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The Sights and Voices of Dispossession: The Fight for the Land and the Emerging Culture of the MST (The Movement of the Landless Rural Workers of Brazil)


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Emerging culture by media type -> Children's drawings 16 resources (Organized by Else R P Vieira. Translation © Thomas Burns.)

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Else R P Vieira


Drawings of the Landless Children: History under Revision

Most of the drawings of the landless children included in this archive were awarded prizes in annual national contests sponsored by the MST in the schools of the encampments and settlements. The MST prides itself in having contributed, up to 1999, to the education of over 100.000 children and adolescents in the encampments and settlements.

It is worth pointing out that "Drawings of the Landless Children" can be a misnomer. In the reality of the rural areas in Brazil, exclusion does not relate only to the land in the Marxist sense of means of production; other serious lacks contribute to this many-sided problem, such as no access to basic education for many children. The moving example of Ozeri, from the Emiliano Zapata Encampment, in Uberlândia, state of Minas Gerais, is worth referring to in advance. At the age of 54, he attends an itinerant school. Having opted to contribute to the contest with a piece of handicraft, Ozeri builds a model house with the materials and technique of a nest, symbolizing the dream of a house that comes true: a dwelling that is both shelter and affection.

A small sample, labelled "Dispossession", reveals the children’s perception of the process of exclusion as resulting fom the "grabbing"of the land; the dragon of children’s stories is here transformed into a thief. A sense of the historical roots of the problem emerges in the representation of the native Indians as the victims of this theft. The reverse process, of access to housing and to the land, is represented as a dream that has come true.

Referring specifically to the themes of the contests, the first such, which took place in 1998, related to the children’s life projects. Responding to the proposed topic, "The Brazil we want", the children wrote a number of compositions. Many of these were awarded prizes and are included in the archive Children’s Texts.

The second contest, in 1999, featured the 15th anniversary of the MST. The first part had an archeological orientation, that of registering the memory of the Movement. The schools were asked to promote research on the history of each encampment or settlement. In the second part of the contest, the children were asked to produce an artistic message for the MST. Dignity, tenderness, hope, schooling and housing were elements that the children highlighted in their messages.

The year 2000 contest foregrounded the questioning of official history. While the press focused on the celebration of the quincentenary of the discovery and the government built a replica of the Portuguese caravels that arrived in Brazil, the question proposed to the children, "Brazil, how old are you?" introduced a problematization of official chronology itself. The children’s perceived evils of Brazil as from its discovery ñ such as the centuries-old structure of the latifundium, the violence towards the native Indians and the recolonization of Brazil by the United States ñ are components less of a celebration and more of a revision of history. The interpelation of history and the representations of another Brazil culminate with a panel of collective authorship, a very big Brazilian flag that only shares very vivid colours with the official one. The caravels sail the dark blue of this panel. A transformed emblem of the national flag offers an invitation for one to cast another look at the nation: the face of a single Indian occupies all of the map of Brazil in the centre of the flag. This one Indian, with a profoundly sad visage, sheds tears of blood.

One Indian, a nation. A nation of dispossessed people.


November 2002

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Landless Voices hosted by the
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Project Director & Academic Editor: Else R P Vieira
Web Site Producer: John Walsh
Web Site created: January 2003
Last updated: July 5th 2016