Last week, from August 25 to 29, I took part in the National Seminar on the Life and Works of Manuel Querino at the Geographic and Historical Institute of Bahia (IGHB) in Salvador, Bahia. The speakers during the week-long event included Maria das Graças Andrade Leal, the author of a PhD dissertation on Querino’s life (a biography based on his work), Vanda Machado, who discussed Querino’s impact on African-Brazilians today, Vivaldo da Costa Lima, an anthropologist who focused on Querino’s work on Bahian cuisine, Luiz Alberto Ribeiro Freire, who discussed Querino as a pioneer in Bahian art history, Wlamyra Albuquerque, who spoke about Querino and his involvement in an African-inspired Carnival group, Mestre Cobra Mansa, who gave a presentation on his research into the African roots of Capoeira Angola, and Ilana Seltzer Goldstein, the author of O Brasil Best-Seller de Jorge Amado, who concentrated on Tent of Miracles and its main character, partly inspired by Querino.
I gave two talks, one on Manuel Querino’s struggle against pseudo-scientific racism and another, representing Consuelo Novais Sampaio, on E. Bradford Burns’s studies of Querino. For more information (in Portuguese) see my blog on Querino – mrquerino.blogspot.com
I attended Brasa IX, the ninth congress of the Brazilian Studies Association, held at Tulane University in New Orleans, from March 27 to 29. On the afternoon of the 29th, I gave a presentation on Manuel Querino: the biographical section of “Manuel Querino: Um Pioneiro e Seu Tempo” (Manuel Querino: A Pioneer and His Time).
The conference was a very rewarding experience – well worth the long, exhausting and expensive trip from the Northeast of Brazil. Better yet, most of the panels I attended made it clear that Manuel Querino is more relevant and significant than ever. Several papers stressed the need to produce and disseminate positive images of blacks in Brazil, from slave times to the present. That was exactly what Querino strove to do during the last stage of his lifelong activism (after being a republican, abolitionist, labour leader and politician) – he was one of the “indispensable” ones, as defined by Bertolt Brecht.*
The audience for the panel in which I took part was small, but the response was very encouraging. It became clear that Querino has something to offer to people from different fields: art history, ethnography, folklore, black history and Brazilian history in general. One question that came up after my presentation merits further reflection: why was Querino overlooked and excluded from the official history of African-Brazilian studies in Brazil, by none other than Gilberto Freyre?
The simple answer is that he was a victim of ostracism and scorn because of his colour. But it goes further than that: in the words of folklorist Frederico Edelweiss, “How often [Querino] must have heard that pat and still common line: ‘what an uppity Negro!’ His vindication of his black brothers made him more enemies than friends; many more enemies…” In other words, Querino is yet another example of the “trap door” aspect of the “mulatto escape hatch”.
*There are men who struggle for a day, and they are good;
There are others who struggle for a year, and they are better;
There are those who struggle for many years, and they are very good;
But there are some who struggle all their lives,
And they are indispensable.
– Bertolt Brecht
BRASA IX, the 2008 edition of the Brazilian Studies Association’s annual conference, will be held in New Orleans from March 27-29. I will be giving a talk on the 29th, titled Manuel Querino (1851-1923) – Brazil’s First Black Vindicationist as part of the panel on Racial and Ethnic Representations in 19th-Century Brazil
You can download my paper “Manuel Querino – Um Pioneiro e Seu Tempo” here (BRASA website) and here (my Querino blog)