Guest blogger Tsukumo on music, theatre, and the arts in Brazil

12 Jun

Tsukumo & musician

Olá, gente! My name is Tsukumo, and I am a rising senior pursuing degrees in Music (Oboe) Performance and International Studies. I started my work with PCAP in September 2015 by taking Ashley’s “Atonement Project” course, and have facilitated theater workshops at adult men’s prison in Michigan for two semesters since then. I wanted to participate in the PCAP Brazil 2016 trip because, as a performing artist myself, I knew there were many things to be learned from various theatrical practices that transcend cultural differences — across borders that separate countries from countries, prison from free world, poor community from rich community, younger generations from older generations. Brazil is such a culturally vibrant country that I didn’t want to miss a chance to come here with the best bunch of people that I could imagine! Today, I am excited to share with you a little bit of my experience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This trip has been very eye-opening for me, realizing that music and theater really go hand in hand. One night, after a panel on arts in prisons by four wonderful panelists including our own Ashley, we were able to listen to two incredible musicians from prison perform samba music. Their talent was discovered and brought out to the world partially because of their connection with the “theater in prison” program at UniRio, our partner university. The concert demonstrated the potential that programming in prisons have to really connect the inside and outside.

musicians on stage

I was so inspired by the music that I actually couldn’t dance like everyone else in the group. (Not to mention, I don’t dance really well…) Not only is it unimaginable that the Michigan prisons would let musicians from inside perform for public audience, but also it may be very difficult to unite the U. S. American audience under the same music. Rio is such a culturally vibrant city that people have the biggest appreciation for arts, and that passion is inspiring.

Because the current situation in Brazil definitely requires that passion for the arts. Brazil is going through a politically tumultuous time right now. Dilma Roussef, who was elected to be the president of Brazil by two million people, was impeached in early May (during our trip) and replaced by interim president Michel Temer. One of the first tasks he did in his new position was to dissolve the Ministry of Culture, meaning that a lot of cultural organizations have now lost governmental funding. Many artists are going out on streets, occupying public areas to demonstrate the importance of arts. It’s a very tough time to be an artist in Brazil, when the government simply cannot recognize the value of arts. We have seen a lot of performances on the streets and in theaters in response to many injustices, voicing the concerns of some of the biggest injustices I have seen yet.

This trip reminds me of my privilege to be able to share the art I love with many others. It is such a humbling experience to be asked to perform in new spaces, whether it be an improv session with one of the musicians here in Brazil or a tribute to famous Brazilian musician Tim Maia at a hospital. Also, I have significantly fewer hoops to go through to organize a performance myself, which is not a privilege that everyone has. What can I do with my art that lets me connect with others at the same intensity as the two musicians I saw? The theater groups that tell their stories from the bottom of their hearts? The artists occupying streets throughout Brazil?

My reflection will continue for the days, weeks, and years to come. I am very appreciative of this opportunity to be in Brazil for 3 weeks, and will miss this country so dearly. Saudades!

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