Image from the performance of the play Agreste. Malva Rosa, written by Newton Moreno,
and directed by Ana Teixeira and Stephane Brodt. Source: Amok Teatro
The dramaturgy of Brazilian author, actor and director Newton Moreno provides an interesting example of the cases which we might read as Antigones. Although Moreno does not explicitly refer to the Sophoclean heroine, Antigone’s claim to her brother’s burial and the prohibitions imposed on her, cut across his writing. Moreno’s plays often stage traditional death rituals that are not fully fulfilled, given that, for various reasons (exclusion based on gender, race, sexuality, political beliefs, social status etc.), the bereaved are deprived of their right to mourn. The intersectionality of mourning becomes a crucial factor in Moreno’s dramaturgy.
In The Feast (O Banquete) (2008), Porú, an indigenous man, the last surviving member of his tribe, desperately asks an anthropologist to bury him according to his ancestral customs:
PORU (Stands up. Starts dancing with difficulty and slowness. Speaks using fragments of his natal tongue.):
When a brave one dies, a man of great deeds, they don’t throw his remains in the mud.
We dance his death from one sun to the next.
We dress our faces with the bluish black of genipap.
I come from a desert time, when the ones who stay cook the dead, preparing him.
And eat the parts.
During an entire night and day.
Until we bury him in our blood.
That’s how it was with my great grandfather.
He was buried within his people.
That was how you honored a man.
I remember his flavor.
I want you to honor me.
Piece by piece.
I gave you my words.
I’ll give you my last words.
Precious words that should die with me.
But this is our deal.
You will revive my tribe with your hunger.
quyriri ndi yby
ejara amó potyra quiriri xe
xé nda acobé ymuã
jejurupecá pytera xe apecu aé suusuú
What does it mean? What did you say?
An entire nation.
Millions of men and women of my color fit in my cove.
Silence me with earth, leave me the silence and some flowers.
I haven’t existed for plenty of time. Open my mouth, kiss my tongue, and chew.
Repeat that, please, let me record again.
Record? Lock? Encage?
In Um Berço de Pedra (2017), two women – the mother of a political detainee and the wife of a Junta collaborator – claim the bodies of their disappeared relatives in vain:
A única coisa que eu quero é meu filho. Não quero tumultos, escândalos, jornais. É preciso que a senhora entenda. Sequer os avisei que viria até aqui.
SENHORA 2 (Preocupada):
Avisou a quem? Tem mais alguém com a senhora?
Eu vim só. Quando me falaram da senhora, pedi alguns dias para pensar o que fazer e vim lhe falar.
Melhor, porque assim só a senhora perdeu seu tempo. Eu também não tenho mais meu marido e a senhora deve saber muito bem como ele me foi tirado.
Mas a senhora pôde enterrá-lo!
Com um tiro no meio do peito que um comunistazinho qualquer disparou. Quem sabe não foi seu filho?
Não foi. Ele já estava morto nesta época. Desaparecido. Engolido pela sombra de gente como seu marido. Por favor, eu preciso tentar encontrá-lo. Eu tenho este direito.
SENHORA 2 (Explodindo, nervosa):
Tentar o que, minha senhora? Eu não sei do seu filho, eu nunca me envolvi em nenhum dos assuntos de trabalho do meu marido nas forças armadas. Eu tampouco sei onde o enterraram…
Mas eu sei.
SENHORA 2 (Apontando a rua):
Ótimo. Então vá buscá-lo.
SENHORA 1 (Chorando):
(SENHORA 2 pára)
Segundo o movimento de busca … alguns corpos foram trazidos para cá … e enterrados nos fundos desta casa…clandestinamente.
SENHORA 2 (Incrédula):
A Senhora perdeu o juízo.
Provavelmente. Desde o dia que levaram meu menino.
Trailer of the theatre play Um Berço de Pedra,
written by Newton Moreno and directed by William Pereira.
In Drylands, Mallow Rose [Αgreste, Malva Rosa] (2004), the biological sex of a transgender man is revealed during his wake and, instead of the vigil, the neighbors, supported by local authorities, burn the widow and her dead husband:
The Colonel […] told me to say that you can’t bury this thing here on his land. You two are like tarts, two-bit whores, sluts, trollops, they bury a long way off, out in the bush, out in the middle of nowhere.
He only wants good manure on his land. And you all stink like rotten fertilizer.
You’ll have to find some other land to bury that body. If I bury it in this ground, weeds will sprout.
(Looking at the coffin)
Man, it really is a woman after all. But she sure is ugly like a man. And you treated that bitch good. She’s as plump as a thief’s son when his old man’s not in the pokey. And you didn’t know that the colonel ain’t too keen about women rubbing and slobbering all over each other. You lesbian tramp. Tomorrow, in jail, you’ll find out what a man is so much you’ll never forget, not ever.
And just so nobody makes a mistake, so that everybody knows what kind of animal you are, the Colonel wants to brand your face, just like you do with all the cows in the herd.
(The Police Officer exits.)
(translated by Elizabeth Jackson)
“Malva Rosa” by Saulo Soul with Conde Baltazar, the theme song of the performance
Espetáculo Agreste, written by Newton Moreno and directed by Fátima Ortiz.
The widow of the transgender man, the relatives of the disappeared, the indigenous man/ last survivor, are all connected by the fact that they weep while “being deprived of a normal mourning”, as Jacques Derrida writes about Antigone.
In which terms such a displaced, prohibited, or unfulfilled mourning can be performed? How are those different performances of mourning dramaturgically and/or performatively displayed?