards and shared with, and who is missing out? Because, so far, I see Vogue arriving at places where it’s only open to a very privileged public. But what about the underprivileged? We’ve got to find ways to get this to the grassroots, make information more accessible, so that people can harness this dance. What can we do to help people find empowerment in these instruments? It’s easy for the guys at the gyms and dance academies to have this information, and then it just stays there. People start studying Vogue because it's the in-thing, it’s the new trend. But there’s a problem with trends. Just these days I heard someone say: “Vogue is so 2016”. But Vogue’s more than that, it's not just a fad, it's much more than that. It still exists today because folks were resistant, and they were tough. There were battles. There were so many ways people found to keep this culture alive. Whether it’s in fashion or it’s not, this culture will go on. Now, the question is how people are going to work with this information and how it’s going to get to the people who really matter. The commercial guys will milk it until it’s “Enough of that, what's next?”. I’ve seen it happen: it hits the studios, lasts about a year, then it’s forgotten. There's no continuity. So it has to be taken to more people so that it can reach those who’ll move it forward—not commercially, but underground. It’s also important not to whiten Vogue, and that’s a real flashpoint, the issue of cultural appropriation. It happens very subtly: first of all through the capitalist structure, which prioritizes only a certain group and makes the appropriation happen smoothly, and then they take it as an act of aggression when someone comes along and questions that. It’s a problem that needs to be debated, beyond the scope of Vogue. But the question is, how can we make Vogue accessible to the greatest possible number of people? That’s the question I’m throwing out there, and it’s important to give it some thought.
UMLILO is a South Africa’s kwaai diva. The gender-bending multiplatform artist and producer's signature sound dubbed ‘future kwaai’ explores and pushes the boundaries of electronic alt-pop music in contemporary South Africa. It has also been a regular fixture in the international online music community. "Reciprocity", the third single and music video was shown in Brazil at Explode! Residency Queer Videoclip Exhibition. In 2017, invited by Explode! Platform and Sesc-SP, came to Brazil with the Rainbow Riots Tour, where they played with Gloria Groove and also played, in Johannesburg, with Mikky Blanco. Photo by Carol Godefroid
Explode!: How do you understand the queer discussion from the South African perspective/experience? What the challenges and also potentialities, given the traditional and political aspects of your country?
Umlilo: In South Africa, the queer discussion has been happening for almost two decades since the constitution was drafted in 1994. The SA constitution recognises same sex marriages and the law is meant to protect anybody from discrimination. Yet on the ground it is still quite a difficult thing to navigate because homophobia and transphobia still exist on a very brutal level. The murdering and raping of queer people, especially lesbian women is a huge issue in our country so this is our biggest challenge. While people are protected by law, on the ground we still see people getting away with rape and murder without the law protecting us and it’s a struggle especially with young, queer people who are poor.
E!: How the experience in Sao Paulo has improved your struggles, issues and poetics as artists? In which way we can point out a difference, regarding the transnational and global dialogue?
U: The experience in Sao Paulo has really inspired us in strengthening our ties with our queer sisters in the Brazil. We have made such great connections, long lasting relationships and more importantly we have begun the conversation of how we can use art to promote activism and collective vision as countries of the global south. Art has such a powerful role to play in realising our queer struggles and being able to communicate and connect. We managed to do workshops where we explored the body, our collective trauma as people on the periphery of society and we were blown away by Sao Paulo’s warm welcome and willingness to engage with an open heart. We have been inspired to come home to South Africa and also make sure that our queer community here comes together and fosters the kind of engagement we experienced in Sao Paulo. The queer revolution is one of inclusivity, critical thinking, love and collaboration and we hope this spirit can create a larger global network for change.
E!: How the intersections between race and gender are lived and stressed in the South African context?
U: Race and gender are big buzzwords in South Africa and have largely been discussed in our country. With a legacy of apartheid and the growth of a capitalist agenda, our issues around race and gender have been compounded and the inequalities from the past remain. There has been a lot of progress with regards to trying to tackle these issues but we are a long way to go. The interesting thing about the queer community is that we are beginning to engage with those intersections and also making sure that our struggles are fought with a multi-dimensional strategy that focusses on equality for all and not just one group of people. We are dedicated in making sure we live in a future where these issues no longer bear the same burden.
E!: Could we assert that policies like Rainbow Nation, implemented by Nelson Mandela, has impacted on this debate?
U: Yes definitely. The Rainbow Nation was a necessary campaign around the 90s to try and bring South Africans together after a history of separation. While I think this worked to some degree, after 20 years of our democracy and still not much influential change in our society, we have become disillusioned by this concept because leaders like Nelson Mandela and their vision of a rainbow nation widened the inequality gap that favoured whiteness. It is only now that we are beginning to ask the right questions around white privilege, inequality, economic and social reform, land redistribution etc etc
E!: Umzabalazo, as the sense of struggle and revolution, has a strong connection with the current issues lived in Brazil and South Africa in parallel at this moment – as you experienced the general strike at the day of your show. We´re all dealing with: explicit corruption and authoritarianism from our governments; serious troubles regarding education, health, culture etc; violation on the rights and bodies of women, transexuals, queers and LGBTQ+ groups. Could you share with us some aspects of the creation process of this song and videoclip, with special focus on the socio-political context?
U: I think Umzabalazo represents a struggle so close to my heart. The song was the last single off my ALuta EP which deal with a lot of social issues from different perspectives. Umzabalazo is a song about colonization, about revolution and the after-effects of democracy. In our current situations between Brazil and South Africa, we are finding that our liberators have now become our oppressors who use the same systems to steal from the people and exploit their power. Umzabalazo is a song that tackles these kind of issues through a specific lens of the #feesmustfall student movement. It’s a song that urges our comrades to start a revolution and not sit idle waiting for change but fighting for change. The video follows a slacktivist who is so depressed and paralyzed by the movement that they feel alienated from the fight. It is also paralleled with his alter ego, a strong, femme revolutionary who isn’t isolated and takes to the streets as a sign of protest. The reality of our current existence is that we are fighting multiple battles from effects of colonialism, revolution and capitalism in both South Africa and Brazil.
Kyle De Boer is a producer, rapper and performer working in Johannesburg, South Africa. He performs as Whyt Lyon in STASH CREW. Formed in 2014, it is a collective of queer artists who satirically explores the identity, sexuality and politics of South Africa. They are part of the LGBTQ + South African community and work to raise awareness about gender equality through performance. Photo by Nu Abe
Explode!: How do you understand the queer discussion from the South African perspective/experience? What the challenges and also potentialities, given the traditional and political aspects of your country?
Kyle De Boer: I think the queer discussion/narrative is something fairly new to South Africa. Whilst our constitution affords LGBTIQ members of society many rights, the situation on the ground is vastly different. There is a lot of violence perpetuated against queer bodies in our country and the ability to live as a queer person is dangerous. I believe that there is a real need to start mobilizing the queer community in South Africa. It exists, but for the most part many queers live and experience the South African context in isolation or in small pockets. I think South Africa is still largely a conservative and hyper masculine context and that this makes it difficult to find and establish safe spaces. The geographic separation of people based on race and class (that occurred during Apartheid) still has a very real impact on the ability for queer South African's to come together both socially and politically. I think there is huge potential that is on the verge of being harnessed by the queer community in South Africa. The work being created by queer artists in South Africa is so unique and I believe that if we develop a strong sense of community it really is possible for Johannesburg (in particular) to create a thriving queer scene that engages with social, political and artistic endeavors.
E!: How the experience in Sao Paulo has improved your struggles, issues and poetics as artists? In which way we can point out a difference, regarding the transnational and global dialogue?
K: My experience in Sao Paulo really was an awakening for me in so many ways. I think that what I found most inspiring was the sense that there is a real attempt at bringing the queer movements happening in the city together. I found that there was a tangible and present queer community that work together to achieve their goals. I also found that the political discussions were complex and that there was a real attempt to engage with political perspective from all angles. This inclusive approach to the world, art, one another, politics etc is really powerful and constructive. I also got noted that in South Africa we do a lot of talking. Talking is good... but it doesn't get much done. There was a really nice balance between the process of manifestation (actively making things happen) and continuous and inclusive socio-political engagements. I really think that this approach is amazing and it inspired me to really try help create a similar sense of engagement and community in South Africa.
E!: How the intersections between race and gender are lived and stressed in the South African context? Could we assert that policies like Rainbow Nation, implemented by Nelson Mandela, has impacted on this debate?
K: This quite a tough one to answer as I think its quite a complex question to unpack. So I will do my best. I think that race is a narrative that is very prevalent in the South African context. It is something that we discuss and continue to deconstruct quite often – in particular in relation to our history, privilege and wealth distribution. However, there is still quite a binary and compartmentalized understanding of race to this day. With regard to gender... I'm not convinced that the general population are really engaging fully with gender (as a concept). There is still quite a strong binary understanding of gender in South Africa. That said, whilst there is lots of violence perpetuated against queer bodies, there is a queer community that is becoming more and more visible. I think the Rainbow Nation narrative definitely helped to suppress much of the tension that existed pre-1994. However, this narrative is being de constructed and an age of “Rainbow Nation Disillusionment” has really hit the South Africa population. But for the most part I think this narrative still largely grapples with race politics and that gender is not fully considered as part of that conversation.
Acknowledgements: .Aurora, Abdoulaye Guibila, Adalberto Viviani, Ajamu Ikwe-Tyehimba, Aline Scátola, Andrew Lima, Andrus Santana, Aretha Sadick, Armênia “Bolinho” Gomes, Ana Andrade, Ana Carolina Marcheto Araújo, Ariel Nobre, Beatriz Matos, Benedita de Oliveira Santos, Bernardo Mota, Bibi Abigail, Biel Lima, Bojan Jovanovic, Bruno Black, Bruno Mendonça, Bruno Puccinelli, Buyani Duma, Caio André, Camila Furchi, Cakes da Killa, Carlos Eduardo Oliveira, Carmen Garcia, Carol Godefroid, Carolina Munis, Carué Contreiras, Cátia Leandro, Chico Tchelo, Centro de Cidadania LGBT Arouche, Centro de Cidadania LGBT Laura Vermont, Christine Melo, Cieja Campo Limpo, Cinthia de Abreu, Claudia Cisneylips, Clayton Nascimento, Comida de Papel, Coumba Toure & baby, Cursinho Popular TRANSformação, Dácio Pinheiro, Dalva Santos, Dani d'Emilia, Dani “Glamourosa” Rocha, Daniela Mattos, Daniel Lima, Daniel Lühmann, Dani Godoy, Danila Bustamante, Danna Lisboa, Dannyele Cavalcanti, Darlita Double-Lock, Débora Ribeiro de Lima, Diane Lima, Diego Felix, Dimas Reis Gonçalves, Duda Chufalo, Dudu Araújo, Dudu Quintanilha, Eda Luiz, Eduard Kon Rodrigues, Eduardo Carrera, Élida Lima, Ellen Oléria, Élvis Stronger, Érica Teruel Guerra, Esther Leblanc, Ézio Rosa, Fabian Alonso, Família Stronger, Félix Pimenta, Fernanda Rocha (Rede Paulista de Educação Patrimonial - REPEP), Fernando Melo, Flávio Camargo (Coletivo Coletores), Flávio Franzosi, Flip Couto, Francina Manson, Free Home University, Gabi Andrade, Gia Láctea, Gloria Groove, Govinda Lilamrta, Guilherme Livraes, Gustavo Bonfiglioli, Gustavo Torrezan, Helena Bartholomeu, Henrich dos Santos, Hugo Bler, Hugo Cabral, Intervalo-Escola, Ivan Manavi, Jackeline Romio, Jair Bueno, Jean Pierre-Michel, Jeferson Silva, Jess Nascimento, Jessy Velvet, João Marcos de Almeida, João Pedro Innecco, Jô Gada Away, Joni Barnard, Jota Mombaça, Júlia Ayerbe, Júlia Cavazzini, Juliana dos Santos, Júnior Ahzura, Ju Whacking, Kabila Aruanda, Kaciano Gadelha, Karen Cunha, Katia Pires Chagas, Kholoud Bidak, Kika Simões, Kyle de Boer, Laura Daviña, Lanchonete.org, Leandro Moraes, Lee Ann Norman, Lígia Nobre, Lilian Sales, Lilyth Ester Grove, Liniker Barros, Lua Lucas, Luana Carvalho, Luana Lopes, Lucas Matheus, Lufe Steffen, Maitê Freitas, Malu Minassian, Manuel Souza do Valle, Marcos Ribeiro, Marilia Jahnel, Mavi Veloso, MC Xuxu, MEXA, Michael Roberson, Michelle Matiuzzi, Midiã Claudio, Musagetes, Natália Nolli, Nati Simões, Nelson D., Nu Abe, Odaymara Pasa Kruda, O grupo inteiro, Olívia Kruda Prendes, Patrícia Borges, Pato Hebert, Paula Zaidan Guimarães, Paulo Goya, Paulo Henrique Rodrigues, Paulo Scharlach, Pedro Avila, Pony Zion, praça das Artes, Preto Teo, Priscila Valentina, Raphael Daibert, Raisa Martins, Raquel Blaque (Nega), Regina Marques, Renata Martins, Renato Cymbalista, Revolta da Lâmpada, Rico Dalasam, Rita Quadros, Robert Sember, Rodrigo Vianna, Rogerio Migliorini, Romário Monte, Ruan Levy Reis, Sabrina Pimenta, Salete dos Anjos, Sandra Bueno, Secretaria Municipal de Cultura de São Paulo, Secretaria Municipal de Direitos Humanos e Cidadania de São Paulo, Sérgio L. Sérvollo, Serviço Funerário do Município de São Paulo – Cemitério da Consolação, Sesc SP, Shawn Van Sluys, Simone Wicca, Siya Ngcobo, Steph Yates, Suellen Calonga Pessoa, Swadhyaya S. Dos Santos, Symmy Larrat, T. Angel (frrrkguys), Tainá Azeredo, Tássia Reis, Teatro Cemitério dos Automóveis, Thato Ramaisa, Thiago Carrapatoso, Thiago Hersan, Tiago Guiness, Todd Lanier Lester, Toni William (Coletivo Coletores), Udney Matheus, Ueriques Samuel, Ultra-red, Valentina Chaves Luz, Vanessa Oliveira, Vi Grunvald, Wilssa Esser, Yala Hagen, Yeti Agnew
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