Ademiro Alves de Sousa, popularly known by his pen name, Sacolinha, is an independent Black writer, a member of the sprawling periphery literature movement in Brazil, merging literature with urban landscaping. “The idea was to develop an innovative idea. Simply writing poetry on a wall wouldn't suffice,” Sacolinha said.
Based in Suzano, a municipality roughly 31 miles from the city of Sao Paulo, Sacolinha has taken it upon himself to revitalize dilapidated bus stops and other decaying structures with a fresh coat of paint and poetry excerpts cuddled by plants, shrubs and trees. The idea to include green spaces was due to a sight for sore eyes. “Greenery is dwindling in periphery neighborhoods,” the author explained.
One of his poetry excerpts painted on a revived wall reads: “I lived to chase after kites when I was a kid. Now that I'm big, kites fall in my backyard.”
Long before assigning himself literary-urban landscaper, Sacolinha served as Suzano's Secretary of Culture from 2005 to 2012, a time in which he promoted new authors and developed hundreds of literacy programs, including the Suzano International Book Fair.
During this period, he travelled across Brazil presenting literary workshops, principally in vulnerable areas such as working class neighborhoods, underfunded public schools and penitentiaries. The author would go on to participate in “A Window to the World – Reading in Prisons,” a project organized by UNESCO and Brazil's Ministry of Justice to promote reading among Brazil's inmate population, the third largest in the world, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies.
Apart from promoting the second edition of his latest book, Brechó, Midnight and Fantasia, Sacolinha's working a project called “Community Story,” a local school of storytellers who will organize and publish their work called Vast Fanzine.
Periphery literature, sometimes referred to as marginal literature, emanates from economically deprived neighborhoods on the fringes of Sao Paulo city and its cultural center. Like so many others throughout Brazil, this urban metropolis is renowned for producing a society that’s not only stratified along socioeconomic and racial lines, but also delineates access to literature and other forms of cultural expression, not to mention a host of basic social services.
Shunned by traditional cultural hubs, yet inspired by author Carolina Maria de Jesus, hailed as the matriarch of the periphery literary movement, hip-hop artists such as Racionais MCs and other sociocultural surges uplifting oppressed communities, writers living on the outskirts of Sao Paulo began putting pen to paper, giving voice and narrative to their lives and reality.
Local slang and vernacular factored heavily into their work, giving it fresh linguistic embroidery, distinct from formal Portuguese-Brazilian writing. Two decades on, with the advent of technologies that permit short-run printing, an independent literary movement based in periphery communities, replete with literary soirees and other cultural events, has emerged.
When asked where the term "periphery literature" comes from, Sacolinha explained that it's derived from the periphery itself, “from people who live there,” a place where not only does he engage in literary-urban landscaping, but has raised his very own backyard, organic garden. It's been a “therapeutic” process, he said.