In October 2019, in the city of Bezerros located in the countryside of Pernambuco, Brazil, I met Papangus. The Papangu mask has been part of the Pernambuco imagination for at least a century and is activated by the people on the streets during the carnival, complemented by a full-body costume. The residents of Bezerros say that the mask was used by men to play the carnival hidden from women*, that they dressed up in Papangu and partied without being recognized. Where, in this popular imagination, are the Papangu women*? (Bruna Amaro)
AS* PAPANGUS is a carnival for, by and with women* that does not objectify any marginalized body.
In AS* PAPANGUS, Bruna Amaro performs a carnival in its most queer-feminist and decolonial form, with more than 50 women* in São Paulo and Berlin. Under the Papangu masks, facial identities fade away and a collective body appears. This body is a battlefield for survival, resistance and rebuilding. AS* PAPANGUS is a coming-together of women* fighters to honor and celebrate their life and survival.
I understand the Papangu mask as an object that covers the face and the body, in direct reference to some cultures of the West of the African continent — such as the Geledes of Yoruba people, and the Bobo people in Burkina Faso. I also think of it as a magical and powerful object, as in the Noh and Balinese theaters — the trigger of incarnation. We will activate the Papangu mask, while we celebrate our covered faces and exposed bodies, claiming the right for festive anonymity. (Bruna Amaro)
In patriarchal societies, men are often given the exclusive right to perform on stage, to wear masks as an performative tool and as an outlet for artistic expression — as in Bezerros tradition where only men used to wear the Papangu masks. Through AS* PAPANGUS, B
runa Amaro questions: who gets to be anonymous, who gets to be free from social norms, who gets to indulge in the moment of liberation? Papangu women* on the streets of São Paulo and Berlin reclaim the rights to mask themselves while enlivening its magical power.
AS* PAPANGUS critically engages with the colonial matrix of carnival, staying alert to oppressive gaze and disallowing exploitation of queer bodies, bodies of women*, of color, with disabilities, and the bodies under structural oppression. Papangu women* do not walk down the streets to be consumed, they walk to celebrate themselves.
AS* PAPANGUS opens the first chapter of Oyoun’s curatorial focus Mightier than a Trampled Flower, which centralizes life of women* in wars from a decolonial context and deconstructs the canonical narratives of women* in war.
Curator: Dami Choi (Oyoun)
Produced by Oyoun Berlin with the kind support of the Goethe-Institut São Paulo.