COLORS: How would you describe carnival to someone who had never heard of it before?
Rodrigo Guima: The short way to describe carnival is to say that it’s a large celebration that happens once a year for four days. But, for me, carnival is about community, love, and revolution. Physical bodies, and all of the questions relating to physical bodies are at the center of the experience.
Some research says that carnival has its roots in antiquity, and that in Ancient Greece and Egypt they would also have a popular celebration in line with the arrival of Spring. Other people think that it originates from the cult of the goddess Isis. In regards to Brazil in particular, carnival arrived in the country as a result of colonization by the Portuguese. It was originally called Entrudo, which translates to English as ‘introduction’. At the time it was basically a violent street game where all kinds of abuse and atrocities were permitted. It was common for the Black slaves to throw water, eggs, powder, and rotten oranges at eachother in the streets, while the rich, white families would have fun in their homes, throwing buckets of dirty water on people from their windows. So there was a contrast between how slaves and white people experienced the celebration.
Obviously things are quite different now: even though there are still some classist remnants, the celebration has become very popular in Brazil and now involves music, local customs, and is more democratic. But the essence of playing games, and being allowed to break away from the rigidity of everyday life and social structures remains very important to the festival.
COLORS: Why do you think carnival still holds so much significance in Brazil today?
RG: Carnival is a time of the year where you can allow yourself to do things that would usually be condemned by society, or religion for example. You can externalise the pressure of the oppressive capitalist and fanatically religious world we live in right now. For me, it’s an opportunity to remove some social masks—which is ironic as people wear physical masks during carnival—and be yourself. A writer once said: we don’t celebrate carnival because we are happy, but because we are sad most of the time.