Out and About: Afro-Brazilian and LGBTQ Intersections in New York

Categories: Event Recap, Featured, Graduate Fellows, LGBTQ, and Out and About.

Out and About

A Blog Dedicated to Queer and Feminist Happenings in and around New York City

IRWGS students, staff and faculty offer a new blog series, Out and About, in which we write about events, performances, shows and lectures that we know will be of interest to our many communities on campus. This series will consist of reviews, recommendations and summaries of just a few of the many things to do in New York City. If you would like to propose a blog post along these lines or submit a review or recommendation, please contact Blog Editor/IRWGS Grad Fellow Daniel da Silva (dd2646@columbia.edu) or IRWGS Program Coordinator Khadija Belly (kb2854@columbia.edu).

Our first blog is by IRWGS Graduate Fellow Daniel Da Silva. He provides a context for a new series on LGBTQ Brazil at the Museum of the Moving Image. If you like what you see, the Museum has offered our readers a 20% discount code for these events!


Afro-Brazilian and LGBTQ Intersections in New York

by Daniel da Silva, 2018-19 IRWGS  Graduate Fellow

Two rising stars of Brazil in two upcoming events here in New York City offer a glimpse at the current phenomenon of trans and queer visibility in Brazilian popular culture. Currently in Brazil, Brazilian drag queen and popstar Pabllo Vittar is more famous, if Youtube views are the metric, than American drag superstar RuPaul! And recently, in 2010, cartoonist Laerte Coutinho came out as a trans woman to popular acclaim. Finally, popular telenovela, A Força do Querer (2017) took up a trans subplot and featured a trans character.

These instances of visibility, however, do not outweigh or resolve the violence and trauma that continue to mark the lives of LGBTQ people in Brazil, especially queer people of color. In March, 2018, human rights activist and queer woman of color Marielle Franco was brutally murdered along with her driver in a targeted assassination after being elected to Rio de Janeiro’s city council, provoking mourning, outrage, and protests. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports that Brazil had the most murders of trans people between January of 2008 and April of 2016 of any nation reporting and tracking such violence, while the violent torture and murder of trans woman Dandara dos Santos in March 2017 by five men in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza was filmed and shared online via social media by her murderers, a move that eventually lead to their capture.

Given this grim backdrop, the current visibility of trans and queer bodies and themes in popular culture in Brazil is worth a closer look. And LGBTQ Brazil at Museum of the Moving Image affords audiences just that. This series along with the performance of Brazilian soul band Liniker e os Caramelows suggests that trans and queer music and performance cultures in Brazil offer exciting and innovative forms of resistance to the violence directed towards and viscerally felt by Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ people.

This coming weekend, July 28-29, the Museum of the Moving Image presents Bixa Travesty (directed by Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman, 2018), a documentary film following Linn da Quebrada, a music performer and self-described “gender terrorist” touring throughout Brazil and Europe to support the release of her debut studio album Pajubá (2017).

The name of the album refers to the coded language that borrows heavily from Afro-Brazilian languages and idioms to queer Portuguese into a cyphered black, brown and lavender tongue for those in the know. Linn da Quebrada, whose name is a Portuguese phrase broken up into three parts meaning broken beauty, offers a new lexicon of indignation, ferocity and sexuality through charged and explicit electronic dance music that rejects the heteronormative gender binary, toxic masculinity, shame, and hopelessness. The film-manifesto provides an intimate portrait of her music and performances as an “exorcism of hurt… delightfully tongue-in-cheek, yet also forcefully on-message,” winning a Teddy Award at Berlinale International Film Festival 2018. The film is part of LGBTQ Brazil, a weekend of screenings dedicated to the current wave of Brazilian queer cinema and performers. (Use code brazil20 for a 20% discount on ticket prices).

In August, Bowery Ballroom welcomes to its stage another trans performer in the Brazilian pop spotlight at the moment. Liniker e os Caramelows have been selling out shows and winning over fans and critics alike since uploading videos of their performances to Youtube in 2015. Fronted by Afro-Brazilian trans woman Liniker, the music takes its references from funk, soul, blues, and R&B, which are right at home in Liniker’s smoky alto and in the Brazilian rhythms and resonances that mingle throughout the arrangements. The music may recall the impact of the American Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s in Brazil’s urban centers during those same decades, which offered Afro-Brazilians a soundtrack against the lack of acknowledgment in Brazil of institutional racism that made any overt civil rights activism difficult to mount.

Liniker’s stage presence and performance, however, go beyond the cultural and historical affinities of North and South America marked by the violence of colonialism, slavery, and continuing racial tensions. Liniker pulls into her orbit an Afro-Luso-Brazilian queer of color formation exuberant in its gender-nonconforming femininity, its blackness, and its Brazilianness.

These performers are part of a wider phenomenon of queer and trans performers and performances across Portuguese-speaking nations and communities that have deep rooted and routed intersections with black and queer cultures of African diaspora around the globe. Catch them live or on screen while their stories and performances are in our city and look out for more blog posts of events and happenings that engage with the queer worlds just outside our Institute.