A Portal Experiment N#3 Tempelhof/ Terreiro: Synch-retisms [2017]

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This publication is part of A Portal Experiment (Node #3 ). The narrative connects Rio and Berlin through personal impressions, memories and the histories of Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin, and the Terreiros- temples dedicated to Candomble or Umbanda ceremonies for the Orishas, in Brazil.


A Portal Experiment 
Complexo do Alemão <->Deutscher Komplex

This is a collective project that happens in constant collaboration, friendship and solidarity with collective Papo Reto , residents of Alemão and other favela communities in Rio.

Among hundreds of favelas in Rio, one was called Morro do Alemão (=“German’s hill”), actually named after a Polish man, Leonard Kaczmarkiewicz- who moved to Rio after World War I. He bought the land in the Northern Zone of Rio de Janeiro, at the time the first industries were being installed on Avenida Brasil, and became a faveleiro (=land owners who used to rent the ground to the favelados, in this case poor workers coming from Rio and other regions of Brazil, namely the Northeastern, also to work in these industries). It was not long before the place became known as Morro do Alemão (German’s Hill), due to Kaczmarkiewicz’s physical looks (a person of stereotypical European complexion is informally called “alemão”, “galego” or “russo”, in Brazilian Portuguese). Nowadays, the biggest complex of favelas in Rio, formed by the 16 neighbor favelas around Morro do Alemão, is known as Complexo do Alemão (German Complex).

Alemão (German), due to the inflated imaginary of World War II in all media, became a war code among drug dealing factions and nowadays it’s still a very popular slang in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, which means: 1. outsider; 2. enemy; 3. the police

A Portal Experiment consists of an ongoing interdisciplinary cartography* shared with the public in the form of collaborative actions and mixed media artworks/ exhibitions/ archives, where feedbacks in-between both territories are also taken into account for the next editions. It takes place in-between two remote territories: one is Complexo do Alemão (=“complex of the german guy”/ “german complex”), a group of 16 favela communities located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the other is Berlin, Germany.

The cartography* is formed by opening some “portals” in-between the official maps, which gives me access to different layers of history and (psycho)geography: traces, gaps, records, memories, affections, synchronicities … Usually two places, themes or situations are chosen-one in Complexo do Alemão and the other in Berlin. Some autobiographical nodes are also highlighted in the portal cartography: my own personal stories “excavate” the “his-tory of the world”, as well as the somewhat “silent” stories of my country, histories yet to be told by our own people.. . in each approach, the “excavation” continues, a great deal influenced by personal experiences and random (interdisciplinary? non- disciplined?) linkings. The many layers overlap in different crossings, resisting the limits of the official territories and narratives. Beyond the juxtaposition of fragments from both diverse worlds, the idea of the portal also provokes the perception of continuity between historical processes in Brazil and Germany.

In the favela, my “German complex” is my “white middle-class complex” . I’m an outsider, in-betweener, set apart from the favela, in an apartment in the southern Zone of Rio.

Initially sponsored by Dom Pedro II (end of XIX century), the colonization of Brazil by Germans and Italians not only had the objective of populating uninhabited regions of Brazil, but was also a eugenicist project for the creation of a genetically and culturally whiter middle class.

An important, practical and ethical dimension of this long term project- so far independent from institutional funding- is the ongoing exercise of listening and horizontal collaboration with favela social movements in Brazil. Since 2013, the project is in collaboration with the media activism collective Papo Reto (formerly members of Ocupa Alemão), a network of activists reporting issues that are relevant to Complexo do Alemão and other favela communities, engaging in copwatch and counter stereotypes, while also fostering spaces for dialogue and exchange.

What is it like to talk about a so called “other”, in a context where I am also considered an “other” myself ? While my social status of “white middle class” in Brazil entails a more privileged condition in terms of Brazilian society, in Europe it’s my South American “mestiza” background that will connect me to Afrobrazilian and Indigenous references, not refusing the problematics and critical, colonial, reflections both categories may bring about. The way I inhabit Alemão, being now in Berlin, as an outsider in both places, leads me to some other kind of “territory”, yet to be explored as both places relate and talk to each other, as they recombine or remix in voice, image, imagination, history and fiction: “synchroni-cities” in progress…

Ich bin nicht typisch/ Ich bin nicht so Brasilianisch in Brasilien./ Vielleicht eine echte Brasilianerin bin ich hier, in Deutschland./ Eigentlich, bin ich eine “Alemã” (Deutsche) in der Favela.” [I’m not typical/ I’m not so Brazilian in Brazil./ Maybe I am a real Brazilian here, in Germany./Actually, in the favela, I am an “Alemã” (German)

The portal is the opposite of the wall. Through the poetic strategies of collage/remix/ text cut ups, “decolonial décollage”, streams of consciousness, multidirectional memory** and psychogeographic drifts, this project intends to activate a dialogue environment between the two territories- yet generating a new hybrid territory which remixes intimate and geopolitical landscapes. I work with very diverse media, depending on how the contents inspire me- the experimentation with formats and methodologies is also part of the process.



*    by “interdisciplinary cartography” I mean alternative ways of mapping, expanding the meaning of territories through their living realities, dialogues and the research references of the project. The methodology consists of bridging different fields of knowledge, namely history, visual arts, poetry, sound arts, as well as an ongoing personal archive of experiences. 

“The practice of a cartographer refers to, fundamentally, the strategies of the formations of desire in the social field. And little does it matter which sectors of the social life he/she chooses as an object. What matters is that he/she remains alert to the strategies of desire in any phenomenon of the human existence that one sets out to explore: from social movements, formalized or not, the mutations of collective sensitivity, violence, delinquency. . . up to unconscious ghosts and the clinical profiles of individuals, groups and masses, whether institutionalized or not.

Similarly, little matters the theoretical references of the cartographer. What matters is that, for him/her, theory is always cartography-and, thus being, it creates itself jointly with the landscapes whose formation he/she accompanies (including, naturally, the theory introduced here). For that, the cartographer absorbs matters from any source. He/she has no racism whatsoever regarding frequency, language or style. All that may provide a language to the movements of desire, all that may serve to coin matter of expression and create sense, is welcomed by him/her. All entries are good, as long as the exits are multiple. ” 

in Sentimental Cartography, Suely Rolnik

**    Michael Rothberg proposes the concept of multidirectional memory from concluding that  the assumption of a competition or comparison between different victim histories is analytically unprofitable. “Against the framework that understands collective memory as competitive memory – as a zero-sum struggle over scarce resources – I suggest that we consider memory as multidirectional: as subject to ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing, and borrowing; as productive and not private.”. (Rothberg 2009:3 in Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (Cultural Memory in the Present). He proposes to observe the worldwide memory of the Holocaust as not diminishing the importance of other victim stories, but rather as able to produce articulation. In doing so, the reference to other stories may function beyond their temporal and spatial location, contributing to the collective recognition of suffering.


Stills & Excerpts 

An article says that, indeed, human beings could hibernate. Like bears do in winter.


Through the clouds above I follow the flipping wings of some butterfly effects,


as I observe the very local ritual of people turning glass bottles into metal coins and food…


…meanwhile some kites fly adrift in my thoughts, directly from an ending afternoon sky over Complexo do Alemão.


There are no ghosts of history or from the unforeseen for me to see now. This morning in Tempelhof is just mine: erased from all memories of  others- they can not even whisper here…

Oh… but I’ve said its name. Tempelhof.

And then again, memories start to land on the green grass of these last summer days.


Tempelhof. The Templar knights’ garden. Of ancient crusader crossings.


Recent field for aerial crossroads, now just giving way to footsteps and pedals of so many fellow travelers.


Tempelhof. Once targeted by war as also are, at this very moment,  several streets, alleys and residents of Complexo do Alemão…


The airport building, renovated as a nazi symbol in the third Reich, is now one of the biggest refugee camps in Europe.


I see the Templar knights uselessly trying to run away for their lives. 13th century.


I see evangelical pastors hiring mercenaries from the drug traffic to persecute and threaten the priests and priestesses of  Candomble and Umbanda temples, the so called “Terreiros”. 21st century.


I ‘saw’ their invisibility in Complexo do Alemão.


 “Yes, there’s still one Candomble or Umbanda terreiro around here”, said a friend living there, “but they have to be very discrete, nobody can tell where the Terreiro is ”.


The last christian-capitalist crusade in Brazil has protestant roots and it keeps growing southwards. Some German missionaries were already there too, since Imperial times.


This new crusade, led by Neopentecostal evangelic churches and politicians, is also meant to kill our utopian Quilombo roots, one of the first movements to resist the beginning of capitalism and slavery in Brazil, since the sixteenth century. This context, very often matriarchal, was also frequently  joined by new christians who could be jews or even muslims again, european drop-outs, natives, mamelucos…

#Levanta quilombo= #Rise up, Quilombo, is one of the hashtags used by favela activists nowadays.

The history and culture of quilombos are not really taught at schools in Brazil. German history is usually more famous, from the Hollywood movies and magazines… anyway, schools and “good education” are not meant for everybody …


Some years ago in Rio, two black guys who really didn’t know anything about nazism sprayed the swastika as a symbol of rebellion on the monument of Zumbi, leader of quilombo dos Palmares, which  resisted both Portuguese and Dutch colonizers for one century.


Zumbi had the blessings of his orisha Ogum. Ogunyê!


In Brazilian syncretism, Ogun is often Saint George, who is represented as a Templar knight in this image I found on the web.


In some interpretations of St. George, the dragon he killed was the church that at the time refused to recognize his christian mission.


Somewhere around the Tempelhof district area, in Mariendorfspark, I found my temple of Ogun open-doors, as an ancient instrument of science, that was probably very useful during the colonization discoveries in the Americas.

Ogun’s element is metal. Besides warriors, he also protects and blesses travelers and technology.


One day I came to the temple and “heard” the silent conversation between Ogun and Mani, the nordic moon god [… ]


Syncretism with christian saints was also here to gradually erase the “pagan” traces: the magic dialogues people used to have with the forces of nature…


Freya, the nordic goddess of love and fertility, was merged with Virgin Mary,


as also was Yemanja, the queen of the seas, and mother of many Orishas in Afrobrazilian traditions


Since two years I offer Yemanja a white rose on her day, every 2nd of February. Here in Berlin d’Oxum, of sweet lakes and rivers… my mother Yemanja is also here.

Even when the fluid waters are converted into frozen fractals. She is always there.


Although western science and reason are the most popular “beliefs” here, “God” still survives as propaganda.


Nordic “pagan” vocabularies were gone, but not totally.


There are still some traces, necklaces…


there are still some angels, witches…


and good luck…


This is a place for exiles, hibernetics, new poetry and cut ups inspired by chance.

There are no ghosts from history or from the unforeseen for me to see now.


My dada Berlin… you in spring re-breeds me as again I can breathe you in, deeply…


Berliner Luft. Freiheit Luft.

Like the colorful kites from my days in Complexo do Alemão, when it was not the frantic flight of bullets.


In the sky we have in common, my two wor(l)ds dance freely and mingle above,


with the echo of the last hours in a small crowd,

[ to be continued…]



The artwork is a part of  the ongoing project A Portal Experiment. It took part, as a cartographic node,  in the exhibition autobiographical.rituals  (Transmediale/CTM Vorspiel 2017) and, as a printed publication, in ¡n[s]urgênc!as Program’s public presentation at Agora Collective in September 29th, 2018.