The brief: translate interview from Dutch into English with reference to Portuguese background texts for Agogo.nl.
Is Maria Buzanovsky a photographer who does capoeira, or a capoeirista who takes photographs? She claims she is not that good at capoeira and prefers to sing, to look and to take photos. And she is good at taking photos. The black and white prints are so sharply focused you can count the hairs on the arms of the capoeiristas. The light in her photos is often special, strange, as if the sun is coming in from a point at which it does not belong. Agogô interviews her.
”I had been doing capoeira for a while, but I wasn’t improving. Worse, I kept getting injured. I stopped practising, but I still loved the sport. I became a professional photographer about six years ago. My favourites subjects are people and popular culture, like Funk in Rio.
”Carlão, instructor of the Kabula Rio group, had invited me to take photos of capoeira. He had just started organising the rodas at Cais do Valungo. (The Valungo quay in the old harbour of Rio de Janeiro, ed.) He and other instructors of Angola capoeira in Rio de Janeiro started a movement to make the rodas stronger and better known. They called it Movimento Conexão Carioca de Rodas na Rua (The Rio connection of street rodas movement). That’s how I started taking photos of capoeira and I’ve been taking them ever since.
Capoeira is a beautiful sport, which results in spectacular photos. I try to catch the most interesting moments of a game on camera: a well aimed kick, a spectacular move, the emotion on a face. I’m happy if I manage to catch those moments.
”But what’s even more important is contributing something to the cause of giving capoeira more space and to protect it. Officially, capoeira is protected as part of Brazil’s heritage, but at the same time it is discriminated against and it is not supported. We want Brazil to be a country of diversity and respect, in word and deed.
”There is an exchange between the capoeiristas and me. They can use my photos on their social media and on flyers, and in that way my work becomes better known as well. I get messages from capoeiristas around the world who identify with my photos.
”For my capoeira photos I often take pictures from the centre of the roda, pointing up. I accentuate the perspective by working in black and white, which adds a surreal element. In black and white images, the attention of the audience is drawn to what I focus on; usually the players.
I often take photos of the Movimento Conexão Carioca de Rodas na Rua: at Lavradio, Arco do Teles and Arpoador. Those are all Angola capoeira rodas. Of course, I feel a special connection to my tracher, Leandro Bicicleta, who organises the roda at the Valungo quay. But whether or not I can take beautiful photos doesn’t depend on the group or the place, but on the game itself. It has to be beautiful. Nevertheless, the Valungo roda has the most going for it photographically and historically. It has fantastic, nearly heavenly light. And it used to be the Americas’ largest port for the import of slaves.”
The Valungo quay is part of Rio’s old harbour and hundreds of thousands of slaves came into Brazil here. All that’s left now is an archeological dig. Experts have nevertheless asked Unesco to declare it a world heritage site.
The request to Unesco is based on the symbolic function of the harbour in the fight against slavery and the recognition of the role played by Africans in the culture and population of the Americas. Brazil has the most people with African roots outside Africa: about 51 percent of the total population according to a census taken in 2010. (Source: La Chispa)
Maria: ”Capoeira is photographed a lot, but always in the same way. No attention is paid to the deciding moments in a game, because so much is hidden in the game. A lot of people look at capoeira, but they don’t really see it. I am a good witness, because I understand a little of what is happening in the game, the roda, the rituals, and can translate that into photos.
”My work was on display as part of ‘Memories of Valongo: capoeira, identity and diversity’, an exhibition in Niterói. The exhibition is coming to Rio to mark the publication of a book of my photos and articles by artists, capoeiristas and researchers about capoeira and culture. It is part of a project called ‘O porto importa: memórias do Cais do Valungo’. (The importance of the port: memories of the Valungo quay, ed.)
”My photos were also part of the Zoom Brazil festival in Lyon and I took part in a joint exhibition called ‘From Valungo to the favela’ (a favela is a shantytown, ed.) which ended in February. Also on display were photos of Passinho, a new modern dance movement which dances to funk.
”A new exhibition about capoeira is opening in June at the Correios cultural centre as part of FotoRio. Please consider yourselves invited!”