July 16, 2024


Life is art

The Brazilian Women Clowns Fighting Back Against Bolsonaro

The Brazilian Women Clowns Fighting Back Against Bolsonaro

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL — In the midst of a public functionality in the neighborhood of Cracolândia — an region in São Paulo regarded and named for its significant incidence of community drug use — a group of clowns were detained at gunpoint by Brazilian law enforcement.

“We have been afraid,” Andréa Macera, one of the clowns who was detained on September 1, instructed Hyperallergic. “They had been pointing their guns at our heads and shouting at us to get down, stay however, shut up, and do what they mentioned.” 

Macera, the founder of Teatro da Mafalda, a theater committed to palhaçaria feminina, or women’s clowning, has been main group encounters in Cracolândia considering the fact that 2010. Alongside with Flávio Falcone, a psychiatrist and clown, and a group of volunteers and locals, Macera facilitates a weekly “slam,” in which local community members sign up to execute tunes, poems, capabilities, or dances, and are judged by a jury of their fellows. 

“It’s perform that unites damage reduction treatment for people addicted to liquor and other medicine with clowning,” Macera discussed.

A clown cabaret with the team Núcleo Risco de Palhaçaria performs in Vargem, Santa Catarina. The clowns had been heckled by right-wing viewers users. (photo by and courtesy Luana Callai) 

Very last month, however, Macera observed herself facial area-to-confront with a person of the most significant threats to Cracôlandia inhabitants: a law enforcement invasion of the local community. “We opened up the slam, and when we named up the first human being [the police] rushed in from both of those corners to break up the team,” she claimed. 

About 25 armed forces law enforcement emerged from 3 vans and on foot. They deployed tear gasoline and fired rubber bullets into the group of houseless citizens of Cracolândia, then turned their weapons towards the clown group and accused them of disturbing the peace.

“They corralled us off the road and onto the sidewalk so we couldn’t depart,” Macera reported. Following the incident, the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo printed images of the clowns becoming held by armed law enforcement officers. The chilling photographs sent shockwaves across Brazil’s arts community.

The incident in Cracolândia was indicative of a increasing danger of censorship and violence that artists all through the country have expert given that the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018, with unparalleled funding cuts and threats more than the past four years. And women clowns are uniquely situated at the crosshairs of Bolsonaro’s rhetoric versus women of all ages, artists, and leftists. In the midst of the current presidential election, these palhaças are wondering what the potential of clowning will glimpse like in Brazil.

“From the minute that [Bolsonaro] entered,” Macera reported, “he’s been from tradition.”

Bolsonaro dismantled the Ministry of Tradition on his 1st day in office environment in 2018. He has regularly utilised funding for the arts as a political weapon, only intensifying these attempts in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, any point out that executed a pandemic lockdown observed federal arts funding minimize for proposals that did not involve “in-particular person conversation with the community.” 

Paula Sallas has professional firsthand how decreased funding has an effect on cultural spaces. Sallas is a clown and coordinator of the Galpão do Riso, a theater in Samambaia, a satellite metropolis of Brasília. Galpão do Riso has been in Samambaia for 20 years and has introduced national and worldwide performers to the very low-cash flow town. 

Theater, Sallas states, features “alternatives for leisure, and at the same time mental enrichment, exchange with other people today and contact” in a metropolis on the periphery of the nation’s cash. But protecting the theater has been tough due to the pandemic and Bolsonaro’s cultural insurance policies. 

“Without govt subsidies, it is tricky,” Sallas informed Hyperallergic. The Galpão do Riso practically shuttered at the finish of 2021, when the municipal federal government astonished the theater by renegotiating its use of general public place.

Paula Sallas, clown and co-director of Galpão do Riso, a cultural place in the very low-income satellite city of Brasília, Samambaia, performs as the clown Xicaxaxim. (picture by and courtesy Itayonara Rodrigues)

But Bolsonaro’s adverse impact on the arts has gone outside of funding cuts, with political appointments that have normally leaned fascist. Roberto Alvim, the secretary of lifestyle appointed by Bolsonaro in 2019, brought on controversy when he recorded a public handle that emulated and paraphrased Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, established to a Richard Wagner soundtrack. Alvim was dismissed soon afterward because of to the scandal. And for two decades under Bolsonaro, Dante Mantovani, a conspiracy theorist who has stated on his YouTube channel that rock songs can lead to abortion and satanism, served as the head of the Countrywide Basis for the Arts.

The past four years in Brazil have been characterised by delays and restrictions on cultural funding, particularly with regard to art that addresses racism, sexism, and the history and legacy of the armed service dictatorship. 

Clown Ingrid Alfonso Lucas says that the weather that Bolsonaro has fostered is tense for artists, if not downright dangerous. In April, Lucas co-facilitated an outside clown cabaret in a little city in Santa Catarina, a southern Brazilian point out that voted overwhelmingly for Bolsonaro in 2018 and once again in the 1st election of 2022. 

Immediately after a sequence of numbers that featured feminist and anticapitalist references, “the crowd started off to heckle the performers. Some individuals begun to shout ‘Bolsonaro 2022,’” Lucas claimed, and when one particular nonbinary clown executed, an onlooker threatened that he “was likely house to get his gun.”

After the performance, neighborhood members filed a grievance with the town council accusing the cabaret of “libidinous acts” and “gender ideology.” The point out released an official investigation of the efficiency and demanded Lucas to post a total video of her cabaret for review. They identified no wrongdoing, and the complete incident culminated in a letter that reiterated a checklist of needs for publicly funded performances. 

“It was offensive,” Lucas explained. “It was clear that they couldn’t find any issue with the cabaret themselves.” 

Over the very last 30 a long time, clowning has boomed as a popular performance genre in Brazil. Clowning is a sort that descends from the Italian commedia dell’arte it hinges on playfulness and vulnerability, eschews the fourth wall, and frequently contains flamboyant costumes, encounter paint, and the legendary purple nose. Ladies have come to the forefront of clowning in current several years in Brazil, creating a new subgenre that distinguishes by itself from male-dominated clowning.

Karla Concá, a person of the founders of As Marias da Graça, Brazil’s initially all-females clown troupe, thinks that palhaçaria feminina worries patriarchal limits on women’s flexibility to make issues. “[Women’s] laughter is so marginalized,” Concá explained. The threats of patriarchy can “make us experience that we just cannot snicker, that we just cannot mess up … The clown will come together to say that it is all okay to not be perfect, it’s ok to snicker at by yourself, to make issues — it is human, and you, females, are human.” 

Palhaçaria feminina also promotes ground breaking strategies to a lengthy-established style, notably in the topics that girls clowns are inclined to handle in their operate. 

Antonia Vilarinho calls herself a Black, feminist, Afrofuturist clown. Her initially contact with clowning came in 1990 in Salvador, when she was a theater student at the Federal College of Bahia. At the time, Vilarinho reported, “no one talked about women clowns, just [male] clowns.” As her profession designed, she began to innovate in her very own operate by incorporating Afro-Brazilian traditions of dance and religion, these as capoeira and candomblé. 

Vilarinho states that her technique to clowning has generally made it hard to obtain funding from the condition, and that has only worsened below Bolsonaro. 

“There is much a lot less income in the editais,” Vilarinho stated, referring to governing administration resources that Bolsonaro has considerably slice during his presidency. “If it’s tough for a White man or woman to get funding, it’s heading to be a ton more challenging for me.” Vilarinho sees her clown work as resistance.

“The simple fact that I exist, that I’m alive — that is already political,” she said. “I’ve subverted the order of factors … I operate from the location of a girl who is beating racism.” 

Researcher Drica Santos performs as the clown Curalina. (photo by and courtesy Ruth Rodrigues)

The emergence of women’s clowning has been challenging — and, for lots of, enriched — by increased visibility of nonbinary and trans identities. Drica Santos, a clown and researcher who wrote her doctoral dissertation on Blackness and clowning, thinks that the expression palhaçaria feminina is just a stepping stone. 

“The term ‘feminine’ is slippery,” Santos affirmed. “But palhaçaria feminina resists the patriarchy and hegemony that would delete our expertise … it issues just to say that gals clowns exist.” 

Women’s clowning, particularly as it grows and gets a lot more inclusive, is changing the art of clowning altogether. As opposed to some classical kinds of clown, Santos thinks that palhaçaria feminina is described by support and care for people’s distinctive backgrounds. These traits, Santos said, are why clowning continues to “explode … as an intersectional discipline.” 

On Oct 30, President Bolsonaro will experience off towards previous president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a highly contested runoff election. For a lot of artists, it is a referendum on their survival in a region that has drastically slashed funding for society in excess of the very last four decades.

The political landscape is one in which “Fora Bozo,” or “Out Bozo” — a slogan that compares Bolsonaro to Bozo the Clown — is graffitied on to the sides of bridges and avenue corners. But Santos bristles at the characterization.

“He’s all the things but a clown — if he were being a clown, he’d be a human. He’d enjoy with his possess nuts narcissism,” Santos mentioned. “It’d come to be artwork, not violence.”

Lula, a former president himself and the remaining-centre applicant tough Bolsonaro for the presidency, has pledged to reincorporate the Ministry of Culture and deal with the arts as a “necessity” for the country. 

“It’s not likely to be a miracle if Lula wins,” Sallas explained of the future election. “But at minimum it will provide to paralyze the extinction of cultural areas.” 

Regardless of the election’s end result, the network of ladies clowns is increasing in Brazil.

A month right after she was detained, Andrea Macera returned to Cracolândia to host yet another expertise slam with neighborhood members. For Macera, clowning is additional important than at any time throughout this moment of political urgency. The red nose, which clowns simply call “the smallest mask in the earth,” is additional than just a prop.

“The position of the clown is a thermometer that steps … the illness or wellbeing of society,” claimed Macera. “The mask is not just a bodily device, the mask is a relational condition with the entire world.”