The Good Garden
136 photographs (12x16cm each), wheelbarrow, soil, poster (A0 size), performance (30min)
Documentation photos: Phillip Job and Nayara Leite
O Bom Jardim, which translates from Portuguese as The Good Garden, was the location of one of the worst scenes of cowardice my eyes have ever seen. Here is the plot: in this Brazilian neighbourhood in the city of Fortaleza, Dandara dos Santos is brutally murdered on February 15 2017. Five men mock her, kick her head, beat her with shoes and a plank of wood. She begs them to stop. They don’t listen. Her crying is muffled by their laughter and her dripping blood is mixed with despair. With hate in their voice, they demand that she get into a rusty wheelbarrow. Dandara tries to obey. In vain. She has no strength anymore. Not even to stand up. Her almost lifeless body is lifted by them and put in the vehicle. She gets carried away in it and then the story ends.
I have just described a one minute and twenty seconds length film of transphobia. The horrendous attack against Dandara, a transgender woman, was filmed with a mobile camera and then widely spread throughout social media. The bad guys were caught by the police, but the good girl didn’t survive.
This installation piece aimed to impact the audience by showing the atrocities that pervade the lives of transgender people in Brazil, the country with the highest murder rate in the world against this community. The linear narrative on the poster visually describes the aggression against Dandara using 136 frames extracted from the video. In the year prior to her death, 135 transgender people died in Brazil victims of transphobia. Dandara was the 136th. The wheelbarrow and the soil, often used in gardening to create and nourish life, came to symbolise death in Dandara’s story. As a metaphor for a funeral, here the object was filled with 136 scoops of soil and with 136 photos of Dandara buried in it. Each photo contains the name of the victims along with the causes of their death.
I was a mere second-hand spectator to her last minutes of life. I cried and I felt disgusted and I felt desperate. Dandara did nothing wrong. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. But sadly in the film of life, the leading characters not always have happy endings.
This project became a performance piece in July 2018 in Brighton, UK, in which I narrated the names and the causes of death of all 136 transgender people who died in Brazil victims of transphobia.