Accepted paper:

Backyards to the future: cultivating transformance


Dan Baron Cohen (Transformance Institute: Culture & Education)

Paper short abstract:

Young artist-producers from the excluded and conflicted Cabelo Seco are transforming their violent lives, streets and schools in the city of Marabá through their performance of Afro-Indigenous identity based on an Amazonian model of wealth and development. What can be learned from their performance?

Paper long abstract:

The 'Rivers of Meeting' project has dedicated the past four years to forming young people at risk in the excluded bairro of Cabelo Seco in the Amazonian city of Marabá, northern Brazil, as performers of personal and collective self-determination. By discovering, questioning and reinventing their Afro-Indigenous cultural identities through music and dance workshops in their derelict backyards, a core of youth has emerged as a new generation of community 'gestores', producers, transforming their narrow streets between the Tocantins and Itacaiúnas Rivers into a local and international stage and performance of a just and democratic community. This collective performance is sensitizing other communities and politicians across Brazil to the threat to humanity posed by the industrialization of the rivers of the Amazon to accelerate the development of 'impoverished backyards' into 'global-hubs of consumer-democracy' and 'energy for all'. It is also popularizing the arts as pedagogical languages, capable of renewing and transforming schools, universities and social movements in crisis, and of healing the effects of centuries of exclusion, to nurture a paradigm of participatory democracy and sustainable community. The project's youth and adult councils meet unnerving challenges and threats in their process of improvising a new aesthetic of reflexive empathy, dialogic solidarity and community self-determination. However, their performance-effects on the changing thresholds between the intimate and the public in the industrial heart of the Amazon are inspiring institutional commitment to an alternative paradigm of performance, based on chosen community and co-responsible production, rather than individual choice and green consumerism. Is this sustainable?

panel G50
'All the world's a stage': the social and political potentialities of theatre and performance