Young Brazilian women help to stop violence in Brazil

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Young Brazilian women help to stop violence in Brazil

The women are going back to their African roots and finding ways to stop the violence against their community, by Amy Hall


Rivers of Meeting (Archive, Transformance Institute)

In Brazil, young women are going back to their African roots and finding ways to stop the violence against their community.

The Tocantins and Itacaiúnas Rivers meet in the Amazonian city of Marabá. In Marabá is the pioneer Afro-indigenous community of Cabelo Seco.

Marabá has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Mining for gold, iron, and other resources means it is full of military police. The Afro-indigenous population – particularly young men – are often under attack. People of African descent in Brazil are over 20 per cent more likely to be killed than any other ethnic group.

Manoela Souza is an arts educator and organises the Rios de Encontro (Rivers of Meeting) project with young women aged 16-22 years old. Souza works with community arts, including dance, theatre, visual arts, and video. There is also a library project and a weekly cultural programme, which the young organisers lead. All are about ecology and building the community.

‘The community faces violence as a result of the exploitation of the Amazon. The boys in particular suffer a lot of police violence,’ says Souza, who has lived in Cabelo Seco for 10 years.

Rios de Encontro decided to start working with the military police to try to stop them killing young people. ‘We saw the way police stop and search our young people in a very aggressive way. The police themselves come from histories of racist violence,’ explains Souza.

The military police are now involved with Rios de Encontro. They take part in bike rides, festivals, and performances. Souza says that working with the police in this way means it is easier for the community to help to stop police violence. ‘For the young people it’s important because when they work with the police, they can see how they can make changes. They can see the results of working with them,’ she says.

The project makes sure that the young community artists connect with their roots, mainly through music, percussion, and dance. ‘African dance is not just dance: it’s healing, community, respect for life, everything together. It’s also the relationship with the rivers and forests of the Amazon, all connected,’ says Souza.

‘When people learn about their roots, they become stronger. They will defend their community if they have a clear identity.’


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).