ANDREINA VIEIRA DOS SANTOS
How to Perform Blackness: Creating Possibilities Through Costume Design
Within costume design’s scenic history, there lie connections to the construction of stereotypes regarding non-hegemonic groups. In the context of Brazilian stage, dramaturgy’s recognition and giving of space – limited space – to non-white people were historically done through visual characterization. As a result, the daily racism of Brazilian society became present through various on-stage means, such as the language of characters, narrations of their stories, and, especially, their clothing.
This practice may have slowly disappeared from the stage, but it is not entirely absent from Brazilian social imagination in contemporary times. Thus, many Brazilian Black artists in performing arts need to create defence strategies and fight for their affirmation as a subject. Affirming Blackness when our bodies become objectified leads us to confront the disturbing notions about our identities.
We can therefore explore possibilities on stage through costumes and create for Black bodies something that has never been created before – we can even present a body whose existence has not yet been socially recognized or associated with Blackness. The costumes would then transcend the object or visual element, integrate and disintegrate the body, and co-perform diverse and divergent narratives.
In view of the concept of multidimensionality of Blackness from Michelle M. Wright (2015) and bringing in references from my own artistic practice as a costume designer in the performances Unrestricted Contact (2017) and Black Memories in White Bones (2019), I conduct this research that deals with the complexity of narrating Blackness through costumes that, together with the body, convey a process of deconstruction and decolonization within the performance.
In this work, the costume is understood as an agent of change or a body-object that presents other perspectives on Blackness, both in the analytical and in the aesthetic paths; costume then seeks to achieve that which hasn’t been dreamed of.
Andreina Vieira dos Santos is a costume designer and theater scholar. In 2012, she completed her degree in Performing Arts at the UFPE in Brazil. Since then, she has been based in Berlin where she completed her Master’s degree in Theater Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and was able to start her work in the field of costume design. She began creating her own costume designs in 2016, as well as developing her own aesthetic and language as a costume designer. Currently, Adreina is also dedicated to conducting research on the discussion of Blackness and decolonial thinking through costumes.
Unrestricted Contact (2017), Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Photo: Kathleen Kunath