Antônio Bispo dos Santos. Photo: Disclosure
Antônio Bispo dos Santos. Photo: Disclosure

"Humanism is a companion word to the word development, whose idea is to treat human beings as beings who want to be creators, and not creatures of nature, who want to overcome nature”. With a phrase as simple as it was blunt, Antônio Bispo dos Santos dismantled one of the concepts of modernity, humanism, almost unanimously in the progressive field.

Sometimes it is necessary for a voice quite outside the system, as is the case of quilombola Nego Bispo, as he used to be called, so that some hitherto consolidated certainties undergo a necessary review.

Names like indigenous people Ailton krenak and Davi Kopenawa have been pointing out for decades that respect and coexistence with nature are conditions for postponing the end of the world and avoiding the fall of the sky, but they were joined by this quilombola, with one of those basic books that propose to rethink the condition of the planet itself: The earth gives, the earth wants, now published in 2023 by the publisher Ubu along with Piseagrama, and illustrations by Santídio Pereira.

"The earth gives, the earth wants"

In the 109-page publication, far from a treatise, Nego Bispo, who was born in 1959, brings a series of concepts from his experience in the Saco Curtume quilombo, in the municipality of São João do Piauí, being the first in his family to be literate. Playing a leadership role, he worked in the State Coordination of Quilombola Communities of Piauí, having lived for some time in urban areas.

“I stayed in the big city for about five years, until the moment came when I understood that I didn't belong there. (…) The city is not my place. While society is made up of squatters, our communities are made up of people. In the city, people were afraid of us. In the communities (…) we lived peacefully”, he writes in his direct language.

Central to his thinking, and accurate in his analysis, is all the alienation and submission to fear, which is what living in the metropolises has become, as well as the centrality of the mercantilist system in all areas. “The adults in the city played games and other adults paid to watch them: that was what they called theater. When art becomes a commodity, it becomes a game of doing nothing,” he wrote. And the conclusion is very similar to everything that has been defended in art since the 1960s, that is, that art is life, therefore there is no reason for representation, it simply needs to be: “Theatre, like any other type of art that it is commodified, it blocks the conversation of souls, because art is the conversation of souls, art feeds life, it cannot be a commodity.”

Illustrations by Santídio Pereira,

Nego Bispo deconstructs several certainties throughout the book based on innovative concepts such as “Afroconfluents”, “confluences” and “countercolonialism”, rethinking even social projects with repercussions such as the Minha Casa, minha vida” housing, which, in his view, , ignores local knowledge and practices to standardize a “colonizing” type of housing.

It is not only in the book that Nego Bispo raises his alarms against the decadence of Western monotheistic civilization. In episode 81 of Confluences – the ocareté podcast, he pointed out how even public education is problematic: “Public education is colonialism, public schools do not teach what is needed to live in the Caatinga, in the Amazon. Public schools only teach how to live in big cities, in industrial, marketing, synthetic logic,” he says.

At a time when democracy is returning to normal in the country, voices like Nego Bispo are essential to advance an agenda that rethinks concepts and thoughts that neither universities nor political parties are able to cover.


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