Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Thays, Brasil


“if these girls who had basic experiences with me at school changed their life. Imagine the impact of a huge project, a cultural project with life experiences shared with many other girls. I think that art can change many persons, girls like me. Movements like this one are fundamental. Culture connects our mind with actions and brings inspiration to life.”

Thays’s Story

Thays is an inspiring young woman that is guided by her roots and history. She is from a small city far away from the capital. Ourém is a city between rivers and plants. To get to her city it takes a long drive where you can see the jungle from the road. There are many animals and deep history in her city.

When Thays talks about her city, she describes it as a small area. During the weekends, people stay around the river chatting, swimming, drinking, and enjoying life with ice creams and beers—a city with diverse people from different social classes. As in many other towns from the region, wealth is concentrated among a few people, who are owners of the working fields, farms, and mining companies.

This might explain her environmental and social conscience because she recognises herself as a part of the planet and not as an owner. Maybe this is why she decided to paint an onza, she has it hanging on one of the walls in her home. She said that she had painted it during a very emotional moment, an intimate artistic expression. It was during the time that the Amazon was in grave danger of destruction and they said that the onzas were in danger of extinction. When she talked to me about that painting, she said, “there are not only human beings in here. There are many other beings with who we share the same space, we share the jungle, we share the air, we share the water, and these beings also have feelings.”

Thays knows what it is like to grow under the structural racist violence in Brazil. When she was 12, she pointed out that she hated to watch herself in the mirror and look at her hair. At the age of 13, she would ask her mom to straighten it. It took her a long time to feel pride in herself as a Black person. When she talks about it, she admits with sadness the experiences of racism that she faced at school and on the street. She was able to use those painful experiences to support her activism. In high school, she organised Black Awareness Day. It was a very powerful day to make racism visible and impacted the way Black girls looked at themselves and how they recognised their beauty.

Thays experienced racism from a couple of teachers who did not support her effort. They used to interrupt Thays and say things like: “white colour also matters,” “racism doesn’t exist,” and “black people are always guilty.” These teachers wanted to stop her effort and also used  violent preconceptions towards LGBTQ people by saying: “here comes the dyke to do her project.” Thays faced discrimination due to their race and sexual orientation. Yet, she did not let that stop her. She organised and found ways to do her work even if there were no collectives at the time- even influencing other girls on a national level.

In 2017, she met many artists from different cities and began to collaborate and organise events with them. All these actions were very important in Belém, where she had moved, and expanded to a national level. In 2019, Thays was invited to be part of a black artist research program called TROVOA. In this black artistic network, she resists and collaborates with other women artists.

Her mother, father, and brothers always supported her. They would tell her: “you are a smart girl, you need to read a lot, you are an artist.” They support her with a lot of respect and affection and gave her love and unconditional support. Her conviction to dismantle oppressive systems, her family’s support, and her talent supported her to become the artists she is today, as she says: “a photographer, a model, and a little bit of everything.”

Thays is very aware that resistance is part of a Black person from the day they are born. She assures that maybe the people do not know about the word. But the word is inside of them. Due to the necessity to resist, and need to continue to reinvent themselves during their lifetime. She points out resistance as being able to exist, persist, and believe that we are on the path where the memories and our past are the fuel that helps us move forward.

Thays thinks that artistic actions effectively strengthened life itself, and cultural movements can provide different life experiences for girls like her. That’s why she believes that: “Imagine the impact of a huge project, a cultural project with life experiences of and by girls. I think that art can change many people, especially girls like me. Movements like this one are fundamental. Culture connects our minds with actions and brings inspiration to life.”