The word heals

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posted on 10/13/2017
Diane Lima, curator of AfroTranscendence, talks about time, bodies, and words.

By Maitê Freitas and Marcos Visnadi

Pursuing a master’s degree in Communication and Semiotics at PUC-SP, Diane Lima is the young and bold curator of AfroTranscendências: tempo de cura, third public program of the Agora somos todxs negrxs?exhibition. In this brief e-mail interview, Lima talks about racism, resistance, and the meanings of time.

Diane Lima. Photo by Felipe Gabriel


Agora somos todxs negrxs? [Now Are We All Black?]

As long as the law of race and racism go on being devices for the construction of a body-exploitation, we will all be black—between those who perpetrate violence in the act of perversion and the inferior and inhuman condition of those who suffer it. We are all black, still, to the extent that the accumulation of wealth in this country was entirely carried out by robbing our time.


When did you perceive yourself as a black woman and what resulted from this perception?

There were some decisive time periods, but I believe that every day I discover myself more black, and therefore, every day I struggle to get myself away from this imprisonment fabricated around ourselves. With each lived experience, we are faced with unspeakable situations about our presences in places not designed for our architecture. I say this not from the point of view of what we manage to articulate as a macropolitical effect, but because I perceive, through my senses, how the racial condition performs our subjectivities—how it affects me, shapes me, and how my creation creates me.

This perception has led me to reflect on the urgency of approaching the violences we have suffered, in order to think about the psychosocial effects of racism in its structural condition, as well as the impacts that the systematic exposure to the struggle leaves us as a legacy. I think we need to break the silencing cycle that naturalizes the attempts to exterminate our potencies of life (such as racism, homophobia, machismo, sexism, and neocolonialism), which have been affecting our emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.


How to work, elaborate, and eliminate the tensions of an daily life structured by racisms and intolerances?

I believe that through collective learning and experience with the other we can look for ways to reversion and subversion, issues I have learned from one of the guests of this public program: Maria Lúcia Silva examines, in the book O racismo e o negro no Brasil: questões para a psicanálise [Racism and the Negro in Brazil: questions for psychoanalysis], the relationship between temporalities and psychoanalysis. She claims that the purpose of breaking the silence and remembering stories is to find ways to overcome. Hence our interest in discussing the sequestration of the word “cure,” used to justify deviation, degeneration, and mental disorder for the purpose of exclusion and extermination.


Is it possible to talk about afrotranscendence considering Brazil’s genocidal and racist context?

AfroTranscendences are not tied to a literal definition of the word—whatever that may seem to signify. They refer, rather, to an investigation I have been conducting on how the contemporary Afro-Brazilian artistic practices carry in them something fundamental to their existences: the relation with time. This question applies when Frantz Fanon says that “every human problem must be considered from the point of view of time,” or when Amiri Baraka says that “the future is always here in the past.” Or, still, when Leda Maria Martins presents us her Afrografias da memória [Afrographies of memory].

In my research for PUC-SP’s Communication and Semiotics program, my focus is to theorize these relations between aesthetics, ethics, language, production of meaning, and artistic practices through the theory of meaning. In very general terms, this theory tells us that what transforms us and produces meaning when we enter into an interaction with any aesthetic manifestation is what we call “esthesia.” It is this element, together with the ethics embodied in aesthetics, that makes us re-signify values and fracture stereotypes.

This act leads to a discontinuity in time: a non-here and a non-now opens up. What I have discovered, however, is that such a spatiotemporal aspect finds in African philosophy an intrinsic and meaningful relation, since for these peoples life itself could be considered, in its totality of meaning, an aesthetic experience. Along this path, with the diasporic transit and the regime of slavery, despite centuries of an existence marked by the robbery of time (since the black body became conditioned to the white subject, in a relationship of servitude and subjectal interdependence); although the idea of race has been defined and diffused under the idea of underdevelopment and involution postulated in an evolutionary logic, perpetually marking these bodies; despite all this existential discontinuity, black people used their own relationship with time as an antidote and, through the memories of their body, they built an archive through which they could resist.


How does this temporality you talk about is organized?

I am referring to two times: semiotic time (which changes our states of mind and soul), and divine and ancestral time. Both have led me to rethink the very definition of what is contemporary for these manifestations, since these artistic practices actualize not only elements of content and expression, but also perpetuate (at the deep level) a different mythological structure, characteristic and immanent in culture, which is organized paradigmatically between past, present, and future.

From this comes the concept and practice of the AfroTranscendences, which can be considered a movement of immersion between times in the search for connection with knowledge present in the individual and collective memory aiming to expand consciousness, develop a critical thinking and express them in acts of creation. Thus, although the AfroTranscendences depart from a micropolitical initiative, in the dimension of the curatorial practice to which I pertain—and whose central concern is education and other forms of collective learning—it is an interventionist proposal that becomes available as a tool of resistance, even against some of the effects that the Law of Race has produced, among them racism and genocide.


What paths can be taken?

Voltando à questão da palavra “cura”: a dúvida sobre continuar usando ou não essa palavra (que deu nome ao filme Tempo de cura, fruto da edição de 2016 do AfroTranscendence) transformou-se em parte de outra questão, que é: devemos desertar ou resistir?

We ask ourselves: desert or resist? The question about whether or not to continue using this term is the subject of the film Tempo de cura [Time for healing], a result of the last edition of AfroTranscendence (2016). It is in this context that we propose an uprising: to desert the word means to promote the revival of the violence experienced, assuming both its imprisonment in the sense of social control and religious intolerance, but as if promoting the maintenance of silence. With this in mind, the intervention AfroTranscendências: Tempo de Cura [AfroTranscendences: Time for healing], in the exhibition Agora somos todxs negrxs?, is an expression not only for the revival of the word, but mainly for the sake of the word-action.

Photo: Alile Dara Onawale. Performance Bixa Preta, Winny Rocha