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Movements and Stillness: Rosana Paulino’s Tecelãs and Experimentations of The Flesh


This paper focuses on Rosana Paulino’s installation Tecelãs, meaning weavers, from 2003, which features several ceramic nests and insect-women wrapped in thread. Tecelãs speaks to the experience of black women in Brazil and visually represents how in order to survive the precarity of black life, “woman pulls from within herself the threads with which she makes her cocoon - where she remakes, dies, and is born again.” The analysis of the paper flows between Paulino’s installation, performance studies and black studies, theories of the flesh, confinement, and diverse black feminist freedom movements. The main argument of this paper is to say that for black women and girls, literal and figurative spaces of confinement—such as living in the periphery or the marked black body—are also spaces of performative experimentations towards freedom. Following Harvey Young, Harriet Jacobs, Sarah Jane Cervenak, and Alexander Weheliye, I elaborate on their ideas of stillness, “movements in confinement,” mental and physical wandering, and experimentations of the flesh in order to take seriously their call for thinking alternative modes of freedom movements and rethink what counts as performances of the body. I argue that the construction of cocoons by Paulino’s weavers, and their actions of weaving and reconfiguring the body, metaphorically mirrors the spaces of enclosure that restrict the movements of the body, while also allowing for transformation and freedom planning.

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