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Art is for what?

 Kithi & Edvaldo Passos

March 26, 2019

Photos and videos:
Kithi and Edvaldo Passos

In this report we present the Burrinha projects, carried out by the Coletivo do Bairro do Diamante; and Bate Latas, developed as an extension of the art discipline, in Mata de São João. During the process, we faced a question from the people interviewed: what is art for? And we started to discuss, in an opinionated way, about the theme proposed by the population.


Behind the procession of the baianas comes Burrinha, all dressed up, with a sweet look parading with joy!


The Bonfim party is the moment when artistic expressions, especially musical, gain visibility in Mata de São João.


And because of the Burrinha Project, carried out by the Cultural Collective of Bairro do Diamante, we find the Bate Latas Project, carried out by Professor André Braga, as an extension of the arts discipline, at the Municipal School Valdete Seixas de Oliveira, located in the Amado district Bahia.

History teacher Julieta Andrade, a 30-year-old citizen in Mathematics, together with Marcos Borel, brought Burrinha to be the "mascot" of the Bate Latas project.


And as soon as it arrived, it enchanted everyone ... even us at Assum Preto!

Watch the video and see how Burrinha arrived, who managed and who makes her live ...


The extension projects in art, at this school, are action proposals designed and carried out by teachers with the intention of providing students with an experience with their own culture.


Attentive to the demands presented by the students and believing in the power of art as an element that articulates people's emotional lives, expanding the senses and providing the inner experience, impossible to be described by words, the projects intend to guide the student's gaze for understanding one's own culture, and oneself as possible protagonists of their traditions.

The Bate Latas project started 14 years ago and started from the direct observation of the teacher on the behavior of the students who lived drumming in the rooms.


Inspired by the percussive movements of Bahia, art teacher André Braga started the project using scraps as an input to produce the instruments.


As Maurício, a member of the project, tells us in the audio below.

Maurício fala do início do projeto -
00:00 / 00:00

With the students' musical spirit and the teacher's desire to perform, the project begins to flow.


The instruments made from cans have been refined over time and gained the sound of traditional instruments.

Prof. Andre Braga talks about the beginning of the project

The project opened registration for the Matense community because it had alumni interested in remaining in the percussive group.

However, as not everything is just flowers, to support Bate Latas, Professor André needs to have a rower's chest, and a rower that swims in any type of tide.

The lack of adequate space to rehearse and create the instruments is one of the difficulties faced by the group.


The sports court is currently available for the workshop. Place where the acoustics disturb the hearing of the instruments.


In the past, it was possible to use the school's internal patio, where the sound is more clearly propagated, an essential condition for music teaching.

Today the rehearsal takes place on the street, on the school's sidewalk.

The instruments are made by the teacher, in his spare time, together with a locksmith friend.

In the video below André talks about the items needed for the project to function properly and increase the number of participants



But what is this project really for? I just hear noise!


That was the answer I heard from a lady when I asked if she knew Bate Latas and what she thought of the project.


From her speech, I decided to ask, randomly, for the city of Mata de São João, what people thought of Bate L atas and Burrinha as projects carried out at school, keeping the anonymity of the sources.


I heard twenty people aged between 25 and 70 years old. Of the twenty people interviewed, fifteen could not understand the importance of art for the education of human beings.

So I decided, as an educating art formed by the Catholic University of Salvador and visual artist, to put my opinion on the subject here.

I'll start with the simplest and most apparent benefits. That which is visible without any effort to understand.

A child or adolescent is in a phase of life in which the urge to do, for action is much greater than for contemplation.

It must be so for the maintenance of the species itself. They are active. They are always on the move and need to create, invent, discover and surpass their own limits.

It is this curiosity and willingness to go beyond what is set by society that drives new world discoveries in all areas and, consequently, our evolution as human beings.

One of the benefits of the participation of the child or adolescent in art workshops, be it the Bate Latas project, painting, theater, dance, donkey or others ... is the occupation.

Art workshop is synonymous with occupation with specialized monitoring!

Mind busy, healthy mind!

Many adults feel the need to contribute to the growth of their species through the transmission of knowledge. What you learned during your journey. These are the masters necessary for understanding and building knowledge.

Generally, adults in charge of artistic-cultural projects are involved in promoting a “mental” quality of life through the exercise of creativity.

Learning to paint, to interpret, to dance, to play a musical instrument, to sing ... requires discipline, continuity and persistence. The learning of these essential factors in art workshops makes a difference in the person's life, regardless of the field of action that decides to work or work.

Doing some artistic activity does not mean becoming an artist. This path is just another possibility for the expression of life.

But, there is still another movement that art makes possible: mental sanity.

In the 40s of the last century, an American philosopher, called Sussane Langer, decided to understand the value of art and creation for human consciousness.

She designed a systematic study and came to the conclusion that in addition to scientific and verbal language, we have another type of language that is present in art, called presentational language.

The presentational language corresponds to art and it contains symbolic representations of emotional, material, spiritual and intellectual attributes.

In the 90s, neuroscientist Howard Gardner takes a look at Sussane's text and dedicates a chapter of his book Arte, Mente e Cebra to the author.

And it is through presentational language, whether we are creating or consuming art, that we are able to articulate our emotional life.

It tells us about the symbolic openness contained in art. Expressions based on what is observed, but also emotionally felt by the artist.


The work of art presents open symbols that are capable of a wide reading of senses and meanings. Too subjective for the language of speech.


When we speak or write we use the word, this set of letters has a clear meaning, a definition. When speaking or writing "home", people who have learned Portuguese will know exactly what the word refers to. There's no doubt. Home is home. It can vary in size, style, location, but it remains a home.

In art there is no such definition, what is expressed is broad, open and therefore it is possible to shelter several possibilities of interpretation.


The meaning of the work is directly linked to what we learn and feel, so each one has his / her understanding and reading of the work, which is almost always difficult to be reported.


The artwork always remains in motion, even if apparently static!

What do we feel when we hear a song, see a painting, a sculpture or watch a dance show?


Let us remember that the images of the churches are also sculptures and more, each space has its own symbols that represent something or not for the people who watch the work.


Everything depends on the experience and experience of each one.


A play that speaks of Jesus' death and resurrection is also an artistic expression. An interpretation of history.


But that piece or work in the gallery is also history and represents a state of dialogue between the artist and his time.


Thus, the reading we make of each work experienced is ours, it is unique and it is not transferable.


We interact with the work from a place unattainable by the other that observes us. A place “without text”, without formalities or rules.


The work portrays a piece of ourselves. We understand the work of art from our feelings, values, beliefs, experiences ... and as much as we want it cannot be "reported in its entirety" through other symbols, such as writing or the verbalization of writing: speech .

But the dialogue between us and the work exists!


The work is complete and for each one of us it presents itself in a different way.

What's more, the same work can reflect different movements for the same individual. Everything depends on the place occupied during the journey in time.


I will tell you a story of mine.


At the end of the 80s, I got to know Van Gogh's painting “Os Girassóis” through books. I detested this work with all my strength. Even if teachers and the world stressed its importance. For me it was a vase of flowers and period!


"In order to overcome that high yellow tone that I reached this summer, I had to overcome limits." (Van Gogh says in a letter to Brother Theo)

Van Gogh made 5 works with the same theme. They are spread over several museums in different cities around the world.

Photo taken from the site:

Time passed and I went to live in England in the 90s.


Visiting the National Gallery in London, there was Van Gogh's painting.


I was paralyzed immediately. It was indescribably beautiful and inexplicably colored. The colors shone. It was too alive to be just paints on canvas!


I went back there many, many times to sit in front of the Sunflowers and I realized that in that land, gray and gloomy with clouds laden with rain, the painting reminded me of the intensity and the color of my place of origin, Brazil!


I was emotionally connected to the work. The painting became my sun. It was very difficult for me, used to the intensity of the light of the Brazilian northeast, to live that gray reality of London.


Due to the number of visits and silent dialogues, we became one and the whole, me and the work!


At that time, I didn't have that understanding today. I just wanted to be there at least once a month.


Imagine that at that moment in my life I was away from Brazil for over a year.


Today, for sure, with the various experiences imprinted by time and living with our sun, the effect of the painting on me, immediately, probably will not be the same! I have changed and my look at the work will also be transformed.

Is it possible to understand how important this work was for maintaining my emotional balance? Even if you didn't understand?

Leaving the example ...



What kind of dialogue do we have with  the art? Can we decipher in words  what are we feeling?


Inside there is a speech pulsing in the form of tuning that can express various feelings such as repulsion, approach, enchantment, anger, compassion, wisdom, acceptance... - text or speech - only for having identified a "feeling".


In contact with art there is a kind of  dialog whose "inexplicable" content helps us  organize our emotional field.  

And what happens when we learn and allow ourselves to express ourselves through art?


Imagine the amount of tension and thoughts that circulate in our mind along with the feelings. Everything trapped there and already wanting to overflow, get out, evacuate from the  our head.  We looked for words to explain this tangle and we didn't find it. Can you imagine?  How to free ourselves from this  movement?


There are several possibilities: the  meditation, contact with nature, sport, art...  


Therefore, we can say, for the specific case of the Bate Latas project, that when learning to play a musical instrument, children/adolescents are close to the opportunity to appropriate a new form of expression of their inner world, in addition to learning discipline, musical technique, perseverance... as I said before.


And how is that important?


Imagine that you are feeling sadness, depression, anger, fear  or any other uncomfortable feeling, even joy when euphoric... but you are in no way able to talk about your  emotional state,  and even if you speak, the other listener cannot understand your speech  perfectly, nor help you with your psychological needs.


Even incomprehensible, the need to speak exists. The tangle is there pulsating, stimulating and propelling your rational brain to do something to get rid of the "nuisance" somehow.


Art helps us to release this verbally unsaid state,  causing an internal balance. An emotional maintenance. This movement can happen by "making" art or "watching" art, like me and Os Girassóis!


This is why art frees. And that's why it is so important to teach art in schools and in any environment that needs to restore people's emotional balance.

Note that art is present in all serious institutions for the education and/or re-education of human beings. We see the strong presence of art in APAE, in psychological disorders treatment centers, in  elderly, in health centers...

The teaching-learning of art, of  manner  which is carried out by the Bate Latas and Burrinha Project, is one of the ways  healthier for the  maintaining the emotional balance of young people.  


In addition to everything, there is in these projects a connectivity with ancestral memory,  with the reality experienced by the participants  and with the cultural making of its own  region,  cooperating too  for the strengthening  of self-esteem, a necessary item to maintain life in a dignified way!

“The tonal structures that we call music have an intimate resemblance to human feelings”    Sussane Langer



  The donkey is the name given to a Bahian game that resembles the suits of kings, whose difference is the presence of the donkey and the presence of chulas, a work song found in the Bahian recôncavo.

In Mata de São João the donkey dances alongside the riding ox.

Adalto, the dancer, talks about the riding ox

The dress is composed of a colorful "clothes" in the shape of the animal, with head and everything, which when dressed imitates a person mounted on a donkey or donkey, an animal commonly used in the first half of the 19th century to transport goods in northeastern Brazil.


The donkey was so important for the development of the region, it won a song by Luiz Gonzaga:


The donkey is our brother


"It is true, my Lord

This story of the sertão

Father Vieira spoke

That the donkey is our brother

And on the flight to Egypt

When the judge announced

The donkey was transport

Who took Our Lord

Vosmicê find out

That the donkey has value

Now, my patriot

In the name of my backlands

Follow your vicar

In that tender gratitude

Receive our tribute

To Donkey, our brother


Introduced at this year's Bonfim Festival, the donkey was brought by the teachers to the school in order to present and build with the students the very cultural history of their people.


The tambourine and the viola, in general, are the instruments that put the donkey next to the corner to dance. In the case of Mata de São João, Bate Latas was invited by Marcos Borel to make the soundtrack.

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