Brasilien: Maria José Mota

Peace is human rights being taken seriously. It is being able to decrease inequalities in all senses. Inequality creates a revolted atmosphere.

— Maria José Mota

Zezé Motta (1944) had always been involved with art: since her childhood, in a private school, until becoming a professional in a theater course, in which she was discovered for the production of a musical. Her mother is a dressmaker and her father a musician. Actress, singer and director of a non-governmental organization that supports young Afro-Brazilians in the tough task of becoming actors, Zezé has helped to value the Afro-Brazilian woman through memorable characters.

In her teenage years, when she used to help her mother with her sewing, Zezé Motta spent the days listening to the radio. It was her father who noticed that on the third time that she heard a song she was able to sing it perfectly. “He discovered my vocation to be a singer,” she says. Zezé started her acting career in a musical. She was chosen after a closing ceremony of a theater course, which she paid for with the salary she earned working as an employee of a Pharmaceutical laboratory. Zezé concluded Elementary School in an experimental school founded by progressist sectors of the Catholic Church inside a poor community in Rio. She started to make contact with the theater. And with the racism, that was also manifested very early. From a neighbor she heard: “Do you have to study theater to play the role of a maid?” The question, which seemed inappropriate to someone who had great career plans, reappeared in her life when Zezé started to receive invitations to work on TV. The only role available was as maid. Protagonist of the slave Chica da Silva in a movie named after this character, Zezé divides life between before and after this character that projected her allover Brazil and overseas. The question of where Afro-Brazilians belonged in Brazilian society led Zezé to the Afro-Brazilian movement and to the foundation of a NGO: Center of Information and Documentation of the Afro-Brazilian Artist (Cidan). In the militancy for more space for the Afro-Brazilians in the movies, theater and television, she noticed that there was a lack of opportunities, which was a consequence of the lack of qualification of young actors. “I noticed that it was necessary to stop complaining about prejudice and start doing something about it,” she says.

Centro Brasileiro de Informação e Documentação do Artista Negro (Center of Information and Documentation of the Afro-Brazilian Artist)