Brazil bringing Carnival to reinforce stereotypes

15:26, May 03, 2010      

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Samba star Carlinhos pirouetted, swapped hats with a Chinese boy and scoped out the Expo site - and the commissioner-general of Brazil's national pavilion looked on with satisfaction on Sunday as he plotted bringing Carnival to China.

"The idea is to show what Brazil is about, and when you're talking about Carnival, you're talking about many things: The diversity of the athletes who live in Brazil, the diversity of our industry, our innovation, our design and creativity. You're talking about biodiversity, because it includes different elements of our culture and our nature. So Carnival summarizes our culture in the best way," said Alessandro Teixeira, adding that "it's more than just naked men and women".

Carnival is an annual festival that sees various samba schools compete across Brazil for the most elaborate floats, peacocking dancers and toned and bronzed flesh 40 days before Easter. While the Olympic Games are billed the greatest show on Earth, Carnival is arguably the greatest spectacle.

It is also an industry, giving 140,000 residents in Rio de Janeiro alone jobs year-round. The Olympics go to Brazil in 2016, two years after the world's eighth-biggest economy hosts the FIFA soccer World Cup. Brazil will hold a week of Carnival activities at the Expo around the time it celebrates its independence on Sept 7. Carlinhos de Jesus, who like most Brazilians goes by one name, will be joined by 57 performers from the country. Brazil will also have a week celebrating its music and syncopated drum beats from June 3.

"We're going to bring a different perspective of what we call 'pulse'," he said. "We're going to combine culture and business.

"We're going to have Carnival on the streets of the Expo, on the stages. We want to spread the dancers all around the Expo site to have a larger impact."

Onlookers can also expect to see feathered headdresses, face paint and costumes that set Carnival a world apart.

Teixeira said that, unlike most countries at the Expo, Brazil is aiming to reinforce stereotypes about its people and passions to draw Chinese visitors rather than engage in a complex re-branding exercise.

This explains why much of the pavilion is dedicated to Brazil's love of soccer, interspersed with a digital floor map of 12 Brazilian cities and four hanging screens showing Brazilians walking, exercising and using new energy. Brazil is emerging as a world leader in new energy, a field China is also stepping into.

"We're using the Expo to attract the Chinese because they are crazy about football," he said, adding that sport works as an easy point-of-access to a vast and difficult-to-describe country. "Besides the energy of the natural resources that Brazil has, one of the main things is the energy of our people, and that's what makes us different."

Even the outside the pavilion, which looks like Amazon wilderness with its green plastic strips, but is in fact a reference to Brazilian furniture, includes a giant computer screen with a soccer game that visitors can interact with using their cell phones.

China now ranks as Brazil's largest trading partner in Asia. Last month, it eclipsed the United States as the largest buyer of Brazilian products worldwide. Meanwhile, China's exports to the country leapt by 1,838 percent from 1998 to 2008.

Teixeira said Brazil plans to grow its middle-class to 58 percent of its population to become the world's fifth-largest economy within 10 to 15 years, and that it is using the ongoing World Expo as a stepping stone to help achieve this goal.

Despite their apparently divergent cultures, the two trade giants have more in common than the fact that Brazil and Macao were both colonized by Portuguese settlers centuries ago.

"I think we have two things in common. People don't understand the Chinese sometimes. I don't think they are introverts. I think they are quite outward looking, especially compared to other countries in Asia," said Teixeira.

"If you see the number of parties, dancing, and people's representations of culture, you're going to see that China is one of the richest countries in the world. Another very important thing is that Chinese and Brazilians value the tradition of their culture, and that's not very common around the world.

"Everyone talks about 'G2' in the near future," said Teixeira, referring to the geopolitical power now bestowed upon China and the United States.

"But you have economies that are growing, and they can be great countries in the future, and that's China and Brazil, among others. So I see competition, but I also see cooperation."

Source: China Daily


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