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Watch: Alex Shaw '00 Brings Consciência Negra to Campus

A three-day symposium, Consciência Negra: A Legacy of Black Consciousness in Brazil, focusing on themes of race, identity, and Black consciousness in Brazil and the African Diaspora will take place on campus March 16 – 18. Curated by Alex Shaw ’00, a percussionist, vocalist, composer, curator, and educator specializing in Brazilian music traditions, the symposium will culminate with a live musical and interdisciplinary performance, The Mandinga Experiment, at the Lang Performing Arts Center, Pearson-Hall Theater. The Mandinga Experiment, conceived and led by Shaw, is a collaborative musical tribute to the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira Angola and its resilient cultural legacy of resistance against oppression.

“I consider this a tremendous opportunity to return to Swarthmore College and share my work as an artist, educator, and cultural producer,” says Shaw, the director of renowned Philadelphia-based Brazilian band Alô Brasil and a long-standing member of Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra. “My culminating performance, The Mandinga Experiment, is an evolving interdisciplinary artistic endeavor of consciousness, through which I am weaving threads of identity, heritage, and spirituality.”

In addition to Shaw’s culminating performance on March 18th, the symposium will offer a multitude of opportunities for participants to engage with scholars, artists, and cultural workers from both the U.S. and Brazil who have a vested interest in promoting racial equity, social justice, and cultural resistance. Over the three-day period, there will be workshops, lectures, panel discussions, and film screenings taking place in various locations across campus. All events are free to attend and open to the public.

Guests include scholars Kenneth Dossar and Brenda Dixon-Gottschild (Temple University), C. Daniel Dawson (Colombia University and New York University), Paula Barreto (Federal University of Bahia, Brazil); movement artist Lela Aisha Jones; dancer and musician Dandha da Hora; and filmmakers Paulo Alberton, Márcio de Abreu, Eliciana Nascimento, and Ben Watkins. The symposium is presented by the Department of Music and Dance and the Black Cultural Center at Swarthmore and the William J. Cooper Foundation.

A freelance arts educator since 2001, Shaw regularly teaches, lectures, and performs throughout the mid-Atlantic region and has worked at numerous universities as a dance accompanist, including at Swarthmore. In 2010, he joined the music faculty at the University of the Arts and joined the Temple University music faculty in 2016. Shaw, who majored in biological anthropology at Swarthmore, is the recipient of several competitive artist grants to support his music research and study in Brazil, including Arts International’s Artist Exploration Fund (2004) and the Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts (2007). He currently serves as a board member for LiveConnections and is a lead facilitator for their music education programming. Shaw has also been the curator for Intercultural Journeys since mid-2014 and continues to collaborate widely on varied artistic and educational projects.


Wednesday, March 16

Workshop: Afro-Brazilian Drum and Dance

Clothier Hall, Upper Tarble – 4:30 p.m.

This workshop, led by Dandha da Hora and Dendê Macedo, will focus on Afro-Brazilian drumming and dance traditions of northeast Brazil, such as samba, samba-reggae, and orixá-based movement. Participants should wear movement-appropriate clothing.


Film Screening: The Summer of Gods and Rhythmic Uprising

Science Center, Room 101 – 7:30 p.m.

Film screening featuring The Summer of Gods (drama, 2014, 21 minutes), directed by Eliciana Nascimiento, and Rhythmic Uprising (documentary, 2009, 58 minutes), directed by Benjamin Watkins. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Eliciana Nascimiento.


Thursday, March 17 

Workshop: Capoeira Angola

The Matchbox, Tarble Commons – 1 p.m.

Capoeira Angola is an Afro-Brazilian martial art rooted in Bantu culture, developed by enslaved Africans struggling for liberation in colonial Brazil. Integrating the elements of movement, percussion, and song/oral history, Capoeira Angola serves as a social tool for cultural resistance, empowerment, and community building. Workshop led by Mestra Paulinha of Grupo Nzinga (Paula Barreto). Participants should come dressed for movement.


Panel Discussion: Art and Cultural Resistance in Black Brazil and the Diaspora 

Kohlberg Hall, Scheuer Room – 4:30 p.m.

A panel discussion moderated by movement artist Lela Aisha Jones and featuring: Paula Barreto, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil; Kenneth Dossar, Temple University; Eliciana Nascimento, filmmaker; and Dandha da Hora, musician and dancer from Bahia, Brazil.


Film Screening: Of Slaves and Saints and Who We Really Are

Location: Science Center, Room 101 – 7:30 p.m.

Film screening featuring Of Slaves and Saints (documentary, 2014, 27 minutes), directed by Márcio de Abreu, and Who We Really Are (documentary, 2015, 76 minutes), directed by Paulo Alberton. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.


Friday, March 18

Lecture: Africa in Brazil - Candomblé, Capoeira, and Consciousness

Black Cultural Center – 12:30 p.m.

This talk by Professor C. Daniel Dawson will focus on the formation of Brazilian national identity through the use of African cultural models such as Candomblé and Capoeira. It will also look at important different African traditions, e.g. Yoruba and Congo traditions, and their struggle for cultural authenticity and contemporary viability.


Panel Discussion: Race, Identity, and Black Consciousness in Brazil and the Diaspora

Science Center, Room 105 – 4:30 p.m.

A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild and featuring: Dr. Paula Barreto, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil; professor and filmmaker C. Daniel Dawson, Columbia University and New York University; and Márcio de Abreu, filmmaker and cultural producer.


Concert: Alex Shaw '00: The Mandinga Experiment

Lang Performing Arts Center, Pearson-Hall Theater – 8 p.m.

A collaborative tribute to the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira Angola and its resilient cultural legacy of resistance against oppression led by Alex Shaw ’00. Accompanied by live vintage visuals and featuring musicians, dancers, and capoeiristas, The Mandinga Experiment is an amalgamation of original compositions and contemporary interpretations of traditional Afro-Brazilian rhythms and songs from northeastern Brazil.


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