Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro 1968. Explosion (1985/1993) — The third stop in the project Hubert Fichte and Ethnology refers to Hubert Fichte and Leonore Mau’s stay in Rio de Janeiro, as portrayed in the opening section (pages 5-117) of Fichte’s Explosion, subtitled „A Novel of Ethnology.“ This nearly 900-page-long narrative takes place during the author’s three lengthy sojourns in Brazil, and depicts the gradual coalescence of one of Fichte and Mau’s ethnological projects. The first trip takes them to Rio de Janeiro in 1969, followed by a nearly year-long stay from 1971 to 1972 in Salvador de Bahia, punctuated by travels throughout South America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil). Finally, Fichte and Mau return to Brazil in the 1980s, now rather more experienced ethnologists and co-authors of several photographic collections and books on „Afro-American religions.“ They now spend most of their time in northern Brazil, particularly in São Luis de Maranhão.


The first trip to Rio is the least seasoned. The first section of this three-part novel, „Die Puppen und die Gedörrten“ (Dolls and Husks), provides an account of the queer festivals around Rio’s Carnaval and their suppression by the authorities. Fichte and Mau’s alter egos Jäcki and Irma arrive in the city as tourists, they check into the Hotel Copacabana Palace. They have arrived on a package tour. They quickly launch their research. Their area of study: poverty in Brazil, life in the favelas. They become familiar with Afro-Brazilian culture, which they attempt to understand as a culture of poverty. But soon Jäcki and Irma come to realize that the syncretic culture of the Afro-Brazilians cannot merely be derived from the economic situation of its adherents. Irma takes photographs while Jäcki has affairs with Afro-Brazilian men. He gets to know the gay underground and its networks, encountering all manner of cultural figures along the way. The well-known architect Oscar Niemeyer appears, in a sort of interview-qua-interlude, as the creator of „Utopopolis.“


During this stay the learning curve that will be explored in greater depth on their later trips can be discerned: the culture of the poor is revealed to be more than just the effect of oppression. Fichte gradually identifies more and more connections between African traditions and practices, which he refers to as „Mischreligionen“ (‚mixed religions‘). He perceives connections between tourism, the Brazilian Modernity, and (German) corporate expansion, which he covers in greater depth in an article for Der Spiegel, and poverty in general. At the same time, Fichte, in his relations with Afro-Brazilian men, is on the trail of something of which he has been in pursuit his entire life, something that makes him recall his first encounters with Afro-Brazilian sailors in the bars of Hamburg.


20/10/2017  Hubert Fichte  Rio de Janeiro
Explosion (Auszug I)
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