TC reached into the roots of one plants on the table. “It’s a baobob,” he told me, “My daughter brought me some seeds from Africa. This tree is also the symbol of Rede Mocambo.” In Portuguese “rede” means network, and “mocambo” is the traditional, thatch building of quilombos, maroon communities of escaped slaves in Brazil. Quilombos continue to this day. TC heads Casa Tainã, a cultural center and initiator of the Rede, in a “modern quilombo” on the periphery of a small city in the interior of São Paulo. TC told me that he plants a Baobob sapling in each “quilombo” which is part of Rede Mocambo.
The project started when Casa Tainã gained partnership with state-backed Digital Inclusion programs with access to technological resources and computers, and began to set up Internet telecenters in quilombos in the Southeast of Brazil. From these social, knowledge, and material exchanges, a “Quilombo Network” began to take root. Now the Rede extends through almost all the Brazilian states (even though not all quilombos have Internet yet because some don’t have electricity).
How do you get computers to the projects? I asked. “With old computers we practice ‘meta-recycling,’ transforming the computers to give them a new life” Robson, also of Casa Tainã told me. In the quilombos they show them how to practice metarecyling, to install free software, to access the Internet, and to make a video or to record a song. And “the quilombo production will then circulate on the ‘rede,’ the Internet.”
TC said that “this network was created as a tool to fight for and ensure our rights. Communication in a network generates greater understanding of quilombo and black struggles. We have to use the new open technologies to construct with them.”
Robson added that the Rede’s goal is also “to discuss the right to land, the right to religion, the right to culture, not hierarchical culture, but horizontal…. And the goal of the network is to think of a new cartography of African identity.”
“And in terms of cartography,” Robson continued, “The baobob connects all the quilombos in the network to Africa. It’s a remembrance of who they were before slavery, when we were kings and queens.”
TC told me that he also brings seeds from each of the quilombos that he visits to plant back to Casa Tainã and in other quilombos in the network. He had just returned from a regional Rede Mocambo Encounter in Northeastern Brazil. Cacao pods from Quilombo João Rodrigues in Bahia were drying in the sun.
“Palmares was destroyed by cannons. Now the big cannon is the media. But with decentralization of the means of communication and with new open technologies, we also have cannons. Imagine if Palmares had had the Internet. We have a tool for revolution,” TC.