The exuberance of Brazilian folk culture, especially its music, is well known beyond its borders. But most discussions of this culture barely scratch the surface. Brazilian folk culture contains influences from the Middle East, West Africa and the Indigenous peoples of South America. In addition, due to the way Brazil developed historically, there are large areas that lived in varying degrees of isolation for centuries. In these areas, folk traditions developed in unique ways, at times hewing close to their origins and at other times diverging so much as to be nearly unrecognizable from traditions with similar origins.
Writers Gabriela Romeu and Marlene Peret and photographers Hélio Filho and Samuel Macedo have been travelling Brazil for years now, documenting the ways children play in the five corners of the country. Their project, Childhoods, has produced a large-scale exhibition and several short documentaries, as well as a website for which I translated some of the material. Gabriela contacted me to translate the subtitles for Meninos e Reis (Kids and Kings) and the applications to several film festivals where she wanted to exhibit the film.
Clients often wonder why I ask them who will be reading the translation and what it’s for. How could that influence a translation? In the case of Childhoods, it was crucial for me to know the translation would be for a general audience and for a film festival jury. I needed to find translations of some very obscure regional expressions, some of them with roots in Medieval Iberia, that would be quickly understood and accessible. Providing footnotes, or even highly literate translations of the terms, was out of the question! My task was to convey general meaning, in a way that captured the audience’s attention and gave the impression of a well-produced documentary to the jury.
O Infâncias anda por trilhas que desembocam em diversos quintais do Brasil – e, em breve, da América Latina e da África lusófona.
Nessas andanças, já incursionamos na mata para “caçar” Maria Fulozinha (um ser encantado), rodamos pião na unha do dedão e brincamos de reisado com os meninos e as meninas do Cariri cearense, um lugar onde criança é também chamada de “cabrinha”.
Embarcamos nas águas do rio Xingu, onde visitamos quintais da periferia de Altamira, de vilas de pescadores e dos povos indígenas Xikrin, Araweté e Asuriní. Na região do Médio Xingu, por onde estamos fazendo diversas incursões, as crianças têm nos contado sobre a vida em quintais que se espalham por rios e florestas e, que, mais do que nunca, estão em transformação por conta da construção da usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte.
Entre outras rotas, demos uma parada no Vale do Jequitinhonha, em Minas Gerais. Os meninos de lá nos mostraram como juntam restos do cotidianos, colados com coisas da natureza, para construir seus brinquedos – e seu universo. Então, pegamos carona em muitos carrinhos e giramos nas cantigas de roda.
Ainda em terras mineiras, avançamos até a região do rio São Francisco, o Velho Chico, por onde navegamos em canoas de meninos e meninas que contaram dos seres que habitam aquelas águas, como o Caboclo D’Água e a Mãe D’Água.
Nas bandas do Sul do país, andamos pelos morros e ladeiras atrás dos meninos e seus carretões, um brinquedo que faz sucesso há muitas gerações de crianças. Por lá, as meninas também nos convidaram para visitar suas casinhas, onde nos serviram muitos bolinhos de terra e sucos de chuva.
Childhoods takes trails that lead to many yards all across Brazil—and soon, Latin America and Lusophone Africa.
On these travels, we have gone on forest excursions to “hunt” Maria Fulozinha (an enchanted being), spun tops on our thumbnail and celebrated the reisado with the girls and boys of Ceará’s Cariri region, a place where kids are often affectionately referred to as cabinhas (little goats).
We embarked on the waters of the Xingu River, where we visited yards in several places: on the outskirts of Altamira, in fishing villages, and with the Xikrin, Araweté and Asuriní indigenous peoples. In the mid-Xingu region, where we have gone on several excursions, children have told us about life in the yards that dot the area between rivers and forests and that, more than ever, are in transformation due to construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.
Among other routes, we stopped in Jequitinhonha Valley, in the state of Minas Gerais. Kids there showed us how they gather everyday bits and pieces, gluing them together with things from nature to build their toys—and create their own world. Then we hitched a ride on many tiny cars and spun around in song circles.
While still in Minas Gerais, we moved on to the region of the São Francisco River or “Old Chico” as they call him, where we navigated in canoes with boys and girls who told us about the beings that inhabit those waters, such as Caboclo D’Água and Mãe D’Água.
In the southern reaches of the country, we travelled the hills and stairs with kids and their little trucks, toys that have been a great success for generations of children. There, the girls also invited us to visit their doll houses, where they served us many mud pies and rain tea.