Young Brazilians bring geek culture to São Paulo outskirts

. Jun 01, 2019
perifacon comic con brazil

If there was any doubt the 21st Century is all about inclusion, representativity, and recognition, Diana Prince, T’Challa, Carol Danvers and many others made sure to smash it with their superhuman strength. However, in real life, finding your space to fit in is often harder than defeating Thanos—especially if you are a poor kid in one of the most unequal countries in the world.

With the odds stacked against them, seven kids from the poor outskirts of São Paulo claimed their own place in a culture dominated by white-male representations and expensive hobbies. Together, they decided it was about time the geek world they love met their very own reality. With no money or experience (or superpowers) they managed to gather 4,000 people in Capão Redondo, one of the poorest neighborhoods of São Paulo, to talk about comics, games, movies, cosplay, digital culture, and fiction.

</span></p> <p><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Perifacon</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, the first nerd fest hosted in a peripheral Brazilian neighborhood, was born. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">More than just an event to buy superhero comics, Perifacon became a rare chance for young artists to exhibit their works and for kids to have access to a culture they would otherwise be unable to afford. What&#8217;s more, it helped put poorer communities on the forefront of an increasingly popular cultural movement, showing that these neighborhoods are </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">much more than the drugs-and-violence image</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> we see in the news </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Gabrielly Oliveira, a 23-year-old Perifacon producer, remembers that it all started when two of her friends wanted to go to CCXP, the Brazilian edition of Comic-Con and currently </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">the largest comic convention in the world</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. However, only one of them managed to save enough money for the tickets, which start at BRL 100 a day for students. Wishing to share the experience with more friends, they decided to put together their own comic convention “with two tables and a BRL 2,000 crowdfunding campaign,” she told </span><b>The Brazilian Report</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We ended up having 4,000 people occupying an entire building. But we see Perifacon as a joint creation. We would not have done that by ourselves. It was a major achievement.”</span></p> <h2>Mission <del><b>im</b></del><b>possible</b></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Success was by no means easy. As Ms. Oliveira recalls, the first idea came up last September and took three months of extensive planning, until the due date, in March. Organizing such a large event would have already been a challenge for professional producers with an actual budget. Perifacon’s team, however, was made up of students, who work during the day and </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">had little time or money</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to contribute. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“In the last month before the event, we had meetings every night. No one could plan during the day, so we spent many nights awake, but that’s because we committed ourselves to it,” Ms. Oliveira recalls. “We also tried to make it as professional as we could. We provided forms for everything: for cosplayers, for artists, for the press. We also had to select many of them, because there were budget and space limitations.”</span></p> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-18358" src="" alt="perifacon" width="1280" height="853" srcset=" 1280w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 1280px) 100vw, 1280px" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The solution found for the budget was a crowdfunding campaign, as well as sponsorship from career management agency ChiaroScuro Studios—which is also behind CCXP. The cause also attracted the goodwill of some business, such as print shops, who provided discounts. Publishers, shops and food suppliers also paid to show off their products, besides agreeing to sell goods at cheaper prices to make sure the public would be able to consume them. They also managed to use the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Fábrica de Cultura</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> building in Capão Redondo—a public cultural center maintained by São Paulo government, with proper rooms for workshops, dance classes, recording studios, and many other activities.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Tickets would also have been the most obvious source of revenue, but heroes don’t make it easier for themselves, right?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It was 100-percent free for artists and the public. We didn’t want to charge people, because we believe cultural production has to be democratic and one of the ways to do that is by making it free,” said Ms. Oliveira. </span></p> <h2>If you don’t have a seat, create your own table</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">By taking the financial burden away, Perifacon created </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">fertile soil for creativity to blossom</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. This was on show in the cosplay contest and workshops, but, above all, on the artist alley. At first, 200 people applied for a spot, but due to space limitations, 44 were chosen. Many of them were exhibiting their works at an art event for the very first time. Some had never seen anything like it before. For the 23-year old illustrator and designer Lucas Ponce, experiencing the event without money issues ended up reflecting on the creative process itself. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“It made such a difference because you are not feeling pressed to sell to cover your expenses. Independent artists know how expensive it is to produce artwork. I’ve seen deeply authorial works at Perifacon, you could see they were an extension of the artist,” he told </span><b>The Brazilian Report.</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The experience of connecting an art event with life on the periphery of São Paulo created a space in which people could recognize themselves as a part of geek culture, instead of viewing it from a far.</span></p> <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-18359" src="" alt="Perifacon" width="4154" height="2769" srcset=" 4154w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 4154px) 100vw, 4154px" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“I did not consider myself a nerd because people always called me that in a negative way. I came closer to this universe because of Perifacon. The first place where I recognized the things I like was the one I produced, because I did not have money to attend others,” says Ms. Oliveira. “I feel like there’s little representativity. Many YouTube channels that talk about nerd culture do not bother about being 100% white and they should, considering </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">half of our population is black</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">. People are here, so why aren’t they speaking?”  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For Mr. Ponce, Perifacon “was amazing, because I live in a very similar place. There was a connection with both the public and other artists.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In spite of the differences, they do not see Perifacon as a competitor to millionaire geek events in the city, such as AnimeFriends—that </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">gathered 50,000 people</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> last year and now gained a spin-off edition in Rio de Janeiro—or the CCXP, with its </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">262,000-strong audience</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in 2018. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We don’t see ourselves as competitors. We want to bring people that go to CCXP to our event too. The idea is to have everyone walking in the same aisle, in spite of their origins, and looking each other in the eyes,” says Ms. Oliveira. </span></p> <h2>Episode 2</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If it is up to the organizers, the saga of Perifacon will run and run. For 2020, they plan to hold the event it in another area of the city, bringing geek culture to as many people as possible. They also look forward to participating in public biddings to be able to receive financial aid and, according to Ms. Oliveira, they are in talks with companies looking for sponsorships.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Through a </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">new fundraising campaign</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, they plan to </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">obtain resources</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> for an office and enough financial aid to allow three of the members to work on the event full-time. Also, they would like to invest in multimedia content productions related to geek and pop culture. “We have lots of ideas, we just need the money. We are poor people from the outskirts, we have to keep fighting to maintain this project because we want to protect our artists. They are our treasures.”

Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Most recently, she worked as an Editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.

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