Zila

My father has always been very absent in my life. I have very few memories of visiting my paternal relatives, but when that happened these moments were very good, mainly because of our connection with music. I knew that they were extremely poor in their childhood, and my grandfather was extremely violent and hostile.

After getting closer to the students movement when I was 14, I was very impacted by the feminist discourse. That made me rethink about the women’s role in a global context, but also within my own family’s structure. Then, I met my grandmother. 

Mother of four children, hairdresser by training, housewife by obligation and mother of saint by passion, Zila carries the burden and personifies various layers of the Brazilian population. From an indigenous origin, daughter of two “fathers of saint”, chiefs of the afrobrazilian religion Umbanda, she was born and raised at Morro do Bumba, in Niteroi, a city 14km from Rio, where she lives until today. She makes a living from the salary she earns as a maid at the city hall and lives with three of her four children in her own house, which is also a Umbanda terreiro.

I have been documenting my grandmother’s life and the relationships she establishes with her religion, her family, her word and the world. At the same time it is a historical record of a woman who is, partly, a personification of the Brazilian working class, it is also an attempt to recover my past and understand my origins.