"Das Land", 200X100, Milton Camilo

From Rio to Wuppertal

The main reason why I have made the shift from Brazil to Germany is freedom. Especially the freedom of movement- walking on the streets safely. But it is not that I have lost touch with my home country, rather the opposite. It determines me very much and allows me to bring the positive aspects of Brazil to my everyday life, wherever that is (at the moment to Wuppertal).
Germany, Western Europe

Story by Milton Camilo. Edited by Mira Kinn
Published on July 5, 2020. Reading time: 4 minutes

This story is also available in br fr it

Content Warning: This story contains mentions of sexual assault and violence that can be upsetting for some readers.

I came to Germany for one main reason: freedom. Life has value here; it counts—not like in Brazil, where in 2017 alone, 63.880 people died because of crime[1]. In Germany, it seems like there is more value to life. You are not killed here because of the shoes you are wearing; rather the opposite.  

For example, there is a homeless person I pass by on my way to work in Wuppertal (Germany), to whom I always give a bit of money. The other day I didn’t have cash with me, and said: “Sorry, today I don’t have anything with me.”. A moment later, the man ran after me and wanted to give me all the money that he had collected that day. He thought I was the one needing money that day.  

I am from a working-class neighborhood in Rio, and as a child, I never imagined leaving Brazil. I am very close with my mother, my home and my neighborhood. Yet, when I was around 19, I went to a Ballet School. This confirmed for my neighbors what they already suspected: I was gay (although in my view I fall in love with people, no matter the gender). At that time, I lived alone with my mother in a house. One morning, someone tried to break in. He said he wanted “the most valuable thing from the house”: he wanted to rape me.

My mother screamed. She saw the neighbors passively watching so she screamed their names until they felt guilty and came to help. The intruder pretended he was just drunk and started to leave, but when the neighbors left, he turned around, looked at me, and said: “I’ll come back and get you.”

My world was falling apart. I was scared to walk anywhere. This went on for several months, until one day, a very dodgy character from our neighborhood took a liking to me. When I told this man about the intruder, he said: “Don’t worry, I will take care of it.” I did not understand. A few days later, he came with a car and killed my attacker, during the day, in front of everyone. Yet, I still felt I needed to escape.

During this time, I learned about “Ausdruckstanz”[2] in Germany. I attended a workshop with two German dancers. They told me that I had true potential, and I should go to Germany to learn Ausdruckstanz. Two years later, when I was 27, I moved to Germany, to learn contemporary dance and experience a “freer life”[3]. I have found in Germany a place where individual lives are valued, and where I feel safe—worlds away from my childhood in Rio.

But, I have not “left” Rio for good. I keep the tie to my home country, visiting frequently, and staying updated about politics there. Although progress is slow, I have hope that Brazil is improving. People have had enough of government corruption and injustice. Furthermore, Rio lives within me, in my dance and art. For me, dance and art are an expression of freedom: a means for people to transcend politics and oppression whether in Brazil or Germany.  


[1] https://www.diepresse.com/5478130/mordrate-in-brasilien-erreicht-neue-hohen

[2] Expressional dance

[3] If you want to get to know my art and dance projects, check out: http://www.miltoncamilo.de/index.php

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Milton Camilo

Milton Camilo

Photo Credits: Suilian Richon

Hey, I am Milton Camillo. I am a 50-year-old Afro-Brazilian dancer and artist from Rio who emigrated to Germany more than 20 years ago. I am currently living in Wuppertal and focusing on my paintings. Within them, you can often find a certain sense of melancholy, a grasp of what is described by the Portuguese word “Saudade”. With my paintings, I am breaking up the normalized structures that have been taken for granted by the grown-ups in comparison to children, where everything is still fluid and possible. In that sense, they can definitely be understood politically.

Topic: Migration

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