The underground creative community is creating urgent dialogue for young South Americans
Brazil is made up of hierarchies. It’s South America’s economic and artistic behemoth, and the power structures entwined around the nation’s success are visible – hectares of favelas are sandwiched next to sprawling high-rise apartments. These class struggles are audibly landmarked too, with the Portuguese language being shouted down Brazil’s warm streets, echoing the neo-colonialist entity who laid claims there.
Within these power structures, we can also find insidious ideas surrounding race, opportunity, and visibility – as one group on the rung is lifted up, another is pushed down. But in true Brazilian fashion, there are young, underground, energetic voices in São Paulo ready to fight the supposed order of things.
As Viviane Lee, or CYSHIMI, multi-media artist and producer and one-third of São Paulo based collective Brechó Replay, says defiantly; “Brazil has always had hierarchy – it’s in its blood. But there is also space for change.” Brechó Replay is an intersectional arts collective and content platform challenging Brazil’s entrenched architectures of power. By casting diverse independent artists and models – to produce edgy, aesthetic editorial spreads and videos, and provocative runway shows imbued with poetry, fashion, and performance – the collective wants to create a platform for all of Brazil’s beautiful minorities while storming past the bulwarks trying to stop them.
Artist Eduardo Costa created the collective from the ashes of frustration after growing tired of the obvious racism he was receiving as a black man. He was also over the little representation he was being afforded as a PoC ballet dancer in the arts community. But instead of waiting for a creative position to open up, he decided to act for himself. “I never found it possible for me to ever be in a director’s position”, Costa says, “so that’s when all that process came together and formalised. That’s how Brechó Replay came to be.”
Six months after Brechó Replay found its legs by creating editorial shoots, stylist, artist, and “healer” Victória Carolina joined the helm. Carolina grew up in a favela and says that she was never given access to information or incentives about being creative because of her socio-economic status. “There wasn’t a lot of exchanges about the arts at school,” she explains. Accessing these artistic endeavours on her own was a way to gain autonomy against the archetypes which surrounded her neighbourhood. “That’s why I found zines and arts,” she says. “I wanted to do something else (and) not just sell drugs.”
Viviane Lee was the final piece of the core Brechó Replay crew. As a Brazilian multi-media artist with east-Asian roots and sports eyebrow slits and inch-long black nails, Lee says she’s always looked for ways to stand out and not be stereotyped by her race – something Brazil ostensibly has issues with. “It’s a failure in Brazil to think that every Asian person is from Asia as a generalised whole,” Lee explains. “I always felt this need to be different through clothing and design and fashion.”
“We do not want to live in precarious conditions, we want empathy and respect from government and industry” – Victória Carolina
After orbiting Brechó Replay on Instagram, Lee attended to the collective’s first ever runway show at Casa de Criadores – it had a post-apocalyptic theme and was littered with the debris from a fake plane crash. After the meet-up, Brechó Replay and the artist connected online and discussed integrating her production into their aesthetic.
Costa explains that while the explosive platform creates daring visual imagery – one deemed successful enough to collab with brands like Converse and Nike – it’s about much more than just producing great aesthetics – it’s a vehicle for dialogue and change. “Brechó Replay is about the connection of people, (and) it’s about context,” Costa says. “It’s about more than just a pretty image – it tells lots of stories.”
“We are a colonised country and every day we see our stories being erased,” Carolina adds. “We do not want to live in precarious conditions, we want empathy and respect from government and industry. The emergence came from the need to communicate this with the public through the audiovisual.”
To view some of Brechó Replay’s narratives, the collective are showcasing their work alongside a cast of South American artists at the Fashion Space Gallery in London until 4 May. Mundo Latinx is an exhibition highlighting the magnetic, multifaceted faces of the South American identity, and the structures impeding its manifestations.