our carnival, our body, our fight


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Our carnival, our body, our fight

In October 2019, in the city of Bezerros located in the countryside of Pernambuco, Brazil, I met Papangus. The Papangu mask has been part of the Pernambuco imagination for at least a century and is activated by the people on the streets during the carnival, complemented by a full-body costume. The residents of Bezerros say that the mask was used by men to play the carnival hidden from women*, that they dressed up in Papangu and partied without being recognized. Where, in this popular imagination, are the Papangu women*? (Bruna Amaro)

AS* PAPANGUS is a carnival for, by and with women* that does not objectify any marginalized body.

In AS* PAPANGUS, the Afro-Brazilian artist Bruna Amaro performs a carnival in its most queer-feminist and decolonial form, with more than 50 women* in São Paulo and Berlin. Under the Papangu masks, facial identities fade away and a collective body appears. This body is a battlefield for survival, resistance and rebuilding. AS* PAPANGUS is a coming-together of women* fighters to honor and celebrate their life and survival.


In this participatory project, a series of performance workshops lays ground for the following acts. During the two-day workshop in São Paulo, the artist and the participants collectively build up movements and statements for their street performance. Phrases manifesting experiences of survival, transformation and labor, are embroidered on the costumes handmade by Bruna Amaro and the seamstress Eliana Amaro dos Santos.

In the street performance on April 10, 40 women* walk down the streets of São Paulo with the Papangu clothes on, with the statements on their chest, braced with handcrafted props, and dancing to the festive music. As they let their bodies speak, the bodies become flags of triumph.


In the following multimedial exhibition at Oyoun Berlin from April 30 to May 27, the video documentation of the carnival performance in São Paulo will be projected on the costumes and masks. The costumes from São Paulo are revived by 10 women* in Berlin, who participate in a two-day workshop and in the following street performance in the neighborhood of Oyoun. The procession on the streets of Berlin-Neukölln invites other FLINTA persons to join the walk.

I understand the Papangu mask as an object that covers the face and the body, in direct reference to some cultures of the West of the African continent — such as the Geledes of Yoruba people, and the Bobo people in Burkina Faso. I also think of it as a magical and powerful object, as in the Noh and Balinese theaters — the trigger of incarnation. We will activate the Papangu mask, while we celebrate our covered faces and exposed bodies, claiming the right for festive anonymity. (Bruna Amaro)

In patriarchal societies, men are often given the exclusive right to perform on stage, to wear masks as an performative tool and as an outlet for artistic expression — as in Bezerros tradition where only men used to wear the Papangu masks. Through AS* PAPANGUS, Bruna Amaro questions: who gets to be anonymous, who gets to be free from social norms, who gets to indulge in the moment of liberation? Papangu women* on the streets of São Paulo and Berlin reclaim the rights to mask themselves while enlivening its magical power.

AS* PAPANGUS critically engages with the colonial matrix of carnival, staying alert to oppressive gaze and disallowing exploitation of queer bodies, bodies of women*, of color, with disabilities, and the bodies under structural oppression. Papangu women* do not walk down the streets to be consumed, they walk to celebrate themselves.

AS* PAPANGUS opens the first chapter of Oyoun’s curatorial focus Mightier than a Trampled Flower, which centralizes life of women* in wars from a decolonial context and deconstructs the canonical narratives of women* in war.


Curator: Dami Choi (Oyoun)

Produced by Oyoun Berlin with the kind support of the Goethe-Institut São Paulo.

For the public program of AS* PAPANGUS, click here.

AS* PAPANGUS sketch by Bruna Amaro
Bruna Amaro


Performers Sao Paulo

Thais Aline Ferreira Lúcio da Silva, Flávia Fernandes Belletati, Carmen Cardoso Garcia, Ana Paula da Paz Alves, Juliana Bueno, Iasmin Souza Ribeiro, Larissa Maranho, Clarissa Teixeira Ximenes, Anelise Torres Blanco, Camila de Sousa Trindade, Gabriela Bergamasco, Ana Luiza Chieffi , Iara Santa Clara Coutinho, Graciela Pereira Cruz Soares, Mariana Queiroz da Silva, Melissa Menezes, Gabriela Zuculin, Andressa Arena da Silva, Núria Cordeiro Vieira, Tatiana Burg Mlynarz, Tereza Ferreira Zolli, Verônica Borges Carneiro da Conceição, Gabriela Raphael Duarte, Roseli de Lima Santos, Maíra de Souza Oliveira, Tatiana Cristina de Argenton e Queiroz, Alessandra Cristiane de Mello, Natália Onori Ferraz, Paula Montes, Ana Lucia da Silva Santos, Jucilene Braga Rodrigues, Julia Lima, Nyx Helena Tunes Zampieri, Lourdes Arasy Benítez Espinola

Contributors Sao Paulo

Eliana Amaro dos Santos (Seamstress)
Paula Correa Pedroso (Producer)
Yve Zolli Nolasco (Producer)
Fernanda Andrade (videographer)
Suellen Santana Amaral (videographer)
Cassia Roberta Araújo de Oliveira (Photographer)
Maria Clara Silva Loureiro (Photographer)

Performers Berlin

Pamela Bassi, Natalia Aly, Mizgina Rengin, Mayara Teston Barrios, Katia Akemi, Jarita Freydank, Jahia, Fatima Ismayilova

Contributors Berlin

Yuki Kojima (Fabric installation in the staircase)
Thais Nepomuceno (videographer)
Natascha Gass (Photographer)


This project is part of Oyoun's second curatorial focus Mightier than a Trampled Flower and was supported by the Goethe-Institut São Paulo.