Rios de Encontro (Rivers of Meeting), is an eco-cultural and socio-educational project based in the community of Cabelo Seco, Pará, Brazil. The project spent the last two weeks of November in national and international activities to celebrate the role of young arts-educators who, in the midst of worrying and uncertain times, are searching for creative ways to promote social and environmental change.
Our AfroRaiz (AfroRoots) collective took part in a Bem Viver forum in Moeda, Minas Gerais, presenting the reality of afro-descendant people in Marabá. The venue is near Mariana, the site of the worst environmental crime in Brazil’s history (the collapse of the Fundão tailings dam in November 2015 which killed at least 19 people and polluted the Rio Doce river hundreds of miles downstream).
Rerivaldo Mendes, audiovisual coordinator, stated: ‘Our young people, aged between 15 and 25, and coming from Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Bahia, Pará, Manahão and Minas Gerais, have held workshops in each location to identify the ‘quilombo within’ and the indigenous memory of our roots and the genocide we suffered. We took part in collective singing and human sculpture to evoke and visualize the future. No-one will forget this day, and we documented it on our phones which are becoming the key tool for our cultural and educational work.’
In addition to the forum sessions, we showed films, held a bem viver meal with dishes from all parts of the country, a cultural festival and an ecology walk to learn about the geology of the Minas region.
On the last day, participants relived the tragic assassination of Daniel Galdino, son of the community educator Rosa, director of the Cabal literacy project in Água Limpa community, which was teaching black people excluded by the mining industry. ‘This murder,’ said Rerivaldo, ‘symbolises for us all the scale of violence of this present age of hatred, threats and the genocide of young black and afro-indigenous people in our country.’
From 24–30 November, Nanoela Souza and Évany Valente, from Rios de Encontro, presented the Gira-Sol Project in the finals of the Itaú-Unicef prize for integrated education.
Meanwhile, Bem Viver facilitator Dan Baron was on a speaking tour of Europe, warning the European Parliament about the grave threats to human rights and intellectual freedom in today’s Brazil. He also addressed a network of art edcuators at Cambridge University, a British Council meeting at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and in the launch meeting for the book Amazon Besieged at TUC Congress House. ‘Everywhere I stressed the extraordinary maturity and resilience of our young people,’ he said. ‘The world is watching Brazil today with deep concern.’
All photos: Rios de Encontro