It's been so long since I've had this experience that it's hard to write about the details.
I am very late in the activities and I feel I need to give an explanation. The recent events in my country have been extra ordinary and have consumed my time.
You in the US understand the setback in every way that Trump represents, and here in Brazil we have just elected something even worse than the Trump.
Today in Brazil, there is an increased climate of uncertainty and fear of the future.
This is particularly true for teachers, artists, black people, women, indigenous people and environmental activists.
I represent many of these categories and I'm afraid. And I have lost nights of sleep and I have had nightmares, seeing that the place I live, not only Brazil, but Goiàs, state where I live is at risk.
There have already been reprocusions. There have been increased attacks on members of the landless movement (a social movement that fights for the rights of small farmers and families that work the land), teachers are being filmed and accused of indroctination for giving critical classes or even for talking in critical terms about the military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985, leaders of indigunoius tribes and quilombos have killed, their lands are more threatened than ever, increased attacks on the LGBT community, etc...
I am talking about these events, because they are part of thr scenario that we face today and it is a scenario includes an increased threat to the already precarious ecological balance of Brazil. This balance is of importance not only to the country but also to the world. In a country that is already racked first in assassinations of environmental activists, declarations of ending protections and opening up vast areas (including the amazon) to commercial interests have only worsen the situation. It is very worrying and the world needs to know what is happening here.
With regard to colorants, prior to the elections, I practically reused the fabric dyes and reduced them for a few hours to get a concentrate of the paint.
The eucalyptus got a little weak and the avocado did not work. It was weak and very rusty. It has raised the question of how to preserve these inks.
I used coffee and the blackberrys (as they are in season) to make new inks and I think they were the best results.
The process was the same, reducing them until they were thicker.
I would very much like to have use fruits from the cerrado, but when I was making the reductions it was not fruit season yet. I did try using the peelings of fruits like mutamba (it is used by the traditional people to make juice and also wash hair) but it did not work.
Later, i was distracted by the political events I described and could not focus on much else including, unfortunately, the course activities.
I am learning to deal with the situation and hope to return to these activities now. I do not know if I can still teach in Brazil, but I keep my excitement about education, the defense of the environment and the search for new solutions.
The following is a link to a companion explaining our political situation in English to anyone who is interested.
I had many chalenges in this session, but i learn a lot trying to find solutions. It was richenss in the social relationship but also substancial in the way i discover more about the enviroment i am living and also nice to understand the quesmestry process involved in the dye.
Trying to think about how to get the natural dye, i thought about the organic market that happens almost everyday in the town, but they rarely have any onions. One of my old students is the daughter of the owner of a supermarket so I asked her to collect and keep onion skins that they usually throw away. I thought it was a good opportunity to involve her in the project. I also went to some of the other supermarkets and asked them to save the skins for me too.
Its very funny, actually they have a specifically day of the week to peel the onions, but most of them are not purple but the white ones.
As I was afraid that I wouldn't have enough skins I looked for avocados and other solutions, as I believe that the Brazilian savana has a wide richness in these things.
I watched a video about avocado natural ink and decided to try it. I also think that it makes sense to try it as it would respect the environment around me more. If the local producer doesn't have onions it must be for a certain reason. Also around here there are many avocado trees despite it is not being originally from the Brazilian savana.
There was a girl with a big basket of avocados in the market. She gave me 3 which were too mature to sell.
For that entire week (and actually until today), someone gives me bags of onion skins every time I go to the supermarket! I collected so much, that I now don't know what to do with them!
I researched natural inks in Brazilian savana and I discovered many different trees, barks, leafs and fruits. I couldn't find some of them in the town, but its already wonderful to know that!
Along with the avocado and the onion skin I also used pomegranate from my garden and eucalyptus leaf and bark which from a tree that had cut and left on the roadside. (I had gone to the my friend's house to pick up some stuff that night, and he was complaining about the eucalyptus tree and I remembered that it was a good mordant and a possible ink! I stopped in the middle of the road to collect huge pieces of wood, bark and leaves!)
Wondering about the project, I realize that I don't have access to woollen yarn and the cotton trees are not in bloom right now, so I decide to ink use old clothes and rags. I thought about going to the seamstress but I managed to get some from another teacher that had some left over from another activity.
I couldn't find anything that would work as a mordant in the pharmacy or in the market so I had to use natural ones. I was looking for a pan to use and my aunt gave me two rusty pans, in the material we read it said that rust could serve as a mordant so I use that!
First of all I washed the fabric using natural water.
Them I filled one of the rusty pans with water and let it boil for a while with vinegar.
In another pan I used water and eucalyptus bark
And in another rusty pan I boiled the water with the avocado.
Apart from the avocado all these pans was supposed to serve as a mordant as well. But the eucalyptus water gave a incredible color, so I decide to try it as a dye.
I left te fabric in the pan with vinegar an water over night.
The first dye I tried was the avocado one, as the mordant and dye were already mixed together.
I was expecting to get a pink colour with the avocado, but it turned into a deep purple. I imagine it was because of the rust, but I liked the color anyway.
The dying process:
The next day I washed the fabric that I had left soaking in the rust and vinegar mordant.
I made a white onion skin dye in a rusty pan and the water became black. I put the fabric in it and it became green.
I repeated the process with the onion in a normal pan. It first became an orange solution but then turned green as well, I imagine because of the mordant once again.
Then, I wanted to get a pink from the avocado but still have the pomegranate. I put them together and the colour was kind of yellow/orange similar to the onion skins. When I soak the fabric in it, it turned purple again.
I did same process with the eucalyptus leaf and it bacame purple as well.
Well, the rusty mordant changed the colours a lot! It was huge interference. I would like to try it with salt as a mordant or something else. But iI didn't have any, fabric left. I was going to use rags (for cleaning floors), but they were too dirty too use.
Was really nice to do this experiment. I feel that it really started to involve the city with the project. People are asking me how it went, they are curious about it and they seem to want to be part of it.
I wanted to make and exhibition or do something else with the dyed fabric but I didn't have a complete idea that made sense and that involved the city, having an ecological and sustainable knowledge or having a nice presentation.
I wanted to make a display of little pieces of color or glue the dyed fabric on wood with beeswax. But in the results of the color and texture weren't what I expected and I so I gave up on those ideias.
I am still trying to find a solution for this. But in the pictures you can some sketches, wondering about drawing something with charcoal sticks or to write something that makes sense for this reality.
I found the text very interesting. I lived in Belgium for a while and so I read the text in the original dutch and it was interesting to read about the Commons and the general idea of the concept along side my experience and memories of Belgian culture and social structure.
I have seen similar ideas appearing and gaining traction for example with the self sustainable communities, permaculture groups and even in the democratic schools. In Brazil, at least, we see these examples in many places but I believe its a tendency all around the world, as we have the wwoof.net site and other initiatives.
The democratic schools are just like this, they build a structure of rules together with parents, teachers and students. Any problem, idea or suggestion are discussed in assembly. Some of these schools apply the "Democratic" part literally and reproduce outside society. The students elect a mayor or a president and their representatives in the school. The children take responsibility and deal with planning, conflicts and different ways to make things work in a better way. But others are more flexible. They have the assembly structure and the collective approach to problem solving but not necessarily the formal roles.
I believe that the marjory of commons have arisen today because they are looking for a new way to build a different world. One that has in it more equality and is a fairer society, using things like crowndfounding to organize themselves. But also it got me thinking about a different example of the commons from history, one which today is partly sustained buy the government because of past injustices. Goiás (the state in Brazil where I live) is home to the biggest Quilombo** community in the country. They fought for their freedom and hid themselves in places of difficult access, such as in the mountains to escape the brutality of slavery. These communities where a kind of common and today still work in similar ways, although now they have support from the government (this is always tenuous, but now even more so due to one of the leading presidential candidates promising that if he wins he will strip away their rights to the land they occupy and their self determination). There, they elect their own community representatives, including a president, and decide collectively how resources, infrastructure and their rights will be manage. They have some jurisdiction over their own territory with some finical and infrastructure support from the federal government.
The basis for these communities and the more recent commons phenomenon is that they are trying to build a new world where people respect each other more and create new rules together to live by. Its funny, but I went to a meeting this week around the same time I started to read this text and I realised that it was like a illustration of what the director of the school was trying to say. She started a school based on "natural learning", a method that was made famous by a school in Ecuador. Basically the facilitator (there are no teachers) is not aloud to interfere in anything or to propose activities to the children, unless the children propose it themselves or ask directly about something. The director, however, is trying to build something beyond the school and to create a kind of "life style" based on creating collectively and on exchange. For example labor and knowhow can be exchanged for a place to stay and meals. But in my opinion this method has limites. We still live in a capitalist society and you will need money at some point to buy necessities or even health care and so on.
I think the ideas o the commons is a beautiful initiative and I want to live in a world where it is possible to collectively create our own rules and have some self determination. I think there are still many obstacles to achieve this however and we need to overcome these in order to create it.
** The Quilombos are communities composed of run away slaves who fled from the plantations and mines during the colonial period in Brazil. The Quilombos exited ever since the first African slaves were brought here but they exploded in number between the 18th and 19th centuries. Many communities where organised in similar ways to the traditional methods in Africa.
There was a division of tasks and everyone worked. A leader usually commanded the Quilombo. They lived mainly from subsistence agriculture and fishing. They could practise their cultural and religious traditions freely this way and much of these traditions and rituals survive to this day because of their resistance.
The recycled paper experience was a little laborious with many challenges. The first obstacles was the collection of the material including the paper to recycle and the equipment needed to do the process.
A week ago, I visited the bars, restaurants and stores around my work explaining the project and asking them to collect paper for me but as it is peek vacation season here they all pretty much where too busy to help.
At the same time I visited the local seamstress looking for fabric to use as a sieve. When I explained the project she told me she had many magazines from the 70's that she was throwing away. So with this visit I was able to acquire two elements of what I needed.
I had already made recycled paper when I was a kid and more recently I was experimenting with it in relation to zero waste. But when I moved I had to place some of my things in storage and didn't have those materials with me. I wanted to solve this in a way where I did not need to buy anything, making or reusing the materials I needed.
My first idea was to use a workman's sieve, which is used in here on construction sites to sift the rocks from sand or to sort out beans or coffee on the plantations.
I lost a couple of days thinking how I would do it. Overlapping the screen over itself or with another material. A possible solution was to use the fabric that I got from the seamstress. She had explained to me that it was generally used locally to strain milk to make dairy products or corn to make cornflower. I sewed it onto the workman's sieve and it looked like it was going to work until I realised it was way to big for the plastic basin I was using.
With time running out and unable to find another container big enough I decided that I would have to go to the market and see if I could find something smaller. I found a kind of pan sieve that came in different sizes and was flat which meant they could fit neatly into each other.
I cut up the old needlework magazines and used a hand mixer to mix them up. I don't have a blender but the mixer worked (although the outcome wasn't quite what I expected). The final paper had big pieces and it was a little bulky, but I did my best. I also decide to use saffron to give a different coloration, more interesting than dirty grey, and also was the easiest pigment I had to hand.
We are right in the middle of winter vacation in Brazil and I live in a town that is very dependent on tourism. Everybody is working around the clock right now during high season it's hard to get people to participate in workshops and things like this at the moment. But during the afternoons my neighbour babysits in the house next door. We share a garden so as I was preparing to make the paper one of the girls came over to have a look. She was very keen to help and got stuck in with the mission, which means that the results you are seeing was produced by four hands, mine and those of Luana, 6 years old.
We did the first test and saw that it worked so we started to add different elements that we found in our garden to the recycled paper. We used littler purple flowers, pieces fo the cotton tree and dry leaves.