Alice Walker at Flip: Ancestral Energy wish we were here together

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We cannot go anywhere without our ancestors. If we try, we are instantly lost

Alice Walker, American writer

The speech of the American writer Alice Walker right at the beginning of her participation in the International Literary Festival of Paraty (Flip) is a good synthesis of the debates that marked the table In Search of the Garden, which she shared with Brazilian writer Conceição Evaristo on Saturday night (4).

The table’s title is inspired by the book “In search of our mothers’ gardens: Womanist prose”, a work by the American writer recently published in Brazil. Mediated by the philosopher and writer Djamila Ribeiro, the historic and unprecedented meeting brought together three black women in a dialogue charged with identification and proximity.

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The authors of the award-winning “A Cor Púrpura” and “Ponciá Vicencio” talked about their relationship with ancestry and language, and about advances in the publication of black authors in the publishing market in the United States and Brazil, and agreed on the importance of the black population create spaces for the dissemination of their own creative production.

When answering the first question asked by Djamila Ribeiro, regarding the importance of the ancestral feminine in literature, Conceição Evaristo highlighted: “The speech that prefaces our texts is the speech of our ancestors. It’s as if they give us this possibility to speak. To speak without them would be to speak in a vacuum. The primordial voice, the matrix voice is theirs. Voices that most often took place in silence. We take the silence of our ancestors and transform these silences into screams”.

See the full panel by Alice Walker and Conceição Evaristo on Flip:

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Shortly thereafter, the Brazilian pointed out similarities between her work and that of her colleague at the table, stating that both look to the voices of those who came before for the foundation of their texts.

“Seeing this in Alice’s literature and realizing that our path as black writers is very similar to hers, I think this proves this affiliation of diasporic peoples. The text written by black Brazilian women sometimes has more dialogue with African-American, Antillean, Cuban and African women than with the text produced by other white authors in Brazil”, she emphasized.

Then Alice Walker lamented her lack of knowledge of Portuguese, which prevents her from studying the literary production of black Brazilian authors in greater depth.

Another topic that was frequently discussed was the space for publications by black authors in the editorial market. The American writer recounted her experience in releasing the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple” in 1982, in which she addresses issues of racial and sexual discrimination.

“After I published ‘The Color Purple’ and was attacked, I understood that instead of fighting with people who didn’t understand my gift, I was going to start my own publishing house, and so I published other black authors,” she declared.

“I see this as part of what black women do as our particular mode of resistance. Regardless of what people are talking about you, doing for you, how much they’re condemning your voice, how much they’d like you to shut up, your job as a black woman is to remember why you’re here on this planet.”

And, associating his speech with the theme of the 19th Flip, Literature and Plants, he added: “The planet has no problem with us, the planet loves us. It is our responsibility to flourish the way the planet flourishes. Our flowering is our creations.”

Speaking from the context of the Brazilian publishing market, Conceição Evaristo affirmed the advance in the publication of black authors since the 1980s. “We didn’t get that as a gift. We win for the insistence, for the charge, for arriving at places without being invited, for marking our presence.”

The writer highlighted the work of Grupo Quilombhoje, which was founded in 1980 on debates on Afro-Brazilian literature, in addition to publishing houses Nandyala and Malê, specialized in black literature.

The author of “Ponciá Vicencio”, winner of the Jabuti Prize, also spoke about the linguistic prejudice that stands as an obstacle to the dissemination of black literature, bringing the example of writer Carolina Maria de Jesus, known for her writing marked by orality.

“If there is an aspect of denial of our humanity as blacks, it was precisely the stereotype that we don’t know how to talk about. What differentiates the animal from the human, as they say, is precisely that. When they deny our capacity for language, they deny our capacity for thinking, for producing knowledge, our capacity for human relationships,” he reflected.

“Our literature goes through this a lot, it is this affirmation of a language of ours that places us in this place of human subjects”, he pointed out. “And creators”, completed Alice Walker, reiterating Conceição Evaristo’s argument.

In full dialogue, the writers closed the table celebrating the meeting with metaphors that refer to the theme discussed in this edition of Flip.

“Thinking about what part of the planting we are together, I think it’s a little bit in the harvest, right Alice? I think we are reaping what we sowed in literature. For me, being here with you is a harvest”, stated the Brazilian writer.

Accordingly, Alice Walker defined the table as a dream come true.

“When we were [os negros escravizados] in the fields working for others, we were dreaming, trying to imagine how we could get there. I feel all the ancestral energy that wanted us to be right in this moment here together. It’s an amazing time. I am very happy and I am extremely grateful”, she concluded.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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