Daniela Paolucci, Apples and Snakes’ Programme Coordinator looks back at her final week in Brazil at the vibrant Literary Festival – FLUPP!
Brazil- week three
FLUPP The Festival
I am back in London at my desk writing this last article about FLUPP and my residency in Brazil and I am struggling….Ireally miss the hot weather and the sticky rain, as well as the FLUPP team. Plus working at my computer is difficult at the moment as I managed to leave my reading glasses behind in Rio!
Having spent two weeks in meetings and helping out behind the scene before the festival, I was very intrigued to see how the actual festival would unfold and how the puzzle pieces I was forming inmy head would finally join together, not only in terms of partners and programme, but in terms of the actual space as well.
When I visited Vigário Geral, the favela where FLUPP is taking place this year, the week before on the Friday, the installation in honour of Waly Salomão was not yet up and the main stage was full of people working on putting together a huge drum that would be used later as a screen as well as creating shelves and pieces for the installation ….
By the Monday, with only two days to go before the opening of FLUPP, the installation started to take shape and workmen wearing havaianas (flip flops) were balancing on top of very precarious scaffolding mounting air conditioner units and the tent to close the stage area…. Also the graffiti artists had finished the first mural and started on a few others…
But when I arrive on Wednesday for the opening, the festival atmosphere is definitely on! People are chatting in the cafe area set up for the guest “artists” and everyone is peeking sneakily at each other trying to recognise who is who by looking at the pictures printed in the programme. After a few failed attempts, (not everyone is in) I resolve to introduce myself and ask directly how each person is contributing to the festival.
The opening of the festival is dedicated to Waly Salomão, poet, writer, actor and director; an eclectic character that has influenced Brazilian literature and a larger than life figure in Vigário Geral. One of his main aims in life was to increase reading throughout Brazil and to make it more readily available to all Brazilians. In his legacy is embedded what FLUPP wants to achieve: the exchange between popular and high culture, the foreign and the Brazilian, the dialogue between the street and the establishment.
The Centro Cultural Waly Salomão in Vigário Geral is dedicated to him, which features an auditorium, a high-tech library, studios and workshop spaces where AfroReggae is based and the festival is taking place.
FLUPP 2013 is also the celebration of 20 years of work by AfroReggae which was founded in Vigário Geral in 1993 after a massacre that claimed the lives of 21 innocent people. They are now an established organisation offering classes in percussion, capoeira, theatre and African dance for the local community. AfroReggae believes in the transformative power of the arts, involving young people from the favelas in arts related activities and helping them gain self-esteem and avoid gang life.
FLUPP’s programme unfolds over five days and is packed with events, round table discussions, children’s activities and little explosions of party moments. There is always something happening everywhere and I try to take in the whole spectrum of events.
The discussions around the different literature panels are engaging and very diverse. There are many international guests from France, the UK, Afghanistan, Egypt and Iraq so I am grateful for the headphones provided to listen to simultaneous translation. I am transfixed listening to Roberta Estrela D’Alva talking about the power of spoken word in Brazil and completely absorbed by her performance on stage (she would be fantastic to bring to the UK to perform for Apples and Snakes).
I join the tense silence of the audience when Ana Maria Gonçalves reads an extract of her novel “Um Defeicto de Cor” since her writing is so vivid when describing a particularly violent scene, as well the engaging dialogue she has with Bernadine Evaristo regarding being a woman, a writer and black and their encouragement to keep writing for the younger Brazilian generations.
I listen to the story of Paradise & Diverse, two young rappers from Afghanistan, fearing for their lives because of the political content of their songs, which advocate for freedom of expression and criticise violence against women. It is really emotional to see on the last day of the Festival when they perform, the favela’s children joining them dancing on stage while they sing.
I join Ed Vere’s (UK) workshop with the children, while he reads two of his books and the children join in when Ed involves them in describing the feeling of a monkey wanting desperately a banana! Then they draw…MONSTERS! And I have to say, looking at the adults sitting next to me, they are enjoying the drawing session as much as the children!!!
It’s great to see how many children are joining in both with the children’s activities, as well as listening to the adult debates happening in the main space. They are just delighted when the FLUPP team helps them to put on the headphones so they can understand the different languages spoken on stage. And their parents just pop in and out, happy to see that the children are in a safe space, and some of them end up staying to listen as well, sitting with the rest of the audience.
And if part of the community did not join in so much in the main space, they were outside, where more events were going on. Ed Vere and Boulet were making portraits of children with their mothers, siblings and friends. Some children were drawing instead with their friends next to the two artists.
Others were queuing to have a stylish haircut since the Batalha do Barbeiros (Barber’s Battle) was taking place outside the main space for 3 days. Your hairstyle is very important for the young people in Brazil, especially for the black community, it’s a sign of status and recognition. Even Julio, one of the two FLUPP directors, has his hair cut, how great!
The Batalha do Real took place one of the evenings of the festival and it was fantastic to see that some of the children decided to show off and join in as well with improvised rhymes. We “guests” keep chatting and exchanging stories while we wonder from one event to the other or wait our turn to go to eat in one of the most famous restaurants in Vigário Chupetinha. The name comes from the habit of the main chef, a woman who sucks a dummy while she cooks! Not surprisingly she is a real character and the food, when we get there, is delicious! It feels exhilarating to be part of this event and I feel like an excited child on a school trip with her friends.
It’s really hard to leave FLUPP and to look into the eyes of children that are upset because we are leaving and the festival is finished, I am sure that this festival has changed something in their lives as well as mine. This residency and FLUPP itself has been like a storm, it has been such an injection of energy and positive vibes that have left me longing for more and keen to find different ways to keep the collaboration with FLUPP and Brazil alive in the future.
In England, when we evaluate a project, we look at the aims and objectives and we start placing an imaginary tick next to our achievements…so I’ll do the same for FLUPP:
“We want to create a party atmosphere, where people want to join in”
“ I want to invade their space (the favela)”
“The meeting between the academy and informal education”
“Arte na praça” (Art in the square)”
“Literature as a means to change the lives of people” ”
“Non-writers publishing their life experience and turning Life into Literature”
……and I add “An unforgettable experience”