Photo: Carol Mendonça

The Various Paths of Itamar Assumpção – A Review of PRETOPERITAMAR

By | 17 January, 2020

Itamar Assumpção was a free artist. A Brazilian artist. A genius, avant-garde, visionary. But he was also misunderstood, considered marginal, maldito. The truth is that Benedito João dos Santos Silva Beleléu (aka Nego Dito/Nego Dito Cascavél) was so great that he did not fit the standards imposed by the art industry. The show PRETOPERITAMAR – O Caminho Que Vai Dar Aqui (The Way to Go From Here), produced to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the singer/songwriter/actor (1949-2003) manifests all this greatness into exactly two hours mixed between struggles, sadness, dreams, joys, dramas, suspense, criticism of the system, comedy and music.

Women are protagonists. Juçara Marcal, Thalma de Freitas, Iara Rennó and Denise Assunção are on the front line. It could not be otherwise in the case of a work by Itamar Assumpção, one of the few artists that made room for women to be at the front, not just as an adjunct.

There is no single Itamar. There are 3 versions of him, which take turns and dialogue with each other. The plot is tied together tightly. It starts at the end, and does not follow a logical timeline, except it kind of does. It is ambiguous. If it were not so, it would not be about who the work purports to be about. From laughter to commotion. From death to life. PRETOPERITAMAR is an invitation to approach the life of a revolutionary artist. It introduces you to the saga of a black man concerned about his legacy. He was committed to himself and his family, and worked so that everything he created with total dedication was enjoyed solely by them. No one else. He didn’t sell out. He kept his dignity intact. H defended freedom. He exalted blackness, his ancestors. He criticized the media, racism, the unfair Brazilian system. He cared for his orchids. He gave the birds food. He strained his own coffee. He made friends. He walked the streets of Penha, the neighborhood of São Paulo that became almost the backyard of his house. He paid dearly for his choices, but he never bowed his head.

Elizena Brigo de Assumpção (Itamar’s wife) was thrilled by the account of her life beside him, his love of plants and the transformations he made in the backyard of the rented house to make a garden. His usual musical partner Arrigo Barnabé also came to reaffirm everything that had already been said about Nego Dito. Those who did not know Itamar’s work may have been lost at some points in the show – and considered the show too extensive. But it should also be said that it enticed the attendees to be even more interested in him. It has the architecture of a documentary without a script. It could be a book that only makes sense if read backwards. It’s exciting (someone in the audience said that if they were stoned it would have been better). It has unique qualities. It makes you reflect on life, on purpose, responsibilities. It shows the need to be resilient in a Brazil of inequalities, to not bend over, to defend ideas and ideals, to create your own rules, to change the ways of play, to hack the system.

More than recognizing Itamar Assumpção’s generality, PRETOPERITAMAR, coordinated by his daughter Anelis Assumpção and directed by Grace Passô, keeps alive all the Afro-Futurist work made to overcome generations. That is why all nine albums produced in life (many unrecognized by critics and audiences) have been prepared for a future in which Itamar is not present but is always present.

PRETOPERITAMAR – O Caminho Que Vai Dar Aqui, was performed from November 27, 2019 to January 19, 2020. There is no information on further seasons, but it is known that there are still other projects to come, including a digital museum about the life and work of Itamar Assumpção.


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