The São Paulo musician who is empowering African-Brazilian women by rapping about Brazil’s history of slavery and racial division will perform Friday
While many will be tuning into the Olympics opening ceremony in Rio De Janeiro to catch a glimpse of globally renowned figures such as Gisele Bunchen or Gilberto Gil, the star of the show may well turn out to be a diminutive 12-year-old from São Paulo.
Despite her youth, MC Soffia is already six years into her career as a rapper, and has gained fame for her lyrics which aim to empower young African-Brazilian women. She tackles the country’s long history of slavery and racial division, and challenges the way black people are represented in her rhymes.
In an interview last year, she explained how she became aware of Brazil’s casual racism when she was teased in kindergarten: another child told her her skin was black because she fell into a tin of paint. “I used to be teased by everybody,” she said. “So one day I told my mom I wanted to be white.”
Outraged, her mother began taking her to hip-hop concerts to learn more about her roots, and foster a strong sense of confidence in her heritage – a pride which is now reflected in Soffia’s lyrics.
Her song Africa pays homage to famous black Brazilian women such as the historical figure Chica de Silva – who was born a slave but whose children become nobles – and the author Carolina Maria De Jesus.
Another song, Menina Pretinha, or Little Black Girl, touches on her core messages with lyrics such as, “I will enjoy myself while I am small / Barbie is cool, but I prefer the African Makena,” in reference to the black dolls. “I’m black and I’m proud of my color … My hair is dope, it doesn’t need a flat iron,” she adds.
In an interview this week, Soffia said she hoped her Olympic performance would also shine light on a campaign to enforce a 2003 law that requires schools to include African culture in their curriculum.
“When people do talk about Africans in Brazil, it’s about them being slaves, not about how much we have contributed to making Brazil what it is today,” she told the Daily Mail. “That just encourages white kids to treat us bad.
“The law which was passed is older than I am, but even now hardly any schools obey it. If they did the children would grow up seeing black people differently, and that could bring racism in Brazil to an end.”
Despite the fact that she’ll performing to audience of millions on Friday, she’ll still have to go back to school at 7.30am on Monday, where she’ll have exams for the whole next week.