Photography: Luane Chinaide
Back in 2003 the Brazilian government passed a law ensuring that all schools taught African and Afro-Brazilian history. Fast forward to 2015, when Denise Oliveira and Raísa Carvalho decided that things weren’t changing fast enough. They decided to bring African histories to young children by dressing up as warrior princesses and telling stories about the incredible Kings and Queens that don’t appear in the history books.
They’ve since worked with over a thousand children – and they’re looking to work with more.
What does Adeola mean?
It’s a word in Yoruba and means crown of wealth. For us it can be our hair, it’s the ancestry that we can carry. This crown is symbolised in the turbans, or headwraps, that Adeola’s princesses wear and give to the children. It’s the idea that the children gain this knowledge and also pass it on, treating others with more affection and empathy.
Can you describe what happens when Adeola goes into schools?
Schools get in touch with us, usually schools that feel the need to work ethno-racial issues in a more dynamic and playful way. We dress as princesses who are black sisters and warriors of an African queen. They travel back in time to find stories about kings and queens and tell these to the children. Depending on the age of the children, we adapt the stories and bring references according to the need of those children.
Can you give us an example of how the kids respond?
Over three years, we’ve worked with about 1,200 children. Once a girl reacted saying that they were not princesses because we were unlike any princess she had ever seen. They are also fuelled by the stereotype we have historically suffered. There are children who are delighted and when they win the turban crown, it is as if they create an ancestral connection at that moment.
What about their teachers or families?
Some teachers say that it changes self-esteem of Black children, who start to recognize themselves in a more positive way. Non-Black children have a chance to respect the other children more. Children were able to connect the content of Afro-Brazilian history with the visit of the princesses, even after a year.
Why do you do what you do?
Raisa and I are friends and partners and we experience many things together. We can see our friendship strengthened from the moment we begin to study the history of Black women and our history. We strengthen ourselves and recognize ourselves in this ancestral story and see ourselves as more beautiful and powerful. It’s an awakening, to go in our childhood and find out about our history, things that we did not see. It’s an investigation.
What is happening with Adeola at the moment?
We are planning our channel on Youtube and looking for partnership with municipalities and companies concerned with quality education and diversity, that can finance Adeola in public schools. We’re strengthening these partnerships so Adeola can reach more children.
What’s changed for you over the last six months?
I was able to connect and meet a lot of interesting people. I am very much believing in the strength of Red Bull Amaphiko to meet new Black royalties, within the network itself, in other countries. We have a lot of power together.
Find Adeola online.