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The song starts with the voice of a woman who speaks. She speaks creole. She speaks Tshokwe. She speaks Portuguese. On stage, three bodies, three women portrayed as foreigners, speaking these three languages. In each woman, an essence, a personality, and a journey intertwined, with the certainty that nothing will be the same. In this Black Dawn we look for the origins and the deepest roots of these cultures, by celebrating their legacy and defining a path where we assert ourselves as protagonists of our own stories.
Aurora Negra is the 1st project co-created by Cleo Diára, Isabél Zuaa and Nádia Yracema. The three of them are graduated from ESTC-Superior School of Theater and Cinema (Lisbon, PT), and followed a parallel path in theater and cinema interpretation, nationally and internationally. Aurora Negra has born from the observation of the invisibility to which black bodies are subject in the performing arts and intends to give a voice to these bodies, with special emphasis on black women. This project was the winner of the 2nd edition of Bolsa Amélia Rey Colaço / Teatro Nacional D. Maria II.
Artistic direction, creation and interpretation Cleo Diára, Isabél Zuaa e Nádia Yracema
Scenography Tony Cassanelli
Costumes José Capela
Light Design and Video Felipe Drehmer
Original music Carolina Varela, Yaw Tembe
Dramaturgy support Sara Graça e Teresa Coutinho
Movement support Bruno Huca
Styling Eloisa Correia
Research support Melánie Petremont
Photography Felipe Ferreira, Felipe Drehmer
Produced by Cama A.C Maria Tsukamoto
Coproduced by TNDM II, Centro Cultural Vila Flor, O Espaço do Tempo, Teatro Viriato
It is rare to have the privilege of experiencing a historic moment. When I watched “Aurora Negra” in September 2019 in the studio room of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, I was sure that I was experiencing a unique, celebratory and demanding moment, which would be inscribed in the history of Portuguese theater. Not only because it was the first time that three black creators directed a creation from scratch at the D. Maria II National Theater, but also because of the way Cléo Tavares, Isabél Zuaa and Nádia Yracema approached structural racism, the usual micro-aggressions in black women daily life and the imbalance of history.
The show begins with an appeal to the Portuguese queen born in Rio de Janeiro, Maria da Glória Joana Carlota Leopoldina da Cruz Francisca Xavier de Paula Isidora Micaela Gabriela Rafaela Gonzaga, to listen and put herself in the shoes of someone who day-to-day always feels foreign in his own country. This appeal made not only in Portuguese, but also in Creole from Guinea and Creole from Cape Verde, is being extended to the entire audience. The viewer is involved and taken on a journey through real experiences lived by the three creators and other black women present in their lives. They talk, shut up, shout, dance, laugh, listen, look us in the eye and, above all, question. The invisibility of black bodies on stage and in society in general is approached with a sublime irony that proposes a balance between the discomfort it causes in the public and the complicity that it requires.
When Cléo, Isabél and Nádia announce “the house is ours”, they do it in their name, in the name of black women and also in our name. It is this artistic battle cry that continues to echo in the audience long after the end of the show. If the house is theirs, the house can be anyone’s. Created within the scope of the Amélia Rey Colaço Grant, an initiative between Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, Centro Cultural Vila Flor, Espaço do Tempo and Teatro Viriato, these were the houses that these artists started by claiming as their own, as if this symbolic occupation would open these stages to many and diverse identities that are not yet sufficiently represented in cultural spaces.
In “Letter to my daughter”, Maya Angelou writes: “All great artists have the same resource: the human heart, which teaches us that we have more similarities than differences”. “Aurora Negra” is proof that Cleo Diára, Isabél Zuaa and Nádia Yracema are part of this reduced lot of great artists.