“Whenever I step on the stage, I feel accompanied by all those voices, all those bodies that dreamt of that moment for me” – Nádia Yracema
In this video-portrait directed by Laís Andrade, the actress, performer and creator Nádia Yracema tells us about her body-house. She says she takes to the stage not only her story, but also all the stories that crossed her path and became embedded in her body as memories.
She doesn’t claim to change the world, although she wants to change small things. But the strength of her dreams is so big that it will make her voice more and more urgent, more and more present.
This is issue 06, Nádia Yracema by Laís Andrade.
Talk with Laís Andrade
1) You already knew Nádia Yracema, in fact you have worked together in several projects; she was an actress in your last short film. Why did you choose her as the featured artist?
Yes, I met Nádia when I invited her to be the actress in my last short film. Already during the preparation phase of the short film we shared some of our life stories and I realized that we had a lot in common. I chose Nádia for this video because she is someone who inspires me a lot, as a person and as an artist. There isn’t a play of hers that I go to see and don’t come away with a new perspective on some concept of life. In conversations with her, there is also always a lightness and I feel understood. So I had this desire to share with more people Nádia’s talent and way of thinking.
2) Can you tell us a little about the choice of setting? Why the ruins and the stage? What do those abandoned houses mean in the context of your video and the emptiness of the stage?
In several of Nádia’s works and also in conversations that we had, the concept of the body as a house came up many times. The body as a place we inhabit, regardless of the country or the city we are in, mainly because we are migrant people. A body that may have suffered violence, but which we have to care for and nurture. I chose those houses because they were there in the middle of nature, with their walls open to the world. Abandoned and destroyed by someone, but with potential for much beauty. I wanted to work Nádia’s body in that setting like a plant in photosynthesis, playing with the drawing of sunlight. I also decided to film in Ponta dos Corvos because it is in the Seixal area, where I live and where Nádia lived when she arrived in Portugal.
Regarding the stage, it starts out as the place where Nádia works most of the time, of course. But I also thought of it as the artist’s interior, as opposed to the exterior landscapes. And I chose an empty stage so that we could play with the light as much as possible. I wanted to make a connection between the light of the theater and the sunlight outside. The sun as the information the artist receives from the outside world, the stories she hears, the experiences she has, and the light inside as the way this is worked out in the mind with the rest of the artistic process, becoming art.
3) Your video-portrait is the only one, so far, with a warm color palette: yellows, browns, dry yellowish-greens. It was a curiosity we noticed when choosing the frame for the website homepage. Was this choice purposeful? And if yes, what relation does it have for you with Nádia’s story?
Yes, it was on purpose. The yellows are part of what is at the center of this video, which is the sun. Both the real sun, and the one I tried to recreate inside the theater. The brown ones, because of the color of Nádia’s skin, taking into account how much blackness is part of her history and her art. And the green ones are from the plants, from this idea I mentioned before of the body in photosynthesis. We also got to record a part that later didn’t make it into the final cut but that had to do precisely with this idea of the body and the soul as a plant that has to be nourished. And taking these elements, which have been essential in Nadia’s story since the first conversation, I set up this palette of yellows, oranges, browns and dry greens from the first script. The fact that they are warm colors has a lot to do with the idea I wanted to convey of art as comfort. And for me, and I think also for Nádia, comfort refers to the heat, to the origins, to the steam of a good hot plate of food.
4) Another collaboration you have been having is with the director of photography of this video, Ana Mariz. What is your relationship with the photography in the creation of your language? And how is, or how was, this constructive dialogue with Ana?
Yes, I already knew Ana. She is a person for whom I am very grateful and who has helped me a lot in my journey. But it was the first time she worked with me as a director of photography and I was very happy because she has done an amazing job in that area. I think it went very well, our ideas were in sync. She helped me get through to the technical and concrete some fantasies I had in my head. She was able to work the light exactly as I wanted and also in ways that I didn’t even know I wanted. She brought her experience to my ideas and also challenged me to try new things. It is a collaboration that has grown even stronger and one that I certainly intend to continue.
5) As a black, non-white, immigrant woman, daughter also of immigrants, how much do you identify with Nádia’s words in this video-portrait? Which, by the way, were chosen by you, among the many that she shared.
I identify with many aspects. Even selecting the narration for this video was not an easy job at all. I had had a conversation with Nádia for over an hour, and her story had so many interesting things I wanted to include. But in the end I decided on what resonated with me the most and what I knew would resonate with other people as well. I identify with what she starts by saying in the video, about often feeling that she doesn’t belong to Portugal but also that she no longer belongs to her country of origin (in my case Brazil, in hers, Angola). And also to this final idea that I make art for those who were silenced before me and also to break cycles for those who still come in the future.
6) Your works have been within the theme of immigration, about various difficulties and all the weight of what it is to be an immigrant. Do you think that these stories and these characters should be more and better represented in cinema?
Of course. I think Portuguese cinema is still beginning to talk about these subjects and still has a lot of difficulties in doing so. These are subjects that open many wounds in Portuguese history and what still remains of colonialism in the system. I think that xenophobia, and I exemplify it with Brazilians, especially women, is still something explicit, even within bubbles that claim to be more progressive. Portugal has a huge debt to the countries it colonized. Portugal has to accept that it is a multicultural and multiracial country. And the welcoming of migrants has to stop being only for those who are white and rich. And in cinema, migrant artists must be given the opportunity, the platform and above all the funding, so that they can tell their stories and the stories of their communities with their own sensibility and less voyeurism.
7) The Portuguese audiovisual medium is still very male dominated. Do you feel that this paradigm is changing? Or that other strategies will be needed to really feel a difference in the short/medium term?
Yes, I feel that it is changing but I am afraid that it is only in a bubble. In a bubble of festivals where women directors win awards. But that the more commercial film and television is still very male dominated. That is, the money is still more male-dominated, just like in many other professions. Within the technical areas of cinema there is also still a very male predominance and there are still macho set environments. I think specific measures have to be taken regarding these inequalities, creating creative supports that are specific to women, racialized people, migrants, LGBTQIA+, peripherals, etc. And that these supports are effectively allocated to people starting out, not just artists already established in the medium. There are many beautiful stories that need to be told, and unfortunately, art alone doesn’t pay the bills, it has to be monetized.
8) What voice do you want to have (or that people recognize in you) as a director/author?
In fact my latest and future works have always been around the theme of migration. I intend to continue exploring this theme because I think it is very much a part of me. A part that I repressed for a long time. And that I feel is also still repressed in the Portuguese society, and that needs a voice. So I hope I can be a voice for people like me, women, migrants, racialized, from poor families. And I hope to be able to address these issues beyond the suffering, but also with lightness and hope. To represent these people in all their most complex dimension
Born on July 3 in Luanda, Angola. Nádia starts her training and activity in the university theatre, TEUC. At the same time she attends a law degree at the University of Coimbra. In 2012 Yracema enters ESTC, actors branch. After completing her academic training she maintained an active participation in various social organizations that promote collaborative work in the areas of cinema, theater and performance. In 2018 she joins the international project École de Maîtres. Since then she has worked as an actress, performer and co-creator in projects such as “Aurora Negra”, “Outra Língua” and “Cosmos”. She is part of the musical project “Samba de Guerrilha” together with the Brazilian musician Luca Argel.
Lais Andrade was born in 1997, in Brazil, and migrated to Portugal at the age of four. In 2020, she completed her Master’s in Film at the University of Beira Interior. As a final project, she wrote and directed “Flor de Estufa” (2021), an award-winning short film about a migrant woman working in illegal plantations, based on stories from her community. In late 2021, she directed the short film “Ganha-Pão” (2021) at the Cineluso residence in Brussels, about four stories of migrant people. Laís is currently working on her next film, based on her own childhood experience of migration. She also works as a scriptwriter, script supervisor and assistant director.