“Maysa is a project about race and gender in Brazil. I met Maysa during the final contest for “Young Miss Brazil”, in April 2014, she was there registering. On this day I discovered that this contest has two categories, one for black people and another for white people. Young Miss Brazil and Young Miss Brazil Black Beauty; created to encourage black girls to participate. Racism is, unfortunately, very common, although approximately 50% of Brazilians are African descendants. The vast majority live in a perpetually marginalized states. Months later, Maysa contacted me for a photo-shoot for her personal portfolio, she wanted to give a try to the 2015 contest. What was supposed to be a simple gift, became a work in progress. We started to get in touch, and month after month we developed a strong friendship. One that is helping me to be aware of the tough reality of my own country; racism, sexism, social exclusion, and a struggle to survive. In 2015 Maysa won the title Young Miss Brazil Black Beauty.
I’m seeing Maysa and her family, fighting to get to a comfortable place, and social recognition. And what is more exciting, I’m seeing the coming of age of a wonderful human being that represents a lot of values that my country is slowly losing.” - Luisa Dorr
Largely conducted out of sight of Europeans, the complex interplay between black and red is a hidden drama that historians and archaeologists have only recently begun to unravel. Nowhere is the presence of this lost chapter more in evidence than in Brazil, where thousands of maroon communities are emerging from the shadows, reaffirming their mixed culture and pressing for legal title to the land they have occupied since the era of slavery. The stakes are high: New laws are giving Brazil’s maroon communities, called quilombos (the word for “settlement” in the Angolan language of Kimbundu), a key role in determining the future of the great Amazon forest.
1 - Terecô priest Pedro de Souza is “channeling” a menacing female spirit: A client has hired him to cast spells on her unfaithful husband. Terecô is one of the quilombos’ many hybrid religions, interweaving African and Christian beliefs with native practices.
2 - Jacey Mendes of Santiago “kills the hunger” with a shot of cachaça, or sugarcane rum. She’s helping clear land to grow cassava root using a slash-and-burn method that some sharecroppers have come to rely on.
3 - A villager dressed as a bull parades through northeastern Brazil during the festival of Bumba-Meu-Boi, when virtually every quilombo, and every village and town, celebrates the hero of a Brazilian folktale. In the story a bull is killed by a slave eager to appease his pregnant wife’s craving for bull tongue, and then is magically restored to life.
4 - A lone chimney is all that remains of a sugar plantation in Frechal, which was partially deeded to former slaves in 1925. The quilombo applied for, and received, protected status in 1992.