Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Speaking My Language Brazilian Cultural Event at the University of St. Andrews, 13 February 2013

Despite being based in Edinburgh, I came through for the cultural event in St Andrews on 13 February 2013 because I was keen to watch the film chosen for the event, Lula, o Filho do Brasil [Lula, the Son of Brazil]. I am currently a postgraduate researcher looking at social movements, so learning more about the life of Brazil’s most famous former president and trade unionist strongly interested me.

The film was a fascinating exploration of the early life of Lula (full name Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) before he became president, and from it I picked up some useful snippets of Portuguese to do with striking and trade unionism. For example, from banners featured in the film I picked up phrases such as ‘greve já! [strike now!] and ‘o sindicato é você’ [the union is you], and from conversations portrayed on screen I picked up slogans such as, ‘Se não soltar o Lula, ninguém vai trabalhar!’ [If you don’t release Lula, nobody will work].

After the film, I stayed to hear the two presentations given by academics about contemporary Brazilian issues. Simone Toji spoke about current questions which surround the development of Brazil in recent years, including increasing demand for energy and linked projects, such as the Belo Monte dam, which have their own environmental problems associated with them. In addition, she discussed how upcoming international events due to take place in the country such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games have also triggered questions about the removal of local people from their homes in order to build facilities for these international sporting events.

The second paper was given by Michele Wisdahl on the subject of the emerging middle class and private education in northeast Brazil. She explained some of her preliminary findings from 15 months of fieldwork in Fortaleza, particularly focusing on the advertising which is used to encourage parents to send their children to private schools in the city as well as how contemporary discourses about Brazil shape the format of classes within those schools.

Finally, we were treated to a musical performance by Reginaldo Dias and Bob MacLaren, where several traditional Brazilian instruments and styles of music were explained and demonstrated to the audience, who were encouraged to join in using an assortment of percussion instruments provided. All in all, it was an excellent afternoon.

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