Monday, August 23, 2021

We Make The Path By Walking

Paulo Freire - Reading the Word to Read the World

Nat Pyper, Conscientização Hole 1, 2, 3 (2021)
Photo: Larry Wolf (2021)

Nat Pyper, Conscientização Hole 1, 2, 3 (2021)
Photo: Larry Wolf (2021)

Moving from natural landscape to the cultural, we encounter scenes from Francisco Brennand's 1963 illustrations for Brazil's Paulo Freire literacy program in Nat Pyper's new felt wearables. We witness the transformation between nature and culture, reality and imagined, and body and text. In their splayed open fabric books, a mouth hole is left in the center, where viewers might digest and conceptualize the visceral ways our bodies become text.
Survey 3: I Sense Something Has Changed, Exhibition Guide 
Curated by Cristobal Alday, Yi Cao, Joan Roach 
Chicago Artists' Coalition, 2021

Nat Pyper, Contribution to Library of the Senses (2021)
Photo: Larry Wolf (2021)

Freire was very famous in Recife for his literacy program and his political work with the workers. The idea of educating the illiterate was so simple but so dangerous and Freire made many enemies. The company owners and elite did not like the idea of literacy programs. They feared the workers would want more say and more Money. Everything was political. Freire approached me to make art that symbolized culture, reformation, literacy, and self. I studied the program, the situation, and I began to design the works. I paint on tiles. I work with clay. Clay is from the earth and is a part of humans and we are part of it. Freire's goal was for the viewer to under stand the relationship of self to the world and that people can make change for the good. I produced the works and Freire was very pleased. The political situation became unstable and we began to realize that the literacy program and the connection to culture and the arts of the people were targeted by the elite and others. When the military coup occurred, many people were in danger and others easily talked to save themselves. Freire we the targets because of his work with workers. My art was seen by the dictatorship as dangerous and it was one of destroyed. There are no reminders of that work. No photographs. Freire was not yet beaten. He asked me to make another set. I said no Paulo. They will be destroyed also. This time was hard for everyone but especially those who had dreamt of a different Brazil. I was fortunate. I continued to be an artist.

Literacy activities require research on what Freire calls a "minimum vocabulary universe" among literacy learners. It is through work on this universe that words become chosen to integrate the program. These words, more or less seventeen of them, called "generative words," should be phonemically rich words and necessarily ordered in increasing progression of phonetic difficulty. They should be read within the widest possible context of the literary learners' life and of the local language, thus becoming national as well.

Decodifying the written word, which follows the decodifying of a codified existential situation, implies certain steps that must be strictly followed. Let us take the word tijolo (brick), used as the first word in Brasilia, in the sixties. This word was chosen because Brasilia was a city under construction at the time, in order to facilitate the reader's understanding.

    • The generative word tijolo is presented, inserted in the representation of a concrete situation: men at work at a construction site.

The word is simply written: tijolo.

The same word is written with its syllables separated: ti-jo-lo. The "phonemic family" of the first syllable is presented: ta-te-ti-to-tu.

    • The "phonemic family" of the second syllable is presented: ja-je-ji-jo-ju.

The "phonemic family" of the third syllable is presented: la-le-li-lo-lu. The "phonemic families" of the word being decodified are presented: ta-te-ti-to-tu

ja-je-ji-jo-ju la-le-li-lo-lu

This set of "phonemic families" of the generative word has been termed "discovery form," for it allows the literacy learner to put together "pieces," that is, come up with new phonemic combinations that necessarily will result in words of the Portuguese language.

    • Vowels are presented: a-e-i-o-u.

In sum, the moment the literacy learner is able to articulate syllables to form words, he or she is literate. The process evidently requires deepening; that is, a post-literacy component.

Ana Maria Araújo Freire and Donaldo Macedo
Introduction to The Paulo Freire Reader

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