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Eliana Sousa Silva, director of the Tide Networks, takes on the Olavo Setubal Chair of Art, Culture and Science

by Richard Meckien - published Mar 28, 2018 02:10 PM - - last modified Mar 18, 2019 04:00 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Mauro Bellesa.

Eliana Sousa Silva - 27/3/2018

Eliana Sousa Silva: "I think it is fundamental to think of my insertion at USP space from the recognition of the power that the peripheries and favelas bring as their essence"

"Together we will make an opportunity out of this experience at USP, which will contribute to the university being more open, more democratic, more black and peripheral." It was with this statement that educator and social activist Eliane Sousa Silva, founder and director of the Tide Development Network, concluded her inaugural address as holder of the Olavo Setubal Chair of Art, Culture and Science in 2018, during a ceremony at USP's University Council Room on March 27. The chair is based at the IEA and is the result of a partnership between the Institute and Itaú Cultural.

Taken by emotion, the professor recalled the death of her friend Marielle Franco, a city councilwoman brutally murdered on March 14 in Rio de Janeiro. For Silva, who like Franco grew up in the Favela da Maré, the chair is an opportunity to contribute to "the struggle for many other Marielles to emerge and to live in fullness, joy and freedom."

Franco has been a "forged" leadership from the work begun by Silva and her companions at Maré in the "most basic rights struggles." She was a pre-college student of a course created by Silva's activist group in the favela in 1997.

"She was, like many young people from Maré and from so many peripheries, someone who dared to take up flags of struggles that faced the inequalities that characterize us. Her choice was for the parliamentary path and in only one year she showed her strength and convictions. We have to engage as a society so that this crime is cleared up and the culprits blamed."

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Academic insertion

Silva said that the invitation to take on the chair at the end of 2017 surprised her and came exactly the year she retired from UFRJ after 30 years of work at the institution. "My last two activities are the ones that mostly synthesized the greater sense of my insertion in an academic space: the creation of an area within the Dean of Extension called the University-Community Integration Division, and the coordination of a specialization course in public security, aimed at professionals of the police apparatus."

These activities allowed her to "elucidate the political-pedagogical role that the university can fulfill in its engagement with the real demands of Brazilian society." This led her to consider that working in the chair could be an opportunity to think "the relationship of proximity that must exist between what is produced at USP and the demands of society, in particular the favelas and peripheries."

She affirmed that the peripheries bring "the capacity for inventiveness and resilience," in their essence, "being urgent to go beyond the traditional representations regarding these populations, which are recurrently focused on the idea of lack and absence."

Axes for citizenship

Before Silva's speech, dance critic and researcher Helena Katz, a professor at the Post-Graduation Program in Communication and Semiotics at PUC-SP, gave the address to the new chairholder.

Katz talked about Silva's life and militancy trajectory, and highlighted the five axes necessary for full citizenship formulated by the professor over the several years of work at Maré:

  • education, "a fundamental component for autonomy, already present in that first pre-college course;"
  • art and culture, "in which I highlight the Maré Arts Center, a place created in partnership with choreographer Lia Rodrigues, who develops the forms of autonomy that dance can promote in communities such as that with an improvingly palpable success;"
  • communication, "such as the production of the newspaper 'Maré de Noticias,' distributed door-to-door and free of charge;"
  • territorial development: "the right to an address and a ZIP code, with the production of a street guide, bringing the possibility of an inhabitant of Maré to, for example, buy a refrigerator and have it delivered to their house;"
  • public security: "a taboo subject in a place where everyone is afraid of the police and the State."


Vahan Agopyan, Eliana Sousa Silva e Maria Alice Setubal - 27/3/2018
USP's President Vahan Agopyan and Olavo Setubal's daughter Maria Alice Setubal (right) have honored the inauguration of the new chairholder

Silva's inauguration has been honored by educator Maria Alice Setubal, daughter of the chair's patron and president of the Tide Setubal Foundation. "Eliana is a person who can stand firmly and build bridges so that we can do things together to show the powers of the peripheries," she said.

The chair's general coordinator, Martin Grossmann, former director of the IEA, said that Silva's presence made USP approach Maré "to learn from those who have the experience of living in an area of permanent conflict." For him, although the university has another rhythm to work, according to the needs of research and analysis, "it can no longer be out of step with the demands of society."

New leaderships

Grossmann has emphasized the professors' concern to support new leaderships, an objective also present in another activity of the initiative: the support for young researchers. As sponsor of the chair, Itaú Cultural suppported the first Intercontinental Academia in 2015/2016, a project developed under UBIAS network, which brings together institutes for advanced study linked to universities from all continents.

Eduardo Saron, director of Itaú Cultural, has affirmed that Silva's choice to take on the chair this year represents a special symbolic aspect due to the fact that 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "when, for the first time, culture was considered a right alongside health, education and other areas."

For him, one of the most striking features of Silva's cultural work is the dialogue between the production and internal interests of Maré with the external artistic production. "The democratization of access is important, but what is the most relevant is the exchange in which the contact to external repertoires matters more than the artistic making itself."

The inauguration of Silva also marked the closing of architect and graphic designer Ricardo Ohtake as chairholder. Having attended the ceremony, he said that the work that Silva helped to develop at Maré made "the cultural rise of the periphery" possible "and acquired political contours, leading to what happened with Marielle Franco."

Ohtake has briefly reported on the cycle of seminars and the course for cultural managers he coordinated throughout 2017. The focus of both activities was the process of creating cultural institutions from the post-war period, especially in São Paulo, the performance of outstanding cultural managers of the period, and outstanding exhibitions for the artistic renovation of the country. He said that the work will be concluded with the launch of a book on the seminars by the end of 2018.

The process of choosing who would hold the chair in 2018 was not easy, according to IEA's director Paulo Saldiva. "While thinking about the course we would give to the chair, we tried to think of some contribution that would make us better and give us the strenght to stimulate changes in society." The presence of Silva will reach young people, in his opinion.

At the ceremony closing, USP's President Vahan Agopyan said that Silva's generation is able to achieve greater progress than the previous generation's improvements to the country and said it is "an honor for USP to have a person with his capacity and conviction as a partner."

"Now, with Eliana's presence, we will see art and culture being disseminated throughout the urban context, showing that this is possible, and that we can improve the country through art and culture," he stated. Agopyan has also highlighted the fact that Silva considers education, and art and culture two of the priority axes for full citizenship: "Until these priorities are established, the country will not be what we want."

Photos: Leonor Calasans / IEA-USP