During a journey through Brumadinho, Córrego do Feijão and Casa Branca in Minas Gerais in June, I met Thais Mol, artist and one of the four organisers of the Casa Branca Fest that took place on June 21 and 22. Followed up by a Skype interview, Thais and I discussed challenges and possibilities for the Brumadinho region after the tailing dam rupture at the Córrego do Feijão mine, which killed more than 230 people.
The idea of the festival came into being shortly after the mining tragedy in January, Thais recollects during our talk. “What happened in Córrego do Feijão was a shaking moment for some people, not for all, but for a lot of them. After that is was kind of inevitable to take some action.” At first she and her friends started to clean the neighbourhood, collect waste and make some installations. And then “it just happened,” the artist adds. The festival was realised late June. In the span of 2 days from 10am to 10pm, poetry, performance, mural painting, music and samba were presented. Each artist participated voluntarily, without payment.
Social Cohesion after the Environmental Disaster
“It was very successful,” Thais contemplates, “in the sense of putting people together, of experiencing a moment of togetherness, a moment of entertainment, but not consuming. It was about seeing, listening, talking, well about putting our senses to relate. (…) The responses we got were amazing.” Thais’ words remind me of a research study about sense of place and attachment after environmental disasters by Amber Silver and Jason Grek-Martin that I read recently. According to the findings, an “attention during the recovery phase on the restoration of aesthetic and culturally significant aspects of the landscape,” may foster “the psychosocial healing and growth of survivors.” Unconsciously and probably as a result from their professional backgrounds and an urge for healing, the group of Casa Branca Fest induced moments of connectedness and social cohesion at the right time. The art events were intended as personal, one to one experiences. Accordingly, the artists performed on the same level as the spectators. This closeness was further visible in a group mantra session to commemorate the victims, which was recorded by GloboTV. At its peak moment approximately 400 visitors were counted. The main audience arrived from the centre of Casa Branca, so to speak, and Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. Thais would like to expand the festival in the future. Not necessarily by attracting more visitors, but with the aim to bring the event to the doorsteps of each community, like to the poorer Jardim Casa Branca. The goal is to include more people and to dissolve (mental and social) barriers.