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Language and place in the life of Brazilian women in London: writing life narratives through art practice

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Studies on Brazilians living in Britain show that, along with loneliness, unemployment and cost of living, the lack of proficiency in English is a key problem. However, there is little qualitative information about how the host language affects their daily lives. This interdisciplinary practice-based research asks how an art practice activated by experiences of displacement and dislocation in language can become a place of enunciation for decolonial selves. To this end, this research includes not only individual practices, but also collective activities carried out with a group of Brazilian women living in London, as a research focus. The endeavour to deal with English language has engendered writing processes in my visual work, which became a place for experimenting bilingual and fragmentary voices against the initial muteness in which I found myself on arrival in London. Using photography, printmaking, drawing, postcards, and artist’s books I have explored life-writing genres of diary, language memoir, and correspondence to raise an immigrant consciousness, explore accented voices and create practices for writing life individually and collectively. Assembling words and turning their meanings became strategies for expanding limited vocabularies. Once an impassable obstacle, the host language was transformed into a territory for exploring ways to know stories about language and write life narratives through art practice. This research is informed by humanist and feminist geographical approaches to space and place, postcolonial life writing, border thinking and a context of practice ranging from transnational art, accented cinema, visual poetry, conceptual art, and socially engaged art. It provides insights about English language in the lives of Brazilian women in London and offers a view on a practice in visual arts as place of enunciation for decolonial selves.
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