2021 - 20 min, 3 channel video
The Voluntary Psychopomp
Co-directed with Mathilde Renault
Writen by Mayra Sérgio
Directed by Mayra Sérgio and Mathilde Renault
Cinematography by Mathilde Renault and Pierre Clément Nivière
Edting by Mathilde Renault
Sound design by Andrés García Vidal
Coreography by Marlieke Burghouts
Extra footage Brasil Sofia Safaad
Extra footage Portugal Flora Lahuerta
Research Brasil Sofia Safaad
Research Portugal Flora Lahuerta
Research Nigeria Cecile Tafanelli
Wood carving adviser Daan Simons
Wood smoking adviser Niels Hendriks
Interns Ida Leijting and Cecile Hübner
Narrators Mayra Sérgio, Michelle Son and Laura Dubourjal-Bergé
Subtitles Michelle Son
Performing Loss derives from the sudden death of my father. As an atheist and an immigrant living in the Netherlands, I realized that I didn’t have any rituals of mourning. Looking for new strategies, I took an ethnic DNA test.
The DNA of one individual can tell about the history of colonization, immigration, and cultural exchanges. My own result is a typical Brazilian mishmash: Ameredian, Portuguese, Sardinian, North African, Nigerian, Baltic and Finish. Aiming to form a narrative bigger than myself, I chose to visit the triangulation of my country’s colonial history: Portugal, Brazil and Nigeria.
The result is twofold: Part I - The Voluntary Psychopomp, a three-channel video that narrates the search for a ritual, and Part II - Through the Mouth, a performance in which the alteration of cassava root is reimagined as a grieving ritual.
The three-channel video portrays a contemporary psychopomp as a craftswoman who carves a monolithic canoe. It intertwines the making of the canoe with the process of the project itself: the DNA test, the trips, the search for a ritual. The project recontextualizes ancestral techniques, such as the process of carving solid wood with a chisel and firing the canoe in order to make the wood stronger, as ways to process grief. The film mixes scientific texts about the neuroscience of ritual and Brazilian genetics with the rawness that can only derive from first person accounts.
© Mayra Sérgio, 2022