In the heart of Brasília, the bust of a black man who fought for the liberation of the enslaved: Zumbi dos Palmares. Located in the square that bears the same name, in front of CONIC, the sculpture can be a starting point for thinking about the black memory of the Federal District.
Inaugurated in 1995, the year of the tercentenary of Zumbi’s death, the bust was erected by the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) to demarcate a meeting space for the black movement in Brasília.
Praça Zumbi dos Palmares preserves the memory of black resistance in the heart of the capital / Bianca Feifel
In the same year, the first Zumbi dos Palmares March against Racism, for Citizenship and Life took place, which left the square towards the Esplanada dos Ministérios. The historic event brought together around 30 thousand people from all corners of the country who marched denouncing the absence of public policies for the black population. “We will celebrate Zumbi by reaffirming our willingness to fight against the misery and marginalization to which we are subjected by racist exploitation”, called for the organization.
Zumbi was the leader of the largest and longest-lived quilombo in colonial Brazil: Quilombo dos Palmares, located in the current state of Alagoas, which brought together more than 20 thousand people who fled the dehumanization imposed by their enslavers. Therefore, the square located in the center of Brasília, despite the need for revitalization, is an important symbol of black struggle and resistance in the city, which was once considered the most segregated in the world.
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“We can say that Palmares was the first great black movement in the country, contradicting the ideas that enslaved people did not resist, did not fight. Which is a big lie”, explained tourist guide Bianca D’Aya, during the Brasília Negra tour, organized by the Me Leva Cerrado agency, which starts at Zumbi dos Palmares square.
Quilombolas in DF
The area where the Esplanada dos Ministérios is located today, before the arrival of the imposing buildings, was once a place for grazing cattle belonging to residents of Quilombo Mesquita, located in Cidade Oeste (GO). Currently, according to the 2022 Census, there are 305 quilombolas remaining in the DF. A large part of the population that helped build Brasília was pushed, after the inauguration, to surrounding areas.
Also according to the Census, more than 14 thousand quilombolas live in the Integrated Development Region of DF and Surroundings, which covers municipalities in Goiás and Minas Gerais. In Cavalcante (GO), for example, of the 9,589 inhabitants, 5,473 declare themselves quilombolas. The city is home to the Kalunga quilombola community, with 3,528 people, one of the largest in Brazil.
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Bianca D’aya, tourist guide on the “Brasília Negra” tour / Bianca Feifel
“Mesquita is a quilombo that is now very small, because obviously no one values quilombola lands. They are increasingly losing more territories, but their land reached Mangueiral and Santa Maria”, stated Bianca D’aya.
Candanga memory is black memory
This process of expulsion from the city was recurrent throughout the history of Brasília. After the migratory movement of thousands of people, mostly black, coming mainly from Goiás, Minas Gerais and the Northeast to build the capital, Operation Return began in 1964.
The objective was to remove “six thousand unemployed candangos, with their respective families” to their states of origin. Whoever had built Brasília was no longer welcome there. But the people resisted, settling in and claiming ownership of the land they helped build.
It is at this moment that the so-called “invasions” emerge, which later become satellite cities, today called Administrative Regions. Ceilândia, for example, has its name inherited from the “Campaign for the Eradication of Invasions” (CEI), created by the government in 1971 to settle families coming from the aforementioned “invasions”.
Portraits from the Candanga Living Museum of History show the construction of Brasília / Bianca Feifel
“I remember they arrived at the shack at home and wrote ’25’ very big. It was the day they were going to take away our shack”, said Antonia Samir, a public servant who was removed with her family to Ceilândia. She still remembers the “feeling of being on a road that never reached”, after trucks tore down the family’s shack and took everyone to another location.
“So they took us away and changed the logic of people’s lives, because [antes] you were close to work, close to everything”, said an emotional Samir, who previously chaired the Association of Tireless Residents of Ceilândia, one of the movements that fought for decent housing in the DF.
The story of the candangos, as these migrants became known, is told at the Candanga Living History Museum, another point visited on the Brasília Negra tour. The space was opened in 1990 in the place where the Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira Hospital (HJKO) previously existed.
Exhibition “Dust, Canvas and Concrete” is part of the program at the Candanga Living History Museum / Bianca Feifel
The Museum houses the exhibition “Dust, Canvas and Concrete”, which begins with the image of a pau de arara, a precarious means of transport in which several workers were transported.
Simulation of a workers’ day at the construction sites in Brasília / Bianca Feifel
In addition to sketches of Brasília’s architectural project, the exhibition features portraits of the life of the candangos in Brasília. In one space, there is a simulation of how these people organize themselves and eat in the buildings, cooking in improvised shacks.
Much more than workers
The story of black people who moved from various parts of the country to build Brasília is also portrayed in the historical-photographic exhibition “Reintegração de Posse: narratives of the black presence in the history of the Federal District” which occupies two bus stops in the Setor Comercial Sul ( SCS) and the South Banking Sector (SBS), connecting the States Gallery.
The objective of the exhibition is to show other experiences of black people who arrived in the capital and were much more than workers. “An effort to talk about existences and elaborate narratives about resistance practices carried out by men and women who not only dedicated their efforts to the construction of buildings and roads, but have left, over time, their marks on what we have learned to call our place”, says one of the excerpts from the exhibition presentation.
Exhibition “Reintegration of Possession: narratives of the black presence in the history of the Federal District” tells the story of black people beyond the works / Bianca Feifel
They are images of black people in moments of fun and relaxation, but also of struggle and resistance.
The States Gallery also houses two other black cultural expressions. After the collapse of the viaduct in 2018, the Gallery reopens in 2021, when the GDF makes a public call to graffiti artists in Brasília and 121 artists come to leave their art printed on the walls. Graffiti is one of the elements of Hip-Hop culture.
Mural at Galeria dos Estados painted exclusively by black artists from DF / Bianca Feifel
Furthermore, the Makossa party has been taking place at the Galeria dos Estados since 2003. Named after a popular rhythm in Cameroon, the event is a traditional black dance in the city, which celebrates African roots and Hip-Hop culture in DF.
Praça dos Orixás resists religious intolerance
Praça dos Orixás, located on the banks of Lake Paranoá, is an important point of black memory conquered by African-based religions in the DF. Originally with statues of 16 orixás, created by Bahian artist Tatti Moreno, the sacred space has resisted depredations motivated by religious intolerance since its opening.
Praça dos Orixás, on the banks of Lake Paranoá / Bianca Feifel
Currently, the square has only 15 statues, as Ogun’s was removed, and at least 6 are damaged.
Space where the statue of Ogum stood in Praça dos Orixás before it was stolen / Bianca Feifel
According to mapping carried out in 2018 by Fundação Palmares in partnership with the Geoafro Project at the University of Brasília (UnB), the DF has 330 centers of African-based religions.
Only four are in the Pilot Plan. The majority are located in Ceilândia, where there are 43, followed by Planaltina, with 25 terreiros. The survey also revealed that 33% of terreiro houses profess Candomblé, 57% Umbanda and around 9% combine both aspects.
Black Brasília Tour
In addition to the points mentioned, the Brasília Negra Tour passes through Praça Marielle Franco and visits a baobab tree, a sacred tree associated with oral memory on the African continent.
According to the guide, the idea for the tour came from concerns during the technical tour guide course.
“We visited many attractions in the city and I always asked this question: what is the black history of this place? And the mediators or the guides themselves didn’t know how to give me a concrete answer. Then this question arose: where were the black people in the city? Because we know that many people migrated to Brasília to help with the construction, but these stories were not told. The stories that were told were those of great businessmen, Oscar Niemeyer, Lúcio Costa, JK. So, I wanted to survey these erased histories, and delve into the identity and culture of the city’s black people,” he said.
According to her, telling these stories is a way of bringing “a little identity and a sense of belonging” to the city’s residents. “It’s also a tour that makes us exercise our critical look at the city, the people, racism, segregation and the use of the city”, she added.
The report from the Brazil in fact DF participated in the tour guided by Bianca D’Aya, bachelor in tourism and responsible for the Me Leva Cerrado agency, on November 18th. The date of the next edition will be announced on the project page.
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Source: BdF Federal District
Editing: Márcia Silva
This news article has been translated from the original language to English by WorldsNewsNow.com.
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