The beginning, the middle,

and the beginning

Interview by Márcio Cruz

Illustrations by Aline Guimarães

Cover of Issue #16

This article is part of Issue #16

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A conversation with Nêgo Bispo

Emerging in the early 17th century in colonial Brazil, with links to similar slavery revolts in the African continent, quilombos are self-governing socio-political communities founded by African, Black and Indigenous peoples fighting for their freedom. The name quilombo is derived from the Kimbundu [a Bantu language from Angola] word kilombo which translates as ‘war camp’.

Nêgo Bispo, a prominent quilombola [inhabitant of a quilombo], is a poet, writer, teacher and political activist. His voice resonates as a leading advocate in the quilombola struggle for land and social rights and is also at the forefront of the debate for the dismantlement of colonial thought. Over the last decade, he has engaged in diverse discussions, addressing topics such as literature, anti-slavery, mental health and psychoanalysis.

He spoke to us while swinging in his hammock at home in the Saco do Curtume Quilombo, Piauí, Brazil. In the following weeks, after what would be his last interview, Bispo unexpectedly passed away. This confluence is a testament to his life, philosophies and enduring affection. Viva Nêgo Bispo!

Márcio Cruz: Could you introduce yourself by saying your name, the name of your parents and your ancestral masters?

Nêgo Bispo: My legal name is Antônio Bispo dos Santos, but in the land where I was born you receive nicknames that reverberate better when spoken, so a lot of people call me Tonho - Tonho Pedrina. Others would call me “Nego Bispo”. I am the son of Pedrina Máximo, who is the daughter of Teotônio Máximo and Francisca and raised by Joana Máximo. My mother is Maria Francisca, but the grandmother who raised me is Mãe Joana. Mãe Joana is my grandmother, my grand-aunt, my godmother and is one of my greatest masters.

For us our great-uncles and aunts are members of the grandparents’ generation, the same as a grandparent, so on my father’s side are uncle Norberto, uncle Sabino, uncle Gonçalo and the aunts Ana, Angela, Antonia. They were once eight siblings, the offspring of my great-grandfather Manuel Máximo. 

On my father’s side, my father is Manoel Bispo Chaves, also known as Manoel Flora. His mother was Benedita Constancia Chaves, better known as Benedita Flora. His father was Pedro Angélico - and I never knew his official name because I had Vicente Moraes as my great-grandfather, who was for me like my great-grandfather by blood, but actually was my great-uncle. So, I have a great-grandfather on the records which is Pedro Angélico, and a biological great-grandfather which is Vicente de Moraes - it is a very complex thing. 

I was raised and bred amidst these people in the Rio Berlengas valley, where Francinopolis town is located nowadays, in the Piauí state, in a confluence of savannas, the Caatinga(a semi-arid biome in northeastern Brazil characterised by thorny vegetation), the Atlantic Forest and coconut palm trees.

Márcio: How is this relationship between you and your grandparents’ generation passed along in the relationship with your grandchildren and the youth who gather to sit in on your talks and read your books?

Bispo: It is not a personal relationship - it is a generational one. It is the grandparents’ generation which relates to the mother’s generation which relates to the grandchildren’s. But, due to other relationships, the contact between the grandparents' generation and the grandchildren’s generation is much closer. This happens because the mother’s generation is more involved in other relationships related to harvesting, collective actions, everything that guarantees life - with a focus on food and feeding. So, while the mother’s generation is a generation that relates to the feeding process, the grandparents’ and grandchildren’s generations are related through the sharing of knowledge. The grandmother’s generation is preparing the granddaughter’s generation to be the next mother generation; while at the same time, the mother’s generation is preparing the granddaughter’s generation with the grandmother’s generation; and the grandmother’s generation will learn to be the next grandmother generation through the granddaughter’s generation. The granddaughter’s generation also teaches the mother’s generation to become what they are. It is cyclical, backwards and forwards, with all the generations sharing with one another - this is wonderful for me. 

To become the grandparents’ generation means that I am going towards the end of a cycle, that my life has been very extensive, that I am preparing myself for ancestrality, that I am preparing myself to be an ancestor and to be an ancestor is to be reborn and to live as memory. I can’t forget my lived experiences with the grandparents’ generation, because those experiences are part of my memory and every time I want to do something I reactivate this memory. I ask Mother Joana or Uncle Norberto - I ask them, through my memory, how to resolve some issues. And surely a lot of people from the grandchildren’s generation today are asking me, when they meet me in their memories, what are the resolutions for the issues they are facing. This is one of the most beautiful moments, a cycle closing moment, a moment of life re-editing, a moment to be reborn.

When I say “beginning, middle and beginning”, I am talking about the grandparents’ generation as the beginning, the mother’s generation as the middle and the grandchildren’s generation as the beginning once again.

Márcio: Does your ancestral grandparents’ generation appear for you even when you are not seeking any answers?

Bispo: It happens through other forms of life. For example, my granddaughter owns a mare and she really likes the horse. Every time she is about to ride it, Uncle Norberto’s image appears to me because he also had a horse. However, he would never ride it. It was a very beautiful and powerful horse but he would always walk on foot. Then people would question him: “Norberto, why don’t you ride your horse? You have a horse but only go on foot?” And he would reply: “My feet are like the horse’s feet. The horse’s feet are meant to carry the horse. My feet are meant to carry me. I will ride my horse when my feet can no longer carry my weight.”

Then, when he got really old, when he could no longer walk the distance he once could, he would order me to go bring his horse. When I arrived with the horse he would then say to the horse: “You see my old horse, I am sorry but I will need a favour. I will need your help as my feet got tired long before yours, so excuse me so I can ride you. But, apologies, it is only because I can no longer walk like before.” Then when my granddaughter mounts her horse - galloping and having fun - Uncle Norberto’s voice emerges: “Your feet have the same functions as the mare’s, they serve to carry you. You should look after her with care because she is doing you a favour.” So, it is in an action and gesture of today that I dialogue with a past relationship.

Márcio: A big part of your memories around sharing knowledge is related to sound, in particular your memories of Mother Joana while you were sitting together and listening to the wind shaking the rice straws.

Bispo: Well, that memory of horse riding and Uncle Norberto is a memory registered in the image, so every time that I see that image, that memory comes back to life. In Mother Joana’s case it all happens through sound. Each time I hear the wind shaking the rice straws, it feels like I’m living on playback - rewatching the same film - because the memory of my relationship with Mother Joana was registered right at that moment. We were sitting by the gate, listening to the wind shaking the rice straws - there and then we were inscribing memory. And then, what were the first words Mother Joana told me after? She said: “The roça [family owned farmland] should not be jealous of how you dress for the party, so you must go farming looking good and feeling happy. Go farming as if you were on a date with the roça, to engage in an affectionate relationship with the land.”

Márcio: In your work translating the language of the coloniser’s world for quilombo people - and vice-versa - you use sound and visual memory, tastes and different aspects of life that surpass the conventional practice of translation, that go beyond finding equivalences between different languages.

Bispo: My involvement with translation, with all of this [that you mention], takes place in diverse ways. And it does not necessarily happen because I want it to be like that, but it happens through the relationships that I have. I got involved in relationships that told me things, often without even asking, through other forms of language: through taste, through smell, and imagery. I used to be very active as a unionist, in politics and in elections, and what has always bothered me was the lack of affection and the excess of violence in many of those relationships. I would ask myself then: what if the thing that got solved through violence could have also been solved through affection. Wouldn’t solving through affection be much more effective than through the use of violence? Because [I think that] through violence you don’t solve [the problem], you extinguish the situation, you put an end to it, you destroy the situation without actually coming to a solution. In a situation where there is somebody who is doing something with which you don’t agree, then you send this person to jail, you incarcerate this person. Well, you did not solve the problem, you simply took distance from it, you isolated yourself from it, but did not solve it. The issue remains there and it shall return at any moment. The issue will keep haunting you. You will be thinking: “How about that person that I sent to jail? How are they doing? What if they get released, and what if they want revenge, what will my involvement with this person be turned into?” Then I got myself thinking? How about affection? 

Then I thought: “If it’s about solving it in another way, you must also look at it in another way, you must feel it in another way and you must say it in another way, as well.” If you are lacking understanding, it might be because communication is lacking. And if communication is lacking, it might be because the use of language is not the most efficient. So, if a language is not efficient, why not use a different language? If talking is not solving the situation, why not cease talking? Maybe the silence will work. And if silence is not working, why not choose talking? Why don’t we use images? So, all of those questions were calling for the involvement of translation and how to translate? And this “translation” means bringing different forms to convey language in a comprehensive way. It is not a call for explanation. It means simply “I want to have a chat with you, not to explain what I am saying. I want you to understand by yourself, I hope you understand through the language, not through my way of using the language, but through our way [of using the language], mine and yours.” Because you see, poetry communicates a lot through affection. Poetry can also be communicated through violence but it communicates well through affection. For me, it is easier to communicate in an affectionate way when the communication is poetic. 

When I face a very delicate situation, one where orality gets stuck, where silence gets stuck, then my father comes to life. My father is in fact alive - he is 86 years old. But my father, who appears there and then, is not my father of today. It is the father who separated from my mother when I was seven years old, the father who raised me to the sound of “repente” [his father was a repentista, a traditional rhythm and poetry practice common in Brazilian northeast states]. This is the father of my memory. So, that’s when this father says: “Spit a repente, boy. Say a verse.” Then he comes along and says a poem and everything runs more smoothly. 

The most fantastic example of this happened during a Milton Nascimento show in Brasilia. [It was there where] I met a group of archeologist friends who had recently visited the Serra da Capivara National Park - close to where I live. They asked me things about the reserve whilst acknowledging the work of archaeologist Niéde Guidon [who worked for 50-years to protect the archeological site and its peoples], with me, from my side, also acknowledging the role of hunters in extracting animals from the forest. Because in the Caatinga you have more animals than you have fruits, you have more animals than you have fish. In the Caatinga, we have to know how to hunt. The animals eat the leaves and we eat the animals. I was saying that these hunters hunted for necessity, not for vanity. We got into an argument and could no longer understand each other. Then I realised that rather than listening to Milton Nascimento’s poetry, I was shouting and just hearing the yells of the archeologists. Then I went quiet. I finished listening to the show, we went to a bar, and then we started to talk again. My memory of my dad, as a seven year old, reemerged and I thought to myself, I will throw a poem. And it went like this:

We extract the fruits from the trees.
They expropriate the trees from the fruits.
We extract the animals from the forests,
They expropriate the forests from the animals.
We extract the fish from the rivers.
They expropriate the river from the fish.
We extract the breeze from the wind.
They expropriate the wind from the breeze.
We extract the heat from the fire.
They expropriate the fire from the heat.
We extract life from the Earth.
They expropriate the Earth of life.

Then, after I said that poetry, they went mute and did not have much else to say. That is how it happened. I translated my feelings into poetry and translated their feelings into poetry. Then we moved on to talk about other issues and we had a great time. Ever since then, I always carry this poem in my pocket. Every time I meet people debating environmental issues [such as hunting for food], I say: “We are the quilombolas. We are anti-colonialists, you are the colonisers.”

And if communication is lacking, it might be because the use of language is not the most efficient. So, if a language is not efficient,why not use a different language? If talking is not solving the situation, why not cease talking? Maybe the silence will work.

Márcio: The most recent Brazilian census from 2022 affirms that Brazil has almost 2 million quilombolas. Of course, the census ignores those who have refused to take part in the research and those who have self-declared as quilombolas. It also affirms that the vast majority of quilombolas don’t live in their territories of origin. What is needed to create a safe path for the return of the quilombolas to their communities? And also how could the afro-Indigenous peoples return, recreate, repair or aquilombar territories?

Bispo: The first issue is that if it were for me, this census would never have happened. Since the first quilombos appeared, they’ve always been seen as criminal organisations. The Quilombo dos Palmares [a quilombo that was established in 1605 and went on to exist until its eventual suppression in 1694] is our most important historical reference and Palmares itself was considered a criminal organisation since it was first established. All of the quilombos were considered criminal organisations until 1988 [the year the current Brazilian Constitution was promulgated]. If you are considered a member of a criminal organisation would you say you belong to it if you were asked? Of course you wouldn’t. So our people have always refused our quilombola identity. The Lei Aurea [Golden Law] of 1888 theoretically abolished slavery [in Brazil] but has never stopped criminalising quilombos. So much so that capoeira [a martial art disguised in acrobatics, dance and music] and all the other modes of living continued to be criminalised until the 1988 Constitution. The constitution welcomed us as people with rights, but through the colonial juridical system, not through the lenses of quilombola law. Capoeira, for example, was never welcomed at schools. Congado [a traditional Afro-Brazilian religious and cultural festival characterised by elaborate processions, dances, music and rituals] was never embraced as Brazilian popular music nor were the drums, jongo [a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance], the camdombe [a style of music and dance], umbanda [a spiritual practice blending African traditional elements with South American Indigenous beliefs while incorporating Catholic saints] or Candomblé [a religion derived from Yoruba Ifa]. So our ways of life were never actually embraced [by the Brazilian state] -  they were instead allowed. However, being ‘allowed’ is different from creating the conditions to make it happen, to embrace it, to do it together. 

Now, if at school they want us to join sports education sessions, why has capoeira not become part of the curriculum as well, so everybody can practice it together? [Instead] we are told: “well, capoeira masters don’t have a degree in sports education.” Well, I know swimming coaches who don’t have a swimming degree and can teach how to swim. What if somebody drowns? What would happen? Who is going to be responsible for that? 

There are many thousands and thousands of communities that have not self-declared as quilombolas because the idea of criminalisation hangs in their memories. This census accounts for those who are living inside the quilombos, but does not account for those who are living outside. So, when I say: “We need to learn how to go back home. We need to go back home. We need to have the courage to go back home.” - I am calling for a return on a shoestring without having any assurances of success, but we need to give it a shot. But it will be tough. 

Just before this interview, I was just talking with a member of Companhia das Letras [his publisher] who is visiting our community as we speak. We have been having conversations about a new book that will maybe come out next year, we will see… He came to get to know Roça de Quilombo [a community centre located in the core of the Quilombo], and after a few days watching our relationships he asked me how someone could join the community. I answered: “Look, first the community will get together and enquire why you would want to come and live here? For what purpose? How would you like to live here?” Then the community will decide. 

We had this first conversation and then we walked to Roça de Quilombo, which is this amazing structure where we can re-edit our ways of living. Later, he said: “If I came to live here, I would do this… I would do that…” Well, I smiled and said back to him: “Look, when you come to live here, you will not do this or that for the community. You will teach capoeira classes in many communities. You will learn and share knowledge across different communities. You speak many languages, so maybe there will be somebody in one of those communities who would like to learn one of those languages. Then it would be beautiful if you came to live here - but you must share knowledge with multiple communities.” He then replied: “Well, to be quite honest, I have just been thinking about me and how to find a way to come back home.” Would he have any guarantees? No. He will receive plenty of affection, he will be well fed, but money to keep up with an urban colonial lifestyle - that he won’t have. We will care for him, he will have the means and opportunities, but the opportunities will only be proportional to his own engagement.

Márcio: For those returning: first you have to have the means to have the legal right to the land, and secondly, you will need all the resources to become a part of it - considering that the territory has a meaning that goes beyond property. Can you comment on this?

Bispo: Well, in my journey as an unionist and as a land rights campaigner I took part in many occupations, settlements and juridical battles - I was a very dedicated activist. But later I started questioning myself, as I learnt more about my own relationship with the land and reflected upon all the relationships that emerged from this journey. When I say that the territory is cosmological, what I mean is that the territory is not just the land. I mean the land belongs to the territory, no doubt, but the territory is also formed by the sun, the moon, the stars, wind, water - then you look at things in another dimension. The territory is wherever you are, but it is not only where you are, It is also how you are.

If you are walking down Avenida Paulista [one of São Paulo’s main avenues] during the rush hour and you see people organising around a capoeira circle, then, while the capoeira circle is on, the quilombo is present. That space becomes the quilombo because you are living the quilombo’s way of life. There you are in a relationship with the soil. Of course, it is not a direct relationship, because you are in direct contact with the tarmac, with concrete, but the concrete lies on the soil. And you will have a relationship with luminosity, with darkness and with time. But what if the capoeira stops? Then, that space ceases to be the quilombo.

When you live that space, quilombo will be wherever you are: being affectionate, caring for each other, caring about the lives of others, caring about the tarmac - even with the concrete - you are caring about life. While you are sharing with other people, then the quilombo makes itself present - it is our mode of living. You will cease being a quilombola when you leave that mode of living behind. So, to aquilombar-se [to engage with the quilombo mode of living] is not simply to fight for and occupy a piece of land, because no matter where we are, we are standing on the Earth. We have never been to Mars - not even in our dreams - it is the colonialists who want to go to Mars. We have not been to the moon - not even in our dreams - it is the moon which comes to us. The moon pays us a visit through its wonderful moonlight, through its poetic essence. We will never visit the moon, but colonialists need to visit the moon, because they cannot feel being visited by the moon. In our case, the moon lies with us.

Wherever we are, we share our lives, because quilombo is a mode of living, it is not a place. We can practice the quilombo way of life wherever we are. It is not about a particular piece of land in a particular location, it is everywhere and anywhere. So, whenever we hear somebody saying aquilombar-se, they are referring to attending an Ubanda ceremony even if you don’t take part in the rituals - it is about listening to the rhythms of the drums. It is about going to a Candomblé ceremony; it is about being attuned to the Candomblé sonorities; it is about listening to ancient chants; it is about going to a congado party, which is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed; it is about attending a reizado party; a jongo party; it is about attending a barbecue on the roof of a house in the favelas; it is about playing samba rhythms with a matchbox - I personally think that the matchbox is the most fantastic samba instrument of them all and definitely the least well known. So, all of that means to aquilombar-se - and that is our call. That is what we are inviting our Afro-pindoramico [Pindorama is the name Indigenous Tupi and Nheengatu peoples call the land nowadays occupied by modern Brazil] peoples for.

Confluência [confluence - a coming or flowing together] has become one of the concepts which found meaning in the colonial debate. That’s because if you are confluent you don’t need to be competitive.’

Márcio: Could you please comment on the relationship between counter-colonial and decolonial stances?

Bispo: When I first wrote about counter-colonialism my idea was never to contradict decoloniality - the idea was to contradict the class struggle. What I really meant, and what had already been explicitly explained in our book Colonizações, Quilombos: Modos e Significações [Colonizations, Quilombos: Modes and Meanings], is that quilombolas don’t take part in the class struggle. Enslaved people were not employees. Enslaved people were trained animals, like ploughing oxen, like cart horses. So I ask: “Does the horse take part in the class struggle? No. Do horses have an employer? Absolutely not, horses have owners. Horses are property.” So, the enslaved were property, not real people. 

The class struggle began in Brazil when Europeans arrived to work on the land owned by their wealthier European peers - then they sold their workforce. That's when the class struggle really started. The class struggle is a process which lives in the context of the working relationship between employers and employees. It is a fact that some Black people took part in the class struggle, but the quilombos themselves never did, since the quilombo people never succumbed to wage-labour. Quilombola people have always been independent. 

So, enslaved people did not take part in the class struggle because they don’t have juridical entity and quilombolas neither because they don’t have bosses. They are independent. So, quilombolas are not part of the working class. How could we be if we were never employees and don’t belong in the working relations context? Thus, we are counter-colonialists. The first time I wrote about counter-colonialism was to say: “Look, we are not socialists, we are not communists, we are not employed workers, we are counter-colonialists.” I actually didn’t even know people were writing about decoloniality then - I personally had never heard about it when we launched this book in 2015. Later, when I first heard about decoloniality I was in shock - but it was okay. Then I started questioning what decoloniality really means. What is the resoluteness behind this term? What is it for? I started trying to understand the differences and - I must admit - I might have expressed myself wrongly in the past. I don’t have to explain the difference between counter-colonialism and decoloniality. I should only have to say what I understand by counter-colonialism, of which I have a clear understanding. As for decoloniality, I don’t understand a single thing and that is because I don’t belong to the decolonial world. Since I have not been colonised, I can’t be decolonised. I don’t know how to be contrary to it and I will always be a counter-coloniser. That’s what I know, how to be a counter-colonialist, which is something I have always been. I have obviously been attacked but I have never been beaten nor defeated. So, I say to myself, considering that you are decolonial, that you feel you have been decolonised, and that you are now decolonising - where will you take the final exam? I mean since this is an academic discussion, and at university you would be asked about your thesis on decoloniality, what is your thesis and how are you going to get it certified? How would you know if you have finally been decolonised? [laughs]. But I respect the decolonial people since anybody that is engaged in questioning colonialism should be welcome. Everybody who disagrees with colonialism is doing good. I would even like to contribute with the decolonialists but I need them to say how. But if you need me for the final exam, I’m willing to do it in an Umbanda house, in a Candomblé house, in a capoeira circle, at a congado party - in short, in one of our ways of life.

Márcio: Colonial thinking is incessantly invested in destroying the world that they themselves built and destroying everyone else's world without realising the other worlds of life that exist, while poly ways of life give the possibility of converging with the world of which they are part of. How do we understand, learn, from this drive towards destruction and death, something that psychoanalysis would call the death drive and which is inherent to colonialist thinking?

Bispo: You have just mentioned psychoanalysis. I was with a friend in São Paulo and when we met we immediately started mocking one another about our past journeys - I joked about her past and she joked about mine. Then, we went to a bar for a cachaça - it was a very relaxing environment. She revealed that she had read our book and what she liked the most was the cosmophobia thesis [the fear of the cosmos, the fear of god]. She is a psychoanalyst and said: “Bispo, when you write about cosmophobia, what you are doing is pathologising this drive for violence which is so present in the euro-Christian monotheist society." They live under the threat of terror and as they try to quash the elements that threaten them - that "terrorise" them -  they need to destroy worlds. They need to destroy nature because nature terrorises them. They were once evicted from Eden and ever since nature has become the source of terror in their lives.

Cosmophobia, as a disease that feeds into this drive for destruction, first emerged in Genesis. Jehova says [in Genesis 3:17]: “The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat, with fatigue, from the sweat of your face. You will eat the herbs from the field because these herbs will be weeds and your future generations will share your punishment.” This is where terror is created, meaning: if we can no longer eat the fruit as it is brought to us by nature, then man and nature are split. Humans are the only species who are dependent on hospitals and doctors, whereas all the other forms of life solve their issues through relationships. People are forbidden to engage in those relationships. So, I appreciate your point because confluência [confluence - a coming or flowing together] has become one of the concepts which found meaning in the colonial debate. That’s because if you are confluent you don’t need to be competitive. All you need to know is that from the moment we meet, you are in a confluential relationship with me, but you can preserve your past life. For example: a river, from its spring to the confluential point with another river, is a single river, but after the confluential point it becomes a new river. But it never ceases to be the original river between the spring and the confluential point. Up to that point, it is still the same river. Therefore we don’t need to compete because we continue being the same original river from birth until the confluential point. And then, from that point, we don’t lose our roots - we add up. We share our roots with other roots, but we continue being one river, but added to a new river. So, this confluency brings us a harmonious and calm feeling of affection - of ease. Cosmophobia brings a denunciation, it brings a diagnosis, a finding. Cosmophobia does not bring an accusation. It simply says: “Look, mister or mrs human, it looks like you are suffering from an illness - a mono-disease [Bispo uses the term mono in reference to monotheist and other mono-forms of seeing life]. It is a condition that only affects you. All the other forms of life don’t suffer from this condition but you do because you are a mono-being. You will get cured, when you cease being mono. This is the big challenge.” 

Cosmophobia has a cure, but to get cured you must turn the key - to change your way of life. Then, each group which gives this way of life up, will be spared from apocalypses. But every group which remains mono will continue experiencing apocalypses. So, facing cosmophobia as a disease, as a pathology, means finding the necessary conditions to cure the monotheist Euro-Christian society. 

Márcio: Since we are approaching the end of the interview I would like to go back to the beginning of this encounter and the notion of beginning, middle and beginning. In the beginning of this interview you talked about your grandparents’ generation. How is your relationship with the grandchildren’s generation in particular with the young people you meet in conferences and talks outside the quilombo?

When I say “beginning, middle and beginning”, I am talking about the grandparents' generation as the beginning, the mother’s generation as the middle and the grandchildren's generation as the beginning once again. 

During the [Covid-19] pandemic, a group of Indigenous peoples wrote a book called Cartas para o Bem Viver [Letters for Bem Viver] and invited me to contribute with my own letter from the grandparents’ generation to the grandchildren's generation. So, yesterday we received the visit of Ana Mumbuca from the Mumbuca Quilombo of Jalapão [a national park located in the Tocantins state] and she said that a group of people from her generation - she acknowledges me as her grandparents’ generation - is now working on an answer to this letter. They are facilitating a letter from the grandchildren's generation to the grandparents’ generation - it is so beautiful. I am super anxious to read this letter.

I really like my letter and I am very excited to know that this letter is being answered while I am still alive. This is to say that one thing that really bothers me is to know that many people from the grandparents’ generation are left on their own in care homes [One of the questions asked in the letter is: “What is the situation of a people who put the granddaughter’s generation in daycare and the grandmother’s generation in the nursing home and say that the family is the basis of everything!?]. Equally, it bothers me to know of the grandchildren’s generation in kindergartens, in boarding schools, being raised away from the dynamics of cyclical knowledge sharing. I am very sure that I won’t be taken to a care home. Today, the grandchildren’s generation is taking great care of me - wonderfully. Not only the grandchildren’s generation, but the mother’s generation and the grandchildren's generation together. My health is not very good these days - I am feeling very tired and my physical condition is not very good. I really overstretched and since I overstretched I need a lot of rest. This is the reason why I am talking to you while lying in my hammock. 

Right now, I already have all the conditions I need to receive care during a full year without having to make any effort and I am very grateful for that. This experience has lead me to make a pledge for the grandchildren’s generation to return to their grandparents’ generation’s arms, so that the grandparents’ generation can teach the grandchildren’s generation what they know and also to learn from the grandchildren’s generation what they still don’t know: to share knowledge, to re-edit relationships. Let’s rescue the grandparents’ generation back from care homes, let’s bring back the grandchildren from kindergartens, let’s build houses that are big enough for our grandparents to live. Let’s live close to each other. 

My daughter lives next door. We have two kitchens but only one of those kitchens works at a time - either mine or hers. Either we gather to eat here or we eat at hers. To live in the community means to be surrounded by an affectionate family, a caring and loving family. It is to have biointeractive relationships, affectionate relationships. So, this wide relationship cycle, made out of the grandparents’, parent’s and grandchildren’s generations, is meant to break with the verticality of the Euro-Christian family model. Because in the mono-Christian model you don’t have grandparents. And why is that? Well because it does not exist in its matrix. Jesus is an only child and left no children. Thus, God does not have grandchildren. And if God does not have grandchildren, God is not a grandparent. And if we have been created in the image and likeness of God,  we don’t have grandchildren, we don’t have grandparents. Our houses are tiny with no room for the grandparents, no room for the grandchildren. There is only space for the mother and for the children and nothing else.

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Interview by

Márcio Cruz

Márcio Cruz is a writer, sound-filmmaker and a PhD researcher at Goldsmiths. He is the director of The Call of The Drums (2019), Blackness = Time ÷… Learn more

Illustrations by

Aline Guimarães

Aline Guimarães is an artist in the areas of urban art, illustration, art education and performance. Her work is a telling of ancestral stories, in… Learn more

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