Overture

Guilherme da Silva’s new zine provides a vision of utopia and safe space for the LGBTQ community  

In 2019, when Guilherme da Silva took a picture of his friend in Venice, he knew instantaneously that he needed to build a wider series. Perhaps it was the aftermath of being broken up with by his boyfriend – enduring a somewhat sensitive outlook on the world – or maybe it was more of an inherent drive hidden deep inside, that only needed a little nudge (or picture) to be let out. Either way, it was this very moment that sparked the idea to produce what would later become Overture, a zine which encapsulates Guilherme’s deep truths both as an individual and as a photographer: to support and provide a safe space for the LGBTQ community.

Nodding to the concept of Arcadia – a vision of utopia – and inspired by the work of Thomas Eakins, Guilherme has collated an intimate documentation of queerness in Brazil. As a country that’s less than accepting of the LGBTQ community, Guilherme turned towards photography as a way of understanding his own identity and experiences; he urges those who see themselves in his pictures, and those observing this works, to do the same. It’s not been an easy ride for the photographer, having experienced LGBTQ-phobic attitudes in the industry which sparked a bout of depression. But having self-published his own zine, Guilherme is taking matters into his own hands and hopes to continue building on this empowering body of work. In fact, it’s in the zine’s name Overture, which alludes to the opening of an opera. This edition is an introduction to a longer body of work in the future. I chat to Guilherme to find out more below. 

Dries at the park, 2021

What’s your ethos as a photographer, and what stories excite you?

I think it’s diversity to say the least. When it comes to my work, everything is so deep inside me that sometimes I can’t explain in words. But what has been driving me to create since the beginning is the people that I’ve met throughout the years; the connection I created with them. Part of what I’ve been doing lately in my work (and what I did with the zine) is creating this sort of tribe of young people who live in this utopian land away from the corruptions of society. And this is not just in the pictures; we ended up creating a community where everyone supports each other. What excites me about being a photographer is what comes after the photography.

Ayrton and Matheus at the park, 2021

What inspired you to make this zine?

Well, when I’m not doing my personal projects, I work as a very commercial fashion photographer in Brazil. What inspired me to start the zine was the frustration I had with people who wanted to shape the way I was supposed to be photographing – not just the technique, but also who I was photographing. I heard so many LGBTQ-phobic speeches during meetings and work that sometimes I felt like I was not welcomed, that I was there just to press a button. I ended up with anxiety and depression and, to pull me out of that dark place, I knew I had to find a place to be safe. During the process, the pandemic hit and I had to postpone the beginning of the project. The situation in Brazil has been awful because of the government and I knew this was another reason why I should start this project. The zine is about this group of queer people that I wanted to portray in this place that nobody knows where it is but everyone wants to go there. It’s Arcadia, it’s a scape. 

Heart-shaped tongue, 2021

Who are we meeting in the zine, where are we visiting, what stories are we hearing?

All of my personal work feels like a self-portrait to me, so the zine is pretty much about the feeling I was talking about in the answer above. We are meeting this group of queer people who lives in this utopian land, like the concept of Arcadia. I was very inspired by the ‘Arcadian’ paintings of Thomas Eakins, the political view behind the work of Justine Kurland in her book Girl Pictures, and also the works of Nan Goldin and David Armstrong. 

Tell me more about the people you’re photographing in your zine, and how you strive to represent them? 

I think everything happens so effortlessly. Most of them I meet online first and then we meet to take the pictures, most of the time with their own clothes, sometimes I use some of mine. It’s so simple and beautiful.

What does photography mean to you, what’s its purpose?

Photography for me is my joy, it’s what allows me to understand more about the world and more about who I am. It’s what makes me feel sane.

Kenzo at the park, 2022

What can your audience learn from this zine?

They can learn how important it is to create communities when you are LGBTQ+, where you can meet people and talk about your experiences. It’s important to have this safe place where there’s no judgement and you learn more about who you are. We spend so much of our lives trying to hide ourselves when we were kids that when we are adults we have to discover our true selves. Being inserted into a community that protects you can help a lot.

What’s next for you?

The title of zine means this one is just the first, I’m already working on my next publication and I definitely want to work more collectively with stylists, make-up artists and creative directors who are open to accept my view. 

Leo at the park, 2021

Lucas and Leo kissing at the monument, 2021

Pedro at the park, 2022

Transbrasil

Rafael Medina documents queer trans life in Rio through his intimate photography 

After four years away from his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Rafael Medina finally returned from Berlin in November last year. Upon doing so, he noticed how many of those in his friendship circle have started to open up about being transgender. As such, Rafael decided to embark on a photographic project documenting his five close friends – Naomi, Ellie, Caterina, Galba and Williane – as they go about their daily life in the city. Far from your typical foray into life as a queer trans woman living in Rio de Janeiro, the series, entitled Transbrasil, is intimate and nostalgic; it’s a touching window into the relationship, closeness and acceptance between friends. A time capsule of sorts, the project also takes a vital stance against homophobia, censorship and violence that’s continues to be inflicted on the trans community today.

There’s much to be unearthed throughout Rafael’s empowering imagery, and the work has been exhibited as part of an exhibition programme run by queerANarchive, which recently closed Club Kocka Gallery in Split, Croatia. His other works, in equal measure, have had similar impact; Skin Deep, for example, is a visual record of sexuality and the body of gay men above the age of 60. And back in Brazil, he was also the founder and creative director of the online magazine and sex party FLSH. Here, Rafael talks me through his reasons for starting work on Transbrasil and what his hopes are for the future.

What first drew you towards photography?

I’ve been interested in photography since the beginning of the 2000s. It was a naive start. At that time, the first digital cameras were released and I bought a simple Kodak. I ended up getting obsessed with it, as I used to bring the camera every time I went clubbing. I had just come out of the closet. It was the beginning of my young adult gay life. I was fascinated by the characters and the aesthetic I saw in the clubs. I guess that’s when I started to get interested in photography. 

What inspires you?

What inspires me… I think I get inspired whenever I have a problem. Something that personally bothers me or somehow calls my attention. An issue I want to understand or to dig deeper into. It can be a feeling or some idea that I want to share visually through photography.

When and why did you start work on this project, what stories are you hoping to share?

Transbrasil started with my will to portray the actual state of things in the Rio de Janeiro’s queer life through my personal relationships. Last November, I had the chance to visit my country for the first time after four years since I’ve been away. During those four years, something came to my attention. There was an expressive amount of people, from my circle of friends and acquaintances, who used to present themselves as cis men and, now, are opening up about their transgenderness. So I thought it would be an interesting approach and a good way to define a new moment in the queer life in town, if I photographed some of those people.

Can you tell me more about your subjects – your friends – and what they’re like? Why did you decide to photograph them, and how did you want to portray them?

Well… what should I say? My friends are amazing! Catarina, Ellie, Galba, Naomi and Williane all have bold personalities and I admire them for that. But it’s also interesting that each one of them has a unique path on how they come to perform their gender.

The choice of portraying my own personal circle of affections, instead of already known characters, has to do with the visual point of view I want to offer as a photographer. I understand that I have a privileged and intimate point of view over my friends, that I will hardly ever have with people I’m not close with. It’s about this feeling of being comfortable around them. In my work in general I’m interested in showing this inside subjective point of view of situations.

The style of the series gives off a textural and almost archaic feel to the imagery. What are your reasons for shooting this way? Tell me more about your aesthetic decisions.

Style-wise, I’ve been working with analogue photography since 2016. I’m interested in the materiality of the final result and how the grain plays a role in the image. And also the experimental possibilities that analogue can give me. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with multiple exposures; I’m interested in how an image can contain several layers of time, and also how to give space for unexpected new images to appear within those layers.

This series represents a very emotional moment for me. Coming back to Brazil brought back a lot of memories from the past, not only from my relationship with those five friends, but also my general past life- m y childhood and young memories. I wanted to imprint that general nostalgic feeling I had, of memories related to affections. Therefore, during the exhibition, I had part of the photos shown on two vintage photo albums, in order to connect with the viewer’s own nostalgia and affections. 

Are you hopeful about the representation and acceptance of trans people, particularly in Brazil? And in what ways can art and photography help?

As we Brazilians used to say, “Brazil is not for beginners”. That joke is, indeed, grounded in some truth. You have to understand that Brazil is a place full of contradictions. We have an extremely violent history. We were the last country in the world to end with slavery. We are still the country with the highest rates of trans people killed every year in the world. There is a big unhealed wound in our society towards Black people. So, of course, trans Black women are a group that is very fragile in this system. Especially now with a president and his supporters who are openly transphobic, homophobic and racist, who only does not do anything to support minorities, but do an active effort to attack the few progresses we have achieved over the past decade. 

Nevertheless, I felt that the Black and queer community are more organised than ever before, and they end up managing to set the discussion on society. There is definitely more visibility towards those subjects. Nowadays, you can see in a women’s TV show a Black trans artist, like Linn da Quebrada, or a performance of a drag singer, like Gloria Groove, on a Sunday variety TV show. But, the everyday reality of queer, and specially trans people in the Brazil, is still very tough. It’s harder for them to find jobs, to have opportunities and to be respected in society’s everyday life.

How do you hope your audience will respond to your work?

Well, there is no other way to answer this question as I hope they respond very well! But seriously, I know that I’m not changing the world with one photography series and I also understand that in this specific matter of transgender issues, it’s our fellow trans people who have to take the lead on the discussion and how they want to be perceived. I just wish that the audience will understand we should not only have representation of trans and queer people but also that they are able to be part of the everyday life and that includes having more opportunities. How many of us cis people have close friends that are trans? How many of us have trans people as work colleagues? We, as allies, should be thinking about it! 

What’s next for you?

I just had a solo show with Transbrasil in Split last August. That was an invitation by the Queer Anarchive, a Croatian LGBTQIA+ institution. My plan now is to bring the exhibition to other places. I want to show it here in Berlin and also in other cities in Europe. And hopefully, if I’m lucky enough, I will also manage to bring it to Brazil.

I’m also planning to edit a photo book about my experience visiting my country. Transbrasil will be a chapter of what is going to be a bigger project centred on this feeling of ‘vertigo’.  

All photography courtesy of Rafael Medina

Sebastião Salgado. Amazônia

Sebastião Salgado shares an edited excerpt from his new book on the Brazilian Amazon, published by Taschen with editing, concept and design by Lélia Wanick Salgado

The Maiá River in Pico da Neblina National Park, in the São Gabriel da Cachoeira area. Yanomami Indigenous Territory. State of Amazonas, 2018.

This book is dedicated to the indigenous peoples of Brazil’s Amazon region. It is a celebration of the survival of their cultures, customs, and languages. 

It is also a tribute to their role as the guardians of the beauty, natural resources, and biodiversity of the planet’s largest rainforest in the face of unrelenting assault by the outside world. 

We are eternally grateful to them for allowing us to share their lives. 

Sebastião Salgado and Lélia Wanick Salgado 

Marauiá mountain range. Yanomami Indigenous Territory. Municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, state of Amazonas, 2018.

When I first visited an Amazon tribe in the mid-1980s, I remember feeling anxious about meeting people whose lives were so radically distinct from my own. There, men and women, families whose ancestors had inhabited these forests for millennia, were still treated as “primitives.” 

How would they receive me? How would I react to them? How would I behave before such different human beings? 

That early experience of living alongside the Yanomami, one of Brazil’s largest ethnic groups, was so powerful that it shaped my relationship with the natives of the Amazon region ever since. Finding myself cut off from the world in a remote village in the northern state of Roraima, I soon understood that the Yanomami were not in fact that different from me. After just a few hours in their company, I began to relax, to feel accepted. The emotions we shared—to love, to laugh, to cry, to feel happy or angry—served as our common language. I felt at home in my own tribe, that of all humans, where myriad systems of logic and reason are interwoven with my own, with those of Homo sapiens. 

Since then, and particularly over the past decade, I have spent long periods in the Amazon, navigating its rivers, flying over dense jungle and peripheral mountain ranges and, above all, living among its people in tiny communities scattered across the world’s largest tropical rainforest. And I can say without hesitation, even after a career full of extraordinary experiences, nothing has given me greater joy than working with the dozen of indigenous tribes portrayed in this book. Through them, thanks to them, I reconnected with my own pre- history. I rediscovered the lives we led thousands of years ago. 

Left to right: Pinu Vakwë Korubo with a bird, a red-throated piping- guan (Aburria cujubi, Korubo name: kuxu) hanging from his shoulder— contact in 2014; Xuxu Korubo with a quiver for arrows (Korubo term: vitinte) on his shoulder—contact in 2015. In front of them, two brown woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagothricha, Korubo term: kolokit) brought down by poisoned arrows from Xuxu’s quiver, shot from blowguns. Hunting encampment. Valley of Javari Indigenous Territory, state of Amazonas, 2017.

The natives of the Americas are descendants of the migrants who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia during the last Ice Age some 20,000 years ago. With the arrival of European conquistadors and colonisers in the 16th century, their numbers were decimated by diseases brought by these foreigners and by wars waged against them. Then, through a gradual process of miscegenation, the identity of a majority of them became mestizo. 

Indigenous women were at the heart of the formation of the Brazilian people. After the first Portuguese landed in Brazil in 1500, they were soon followed by hundreds of thousands of men. It was not until 55 years later that the first five Portuguese women landed. The Jesuit missionaries who accompanied them were quick to notice hundreds of thousands of mestizo children, prompting accusations that the Portuguese men had been living in promiscuity. 

The Raposa–Serra do Sol Indigenous Territory occupies two ecologically distinct areas: fields in the south and densely forested mountains in the north. Its main landmark is Mount Roraima, seen in the background, whose name is associated with the mythological hero Makunaima. This hero inspired Brazilian author Mario de Andrade’s classic novel Macunaíma. There are an estimated 140 Macuxi villages. Cotingo River Falls. State of Roraima, 2018.

Although the number of natives living in the Amazon rainforest fell drastically, their experience was different. Thanks to the impenetrability of the jungle, for centuries they were able to preserve their traditional tribal way of life. 

Now they too are threatened: one aim of this photographic project is to record what survives before any more of it disappears. 

The Amazon region embraces nine South American countries, with 60 percent of the rainforest lying in Brazil. The population of this area is thought to have numbered around five million in 1500. Today, in a territory more than eight times the size of France, there are just 370,000 indigenous people belonging to 188 tribes and speaking 150 different languages. A further 114 tribes have been identified, but they have not been contacted. 

Towns and cities sprang up along the Amazon and its major tributaries as far back as the 17th century. But in the middle of the 20th century a dangerous new chapter in the indigenous peoples’ struggle to survive began with the opening up of Brazil’s vast undeveloped and sparsely populated interior. Migration from southern Brazil led to the deforestation of the Amazon to make room for cattle farming and soybean cultivation. New roads and navigable rivers facilitated migration and made it easier for logging firms to harvest valuable hardwood and for freelance prospectors to seek gold. With these outsiders, who included religious groups bent on evangelising remote tribes, came influenza, measles, malaria … and death for thousands of natives. 

An igapó, a type of forest frequently flooded by river water, with palms and other emerging trees. In the center of the photo, a tree whose trunk is covered with water: an aldina (Aldina latifolia). At right, a jauari palm tree (Astrocaryum jauari). Anavilhanas archipelago, Anavilhanas National Park, Lower Rio Negro. State of Amazonas, 2019.

Intentionally set forest fires in the Amazon are not new, but they have multiplied so drastically that they now grab attention far beyond Brazil because of their undisputed impact on climate change. Often described as the world’s lung, the rainforest has been steadily losing its ability to absorb vast quantities of carbon dioxide. Instead, it has been adding to global CO2 concentrations, creating an enormous “carbon bomb.” 

The Amazon rainforest is the only place on Earth where humidity in the air does not depend on evaporation of seawater. Thanks to its size and an intense concentration of humidity, this forest generates its own process of evaporation in which each tree acts like a geyser or aerator, releasing hundreds of litres of water into the atmosphere daily. As a result, thanks to its hundreds of billions of trees, this blanket of vegetation creates an extraordinary airborne river, or river of vapour, which carries more water than the Amazon River pours into the Atlantic Ocean each day. The impact of this on global climate conditions is immense. 

With 20 percent of the Amazon’s biomass already lost, any further disruption of its ecological equilibrium will have drastic repercussions far beyond Latin America’s frontiers. Yet too many Brazilians still fail to recognise that protecting the Amazon is also in their interest. Surely they, no less than Argentinians, can understand that their immense agricultural wealth depends directly on the rain that falls over the Amazon. 

What drew me back to the Amazon? Certainly not its dark side—not the fires or deforestation or the poisoning of rivers by gold miners or the drug trafficking and arms smuggling that flourish in the region. Rather, it was to savour afresh the unparalleled beauty of this vast region. For me, it is the last frontier, a mysterious universe of its own, where the immense power of nature can be felt as nowhere else on earth. Here is a forest stretching to infinity that contains one-tenth of all living plant and animal species, the world’s largest single natural laboratory…

– Sebastião Salgado Paris, 2021

Photography by Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado. Amazônia, Sebastião Salgado, Lélia Wanick Salgado, TASCHEN, £100

Men of Zo’é ethnicity, residents of the village of Towari Ypy, wearing traditional headdresses. Standing, left to right: Biri Zo’é, Xú Zo’é, Sinera’ýt Zo’é, Kurú Zo’é, and Boaté Zo’é. Seated: Kitá Zo’é, Dirik Zo’é, Tuwáj Zo’é, and Toduá Zo’é. In their language, “Zo’é” means “I am me.” They probably used the expression during the period of initial contact, as if to say “We are people.” Zo’é Indigenous Territory. State of Pará, 2009.

Questions of Taste: Alex Atala

The multiple Michelin-star chef and Jiu-Jitsu brown belt talks sustainability, success and the riches of São Paulo

There are few chefs as wedded to the land that they sprung from than Alex Atala. After years of travelling Europe, acquiring the skills he would later use to storm the global gastronomical league table, Atala returned to his roots to prove that Brazil’s cuisine was worthy of international attention.

For over a decade D.O.M., the restaurant Atala founded in the Jardins neighbourhood of São Paulo, has consistently appeared in the prestigious San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best list. But the critical acclaim has not compromised its founding principles of celebrating all things native and authentic. Using previously marginalised techniques and ingredients, Atala has reinvigorated Brazilian cooking and raised the region’s culinary status. It is no exaggeration to say he is adored, from South America’s toughest critics to the greengrocers of São Paulo.

Having conquered fine dining, Atala has his sights on greater challenges. With the number of people on earth thought to rise to around 8.6 billion in 2030, feeding an ever more insatiable world could be one of the greatest challenges of this century. To confront this, together with his food diversity organisation the ATÁ Institute, and chef Felipe Ribenboim, he will soon be holding a symposium called FRUTO to discuss the issue.

To find out more, I caught up with Atala to discuss success, sustainability and the food scene in São Paulo.

D.O.M. is currently ranked as the 16th best restaurant in the world

After years of living abroad – what called you back to your roots?

I’ve been connected with Amazonian cuisine, ingredients and flavours since my earliest childhood. I believe that its this richness that comes from the forest and other Brazilian areas that forms the backbone to all my work. Brazil is so vast – almost the size of a continent – and there’s a huge diversity in many aspects. In just one country, there are so many different ways to deal with food, in both terms of the culture towards food and the produce available.

For decades, Brazil resisted fine dining, almost feeling that the national cuisine was ‘unworthy’ – what changed?

It’s not something that happens overnight. It is largely the result of an effort by all the Brazilian chefs that defend our gastronomic culture on a daily basis, even with all the difficulties we have to deal with, such as the lack of support from the government and the lack of structure for family-run agriculture and the indigenous and riverside communities that survive by cultivating these ingredients. The government needs to recognise the work of these young and talented chefs. They are the true ambassadors of this brand called Brazil.

Pupunha heart of palm fettuccine with Yanomami mushrooms

What are your hopes and fears with FRUTO?

Food waste and over consumption have always been two of the main concerns of the D.O.M. Group as a whole. And lately these concerns have led to launching the FRUTO congress, which the ATÁ Institute is organising in January 2018.

One of the most tangible and possible ways to solve these problems is to use 100% of the ingredients we have. That is the main guideline in both Açougue Central and Bio, the two newest additions to the D.O.M. Group. In both these restaurants we show people that it is possible to use the whole ingredient. For example, in Açougue (our meat-speciality restaurant) we receive a whole bull carcass every week and, of that carcass, we use everything: meat goes to grill, oven or pan; bones are used for broths; fat is used to deep fry other ingredients.

Things are very similar in Bio. The menu provides healthy dishes, with quality ingredients, in an attempt at conscious consumption. The Canastra cheese is maybe one of the most delicious cheese varieties currently produced in Brazil. In Bio, it is used as a cream to compose the fruit and Canastra salad, and its peel, which would usually go to waste, is used in pastry to provide the final crunchy topping to the Dulce de leche pudding. 

The reason for all of this is simple: we want to help raise awareness in our clients. It is possible to use the whole ingredient and for there to be no waste – you don’t need to buy more than you are going to eat. And it is important that not only chefs consider this but that all of us as individuals are aware – we can be the turning point for everything. Eating today is not simply feeding, it is a political, economical, biological, social and cultural act.

That is exactly how the idea of FRUTO was born. A congress divided into three axes (social, cultural and biological) that will bring together thirty of the most important minds in the fields of sustainability, science, gastronomy and industry to discuss alternatives on how to bring quality food to a world population that could reach 8.6 billion people by 2030.

Can you give me a good example of ATÁ in action?

I believe our work alongside Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) with the Baniwa chili deserves to be mentioned. The Baniwa are an indigenous people living in 200 communities across Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. They produce the Baniwa chili, a unique product made with a variety of native peppers that are dehydrated, milled and mixed with a bit of salt to form a potent spice. It didn’t get to the market because we didn’t know about it and the Baniwa people didn’t have the structure to commercialise it. Today, thanks to the partnership between ISA and ATÁ, that chili can be found in Mercadinho Dalva e Dito, at our stands at Mercado de Pinheiros, and in dishes at D.O.M. and Dalva e Dito. Because of that, many Baniwa people prefer to work producing the chili instead of working in mining, for instance.

Is there an ethos behind D.O.M? Could you define it in one sentence?

Creativity, with Brazilian soul.

Manio beiju pancake

 

How do we begin to re-establish a meaningful connection between humankind and the natural world?

We must revisit our relationship with ingredients and nature itself and understand that there is no point in only protecting the rivers, seas and forests. We can only ensure the defense of our biodiversity if we also protect the humans that make their living from that which the rivers, seas and forests provide. The food chain is a powerful tool to support those people. That is our job in the ATÁ Institute. We work on several projects to strengthen all points of the productive food chain. The more we understand and develop that relationship, the more space and demand the market will have.

Photography Rubens Kato, Ricardo D’Angelo and Sergio Coimbra

 

Mentor and Protégé: Mia Couto & Julián Fuks

Authors Mia Couto and Julián Fuks reflect on their respective roles in the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, founded by Rolex to foster communication and development across the arts

Mia Couto

The unique relationship between mentor and protégé has been crucial to some of the most significant developments in art and science. Plato’s dialogues with his master Socrates, for example, laid the foundation for much of Western philosophy, while Humphry Davy’s mentorship of the young, impoverished Michael Faraday ensured he had the education and experience to go on to invent the electric motor.

Founded in 2002 by luxury watch brand Rolex, the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative seeks to continue this rich tradition by pairing and supporting a new set of mentors and protégés across dance, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and architecture in each two year cycle. With previous participants including the architect Sir David Chipperfeld, the director Alfonso Cuarón and the composer Philip Glass, the initiative has helped to enrich the dialogue between artists of different generations and cultures, as well as to revive the essential relationship between the mentor and protégé. 

In literature alone, it is clear that the programme has played a pivotal role in developing new talent. Naomi Alderman, for instance, who was the 2012-13 protégé, and whose mentor was the celebrated writer Margaret Atwood, this year won the world’s leading prize for English-language fiction by women. Also this year, the 2010-11 protégé, Tracy K. Smith, received the highest honour for poetry in the United States of America, having been appointed Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. Here, some of the latest participants in the programme – Mozambican writer Mia Couto and Brazilian author and translator Julián Fuks – reflect on why they became involved in the programme and what the roles of mentor and protégé mean to them.

The Mentor – Mia Couto
The main thing I can pass on as a mentor is to not be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes beauty is born of failure and without mistakes we wouldn’t have life. Young writers are so obsessed with writing well, but nobody really knows what writing well involves.

I chose to work with Julián specifically because he wanted to explore other territories and to change his practice. Our approach to writing is completely different. I’m driven by beauty and a passion for characters, characters who are far away from me. In Julián’s case, he is the character. He thinks before he dreams. These differences make a good combination in our roles as mentor and protégé. Julián and I speak the same language and of course there is both a familiarity and some sense of foreignness, but that allows us to venture deeper into our relationship.

I don’t necessarily see the role of the mentor as someone in a superior position, with more knowledge to pass on. Nobody really has any experience when it comes to writing; it’s just a process of beginning over and over again. Instead, what is useful for the protégé is in gaining insight into the processes of a more seasoned writer. I wanted to show Julián the early stages of my writing process: my hesitations, fears and my corrections.

We exchanged material at its raw stage, which was useful for both of us. The relationship of the mentor and protégé can be reciprocal, and in many ways Julián is also my mentor. He is a good judge of what is excessive, for example. I’m a poet as well as writing prose, and sometimes I write with too much poetic freedom. He helps me to know when to stop, which is just as important as knowing where to start.

Julián Fuks

The Protégé – Julián Fuks
A writer should always be attempting to transform themselves. I thought this programme was a good opportunity to become a different kind of writer, to become more creative and poetic, and Mia is the perfect person to help with this. Although there are differences in the way we write, we are similar in the way we relate to the world ideologically. I was born in Brazil during my parents’ exile from Argentina and Mia was born during his parents’ exile from Portugal. Brazil and Mozambique are very different countries, but because of colonisation and the fact that we are both linked to Portugal, there is some common identity.

At the beginning of my relationship with Mia, I was used to writing in a very obsessive and rigorous way, trying to bring precision to every sentence, every paragraph I wrote. But rather than developing this, I discovered that Mia doesn’t have this kind of control; as he says, most of the time he doesn’t know where he is going. He kindly showed me his first drafts, which often look nothing like his final work, and showed me how I could loosen my control, to free my writing from my meticulous processes. It’s something you could only do with such an accomplished writer and someone with so much experience.

I don’t think I’ve ever thought about having a mentor before I was approached for the programme. When I began to write, I just wrote and tried to learn from reading; there weren’t really any schools or teachers for writing. But then working with a mentor is not a simple process of teaching; it’s much more than that. It becomes a different type of experience, another way of looking at things. Creating this dialogue between writers has been important not only to exchange visions of literature, but visions of the world.

This is an extract from issue 21 of Port, out now. To buy or subscribe, click here.

The Rolex Arts Weekend – featuring public events, including world premieres, with the programme’s participants, including Mia Couto, Philip Glass and Sir David Chipperfield – will take place in Berlin on the 3rd and 4th February 2018.

Samba City: The Blocos of Rio

  As Brazil gears up to celebrate Carnival, photographer Fran Petersson recalls hitting the streets of Rio de Janeiro to discover the city’s notorious street parties Famed for its annual televised Sambadrome parade, the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s carnival success lies with the ‘Bloco’ – the legendary parties that flood the city’s streets. In 2017, there will be 462 officially recognised Blocos taking place in the city, attracting nearly 5 million attendees. Open to all and following a set route for a duration of a few hours, the biggest blocos draw crowds of up to one million people. Those held in the once crumbling neighbourhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa are the latest locations to lure in Rio’s thrill-seeking tourists. Inland from the popular seaside attractions of Ipanema and Copacabana, the historic Santa Teresa district  is one of the oldest in the city, dating back to the construction of a convent of the same name in 1750. Despite it’s cultural significance, Lapa was, for many years, known for its insalubrious characters and seedy nightlife. That was until 1990, when Chilean artist Jorge Selarón began his now iconic tiled staircase artwork outside his house: the catalyst perhaps to one of the most drastic urban transformations to have ever taken place in Rio. Street art now cheers many of the fractured walls, and tourists flock for selfies on the colourful steps, taking shade under the radiant aqueduct arches Lapa takes its name from, helping local businesses to flourish.

A man reclines by the roadside in Santa Teresa

A combination of this creative regeneration along with cheap rents for ballroom-scaled real estate, and a series of elevated walkways thronging the main street level have unexpectedly created the perfect destination for Rio’s young and beautiful fans to live out their carnival dreams in the balmy sunshine of new bohemia. Offering a completely different kind of experience from the beach party crowds, Lapa and Santa Teresa’s Blocos draw in the artistically minded to it’s samba-spiked celebrations, and has quickly become the place to be seen and stay during carnival season. The winding streets of Santa Teresa are filled with free spirited, iconoclastic creatures who have been drawn from all over Brazil, mingling happily to the sounds of street corner drummers, laughing samba first-timers, and excited chatter. Being an old pro at throwing a party, when the fun is done, Rio’s cheerful and unanimously good looking clean-up crews sweep up behind the masses. Every trace of the foot stamping soiree that minutes before caroused through its cobbled streets vanishses, leaving Bohemia to wake up from yet another great party in peace.

Photography Fran Petersson

Interviewed by Drew Whittam