I discovered an absolutely excellent television programme yesterday and really felt that I wanted to mention it on Transition Consciousness.
Regina Casé is a Brazilian actress now in her sixties, notable for her comedy in particular. For many years she had a dream of making a television programme about Brazilian trees, and in 2000 her dream finally became a reality with Um Pé de Que? (which can be translated as What Tree is This?).
In each programme Casé travels to a specific region in Brazil, introducing us to and teaching us about one specific tree. In addition to this, Casé meets the local people, asking them about their traditions, especially exploring how they use, eat and live with that particular tree in question.
In the show I watched, Casé was in the Serrado do Espinhaço, a region of Minas Gerais, focusing on the Pimenta de Macaço tree. Pimenta in Portuguese means pepper, and its fruit are like peppers, but actually more healthy, although nowadays people do not use this fruit in their cooking.
There is of course a Um Pé de Que? website, and this has a great glossary where you can look up the name of a tree and find out more about it.
Also in last night’s programme, there was a section filmed in the Paris Herb Museum. Casé had happened to be in Paris on holiday, and in fact all of this section was filmed on her phone. The actually footage was pretty good quality, and it shows what can be achieved with minimal technology but an eye for good production.
This was really interesting for me, since a few months ago I learnt the story of Brazil at the the Itaú Cultural Institute (see The Secret History of Brazil). Casé told the story of how French botanist Auguste de Saint-Hilaire had come to Brazil to study the fauna here, and had taken back many samples to France.
The original samples are all being digitised, allowing Brazilians back in Brazil to study the high definition images of the whole collection. The collection can be viewed via the A. de Saint-Hilaire Virtual Herbarium website which is available in Portuguese, French and English.
So far over 100 of trees in Brazil have been covered, from every one of Brazil’s distinct biomasses. As Casé says on her website:
The way in which we live our lives does not allow time to study, especially going into the countryside as we do, allowing us to place our hands on the tree, smell the flowers, and taste the fruit. It’s better than reading the books. I have always wanted to study botany, and I can only feel fulfilled with this work.
It’s an excellent show, providing a much needed source of ecoliteracy for Brazilians, and also helping to raise ecological awareness. All it needs now is English subtitles and maybe Netflix distribution, as I know it would be hugely popular worldwide if made available. Congratulations to Regina Casé and all those who made this wonderful programme possible.