Artists Works in Progress

Nara Heemann: Concept/direction
team: Lucía Galleno, Maristela Ono, Nara Heemann, Paula Hernandez and elderly women from Lima

from the series Hysterikós - from womb to womb"


At the IIIrd Annual Seminar Performance and Politics in the Americas the team will be creating and presenting Thread / Fio / Hilo.
Some questions we will be addressing with this work are related to prejudices about identities of elderly people in western societies, about the presence of their artistic work in the public sphere as well as about old age as a form of activism. In this sense the discussion proposed fits into the themes "Globalization and Cultural Policy", "Migration and Cultural Identities" and "Performance as Activism". Thread / Fio / Hilo is part of the series of performances Hysterikós, which will be taking place in different countries throughout 2002 and 2003.
The people working on it live in different countries, there are is little financial support available and nevertheless we found a way of creating together a network, which strengthens both our individual works as well as the collaborative creations.
Hysterikós is a project in which a specific group of women from different cultural and professional backgrounds come together to develop several artistic works based on elderly women's stories. In this sense, parallel to the artistic research we are developing with Hysterikós intercultural and interdisciplinary performance practices.


Many of the elderly women today in Brazil didn't have a formal profession. They belong to a generation of women who worked for the well being of the family. And still today this kind of job is not validated in the same way as others. For some, these women are not eligible to speak, because of that status gap, because of their age. Many of them have been excluded from their family's live, a tragedy so common nowadays, which does not only affect these women: the younger members don't know what came before them. Life's histories remain hidden, and behind them, lays a huge treasure of experiences on migration, languages, "crossculturality", and on being forgotten as a holder of cultural knowledge.
Cultural identities though are embedded in an ongoing process of embodyment of that knowledge, they are always under construction relying on that material. But what happens in our societies, which stresses youthfulness, celebrating beautiful youth opposed to ugly "old age"? The old body and the old voice is not attractive enough to serve as an life's example, or even just to be heard.

"Es regnet,
Gott segnet
Die Erde wird nass!"
(It rains,
God blesses,
The soil will be wet!)

My grandmother sung that to me, smiling out of her pain from a broken hip, excusing herself for the "broken voice", trying to explain both in Portuguese and German the joy she had as a little child, whenever "you could feel the rain coming soon, and the cows and her 'little babies' would come down the hill, rushing to find protection!" She was born in the south of Brazil, her family living in a German community and growing up speaking different German dialects and Portuguese. She had almost no access to school. Today her memories of a life lived in poor conditions in the country side seem lost in the city where her children and grandchildren became all "studied people" who rush from one appointment to another. The richness of her crosscultural experiences, of her perception of nature, of her artistic abilities, switching from singing to explaining with gestures and mimicry, weaving rugs and stories remains an unknown treasure even to her.


During seven days the Hysterikós team will be developing with elderly women living in Lima a theatrical presentation as part of a long-term series of artistic works: Hysterikós - from womb to womb.

Hysterikós - Greek, "related to the womb".
Hysteria - wild uncontrollable excitement, commonly associated with feminine emotional outburst, with derogatory connotation.

Hysterikós - from womb to womb will be taking place throughout 2002 and 2003 in different forms. Interviews with elderly ladies, some of them living in poor nursing homes from Brazil, are going to serve as the basis for several performances with/about them, about their stories and histories. It is planned a series of story telling done by "grannies" at the City Market of Curitiba. March 2002 Nara Heemann has performed "Performance Matemática Fluxo" at the International Theatre Festival of Curitiba. In 2003 it is intended an intensive workshop, where younger women with different working experiences and cultural backgrounds will develop a theatrical work based on the material collected throughout 2002.
In Lima the issue will be elderly women's crosscultural experiences, their migration processes and memories, as well as other themes, which they might find relevant in this sense. We will be using live music, dance, text and anything else the participants consider necessary to "weave" a Thread / Fio-story.
The first contacts with the women are going to happen previous to the seminar, but the actual work will be done within 7 days during the meeting.

Seven days to weave a story.
Seven days to make the Earth.
Seven days to find a voice,
a microphone to the world.
Seven days of creation,
Growth, Death, Rebirth.

With this work we will be asking:

Who is eligible to be on stage? Who has the proper qualifications to take part in an international performance seminar? May "non-artists" use the theatrical space without being identified as amateur? May old people say something about globalization? May "non-scholars" explain something about cultural identities? Is not the very embodyment of old age and its presence in the public sphere nowadays activism?

1. pessoas estudadas = with university graduation

2. (Hi-)stories of Grannies at the City Market. The City Market of Curitiba is one of the last specimens of its type in Curitiba. It has been spontaneously a place for social contact including elderly people. The citiy govrbenmt plans 2002 to "modernize" it, giving to the market a Shopping Center character. This will probably have the consequence, of making it impossible to have na infomal meeting place for elderly customers and workers, among them women too. They will probably loose this space for social contact since they don't "fit" into the new design.