The GBTH collaborators come from very diverse backgrounds, and we're always looking for ways to represent and showcase their culture in the work we do here. Currently, the two people holding down the fort are Brazilian artist Marina Münter and Siberian artist Difficult Conundrum.
One cultural exchange we have been meaning to do here is hosting a bloco, or more specifically, an underground ball. Carnaval has a rich history and cultural significance in Brazil. It originated from a mix of African, indigenous, and European traditions in the late 19th century and has since evolved into a national holiday celebrated across the country. At the heart of Carnaval is the samba, a fast-paced and rhythmic dance that is performed in the streets and in organised competitions between different samba schools. Another integral part of the Carnaval are the blocos. These street parties are typically organised by local communities, and involve live music, dancing, and various regional traditions. Blocos can be small, neighbourhood-based events, or large-scale productions that draw thousands of participants. Some blocos have a specific theme or musical genre, while others are more open-ended.
The underground balls that originated in 1980s New York City have also become an important part of Brazil's Carnaval celebrations, with such events now being held in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, among others. Unlike blocos, balls are typically held in secret locations, away from mainstream society. These events, often organised by and for the trans community, provide a space for self-expression and celebration that is not always available in mainstream society. The significance of trans voices in both the mainstream and underground spaces cannot be overstated, as they represent a powerful and necessary challenge to the dominant narratives around gender and sexuality. By creating and participating in such events, trans individuals are asserting their right to exist and be recognized, paving the way for greater acceptance and understanding in society.
But how do we contextualise these events in a way that doesn’t dilute or diminish their cultural significance all the while remaining relevant to a broader global audience? One such way of looking at this is through the lens of the Anthropophagic Movement from 1920s Brazil. In very brief terms, Antropofagia was an avant-garde movement founded by a group of artists and writers, including Oswald de Andrade, Tarsila do Amaral, and Raul Bopp, among others. The term "anthropophagy" was used metaphorically by the group to refer to their desire to consume and assimilate European culture, while also celebrating and reclaiming Brazil's indigenous and African cultural heritage. The movement rejected the idea of Brazilian culture as a mere copy of European culture and instead embraced the idea of cultural cannibalism, whereby Brazilian culture would absorb and transform external influences to create something new and original.
While the Anthropophagic Movement emerged in the early 20th century, its ideas and principles continue to have relevance in contemporary cultural contexts, including virtual communities such as what we have here in Second Life. Just as the movement sought to blend external cultural influences to create something uniquely Brazilian, virtual communities today are often characterised by their ability to absorb and remix a range of cultural influences to create hybrid forms of cultural expression. The networks we build here can also offer a sense of freedom and safety for marginalised or underrepresented groups, allowing them to explore and celebrate their cultural identities without fear of discrimination or prejudice. In this way, virtual communities can serve as powerful tools for promoting cultural exchange and understanding, and for building bridges between different identities and ways of expression.
And at this intersection, Marina and I have decided to host Anthropophagic Nights: A Virtual Carnaval of Cultural Cannibalism. It is not a bloco or underground ball, but its own unique expression that we want to develop together with you on the dance floor. Together, let's create something new.
The GBTH is committed to celebrating diversity, embracing cultural influences, and providing a safe and inclusive space for expression in the virtual world. We are aware of the legislation that is being passed to further incite the ongoing anti-trans panic and would like to ask you to take the time to look over the resources we have provided below. Trans rights are human rights.
Guide to being an ally to transgender and nonbinary people
Donate to The Trevor Project