Monday 31st May 2010
Source: The Northern Echo
As Stockton prepares to sway to the Brazilian Samba beat when the Festa Junina takes centre stage next month, Graeme Hetherington discovers that there’s a closely-knit Brazilian community living on our doorstep.
THERE’S a Latin rhythm in the air.
Men are dressed as farm boys, with braces and straw hats, the girls in pigtails and red-checkered dresses, the atmosphere is so thick with South American culture you could imagine you are at a village hop on the outskirts of Rio.
This, however, is Stockton and the final touches are being put to Festa Junina, part of a series of events celebrating South American history and culture being staged by a group of expats from Brazil.
“There’s closely knit Brazilian community in the North-East with more than 80 families living and working in the region. We have regular get togethers and decided that we wanted to bring an authentic taste of Brazil to the area,” says artist Vera Hynes.
Ms Hynes is part of a flourishing group of musicians and artists who established the North-East Brazilian Community to celebrate and raise awareness of their culture and tradition through vibrant and exciting festivals in the region.
“It’s about giving people a taste of our culture and about wanting to share it with our friends in the North-East,” says artist Vera Hynes.
“There’s one thing about Brazilians – we accept everybody. We accept people from everywhere and we like to think people will accept us as well.”
To get the Samba rhythm started, the group’s Festa Junina – which takes place on Saturday, June 12 – will be an explosion of colour, sounds, smells and tastes from the depths of north-east Brazil. Celebrating the middle of the southern hemisphere’s winter, the festival draws on the region’s folklore, music and dance.
Traditionally, it takes place in an outdoor arena, but out of convenience this festival will be held in Stockton’s Georgian Theatre.
The event is expected to attract members of the Brazilian community from across the country, as well as local people wanting to enjoy an evening of South American atmosphere.
Photographer Gilmar Ribeiro, who is originally from Sao Paulo but now lives in Hartburn, Stockton, believes it’s important to become part of where you live.
“I love the North-East, although I do still struggle with the cold weather after 20 years, and I am really pleased that our family decided to move to my wife’s hometown area,” he says.
“Now we’re trying to connect with people in the community and give something back to the areas where we live. I lived and worked in London for many years, where there is a huge Brazilian community, but decided to move to the region when my children were young to get away from the city.
“Now we are trying to build a new community in the North-East and we believe that by inviting people to explore our culture we will be able to give them a feel of Brazil.
“Brazilians are like one huge, happy family wherever they find themselves and we want to share that with the people of the region.”
Men attending the Festa Junina are being encouraged to dress up as farm boys, with braces and straw hats, while women can wear pigtails and a red checkered dress in loving tribute to the origins of the rural festivities.
The rural celebration coincides with the rainy season, which is essential for the farming community. It also gives the predominantly Catholic nation a chance to give thanks to St Peter and St John for the rain.
A key part of the celebration is the Quadrilha, a type of Brazilian square dance, which retells the story of a wedding and all the ups and downs of the day.
THE festival is the first in a series of artistic events the group are organising to raise the profile of their culture. The next project lined up is an exhibition called Recycling from Brazil at the Sassari restaurant, in Middlesbrough, from July 5.
Born and raised in Brazil, Hynes uses her native homeland as the inspiration for her work.
Her paintings and ceramic work is influenced by environmental issues and she is a keen advocate of using recycled products in her art.
“We go into schools and talk about environmental issues, especially about the Amazon as that’s something really important that they nay have already learnt about,” she says.
“The children love it an we are hoping to make them more aware of the river and the rainforest.”
The event is designed to get the people to interact with the artists’ work with displays of painting, photography, ceramics and mixed media installations.
Ribeiro has a great interest in traditional and contemporary forms of photography. His work regularly adorns glossy magazines and literature promoting the region.
His work at the exhibition will show images of the most prestigious art fair in the world, The Venice Biennale, using recyclable photographic materials.
The third exhibitor will be Eduardo Leonardi, a painter who lives and works in Newcastle.
His work draws inspiration from the Brazilian Neo-Concrete movement of the Sixties.
The opening night of the exhibition will include a performance of Capoeira, a form of martial art created by black slaves during the Portuguese colonisation in the 16th Century, by Filhos de Bimba.
“We are hoping to interest people from all backgrounds to come along and have a sample of our Brazilian culture,” says Ribeiro.