It’s mid-April and Raízes Locais is busier than ever. In the morning, if the warm pour-over coffee hasn’t quite kicked in, the percussion group will do the trick. The day begins with an orchestra of sounds - children laughing, the whistle of the pressure cooker, the sizzling of onions and garlic in hot oil, the rattling of bean-filled maracas and the clamor of mallets beating homemade tin drums. In the afternoon I’ll be facilitating a photography workshop with the program’s theater group. The workshops form part of a larger series on Rethinking Gender, a theme the theater group has been working on for the past few months. The series is designed to both combat machismo and deconstruct notions of the gender binary within the community.
I set up the projector and begin showing the group a collection of photographs. “What are these pictures saying about gender?” I ask. “What do you think the photographer is intending here?” The discussion was heated. While many of the youth were open to girls taking on roles traditionally associated with boys, there was an almost unanimous rejection of boys taking on more feminine roles. “That’s gay!” shouted one participant. “Faggot!” said another.
Rafaelle, the theater group’s coordinator, was careful to bring the group back to a thoughtful discussion on the topic. While disheartening, this is precisely why Raízes Locais is incentivizing gender. Addressing these stereotypes and misconceptions is the first step in the process of unlearning hate and creating a safe space for all community members. This work cannot be done in a day, but the seeds are being planted here.
These photographs were taken as part of a workshop on Photographing Light designed for Raízes Locais’ theater group. In the coming months, the youth will be photographing on the theme of gender.