The North-American researcher and anthropologist, Katherine Royal Cate, known as Katarina Real, an expert in Carnival from Recife, was born in the city of Annapolis, in Maryland, in 1927.
Her first contact with the capital city of Pernambuco happened in 1927, an occasion when she was on board the Cruiser Milwaukee from the America Navy, commanded by her father, the Admiral Forrest Betton Royal, who was also the naval attaché from the United States for the Brazilian government.
In 1949, she graduated in Arts and Luso-Brazilian Studies by the Stanford University.I It was in this city that she got to know about the literary work Casa-grande & senzala (The masters and the slaves), by Gilberto Freyre, translated by Samuel Putnam. She was impressed by what she read, mainly the chapters dedicated to the Brazilian black people and the African influence in Northeastern Brazilian culture. What she learned from reading the book was one of the reasons that brought her, some years afterwards, to Pernambuco.
She got married in Recife, at 24 years of age, to Robert Cate, a North-American expert in soil analysis who used to work for the State Department, in California. Three years after that, already in the city of San Francisco in California, she worked as a radio presenter in Stanford, for a program called University of the Air. The radio station transmitted to all Latin America an edition in Spanish and another in Portuguese. This last one highlighted the regional Brazilian songs and did interviews with personalities coming from that region.
In this program, Katarina Real interviewed the journalist from Pernambuco Luiz Beltrão who was visiting the United States conducting conferences and was about to finish his journey in that city. The friendship between them was consolidated along the years when there was an exchange of correspondence and Beltrão sent information, recordings of frevos, maracatus and rhythms from Pernambuco to be disseminated in the program coordinated by Katarina.
In 1956, Robert Cate was hired to work as the manager of the Kaiser Aluminum office in Brazil and the couple settled down in the city of Belém, in the state of Pará. Because folkloric expressions were also part of her interests, Katarina started taking part in the meetings of the Comissão Paraense de Folclore and she integrated the committee to the III Congresso Brasileiro de Folclore (Brazilian Folklore Congress). In that period, the Cate couple came to Recife to visit.
She came back to the capital of Pernambuco, in 1957, and she stayed at Luiz Beltrão’s home. She was introduced to the carnival from Recife through the journalist’s family and she was fascinated by the organization and that everybody would be taking part at the time the festival started. It can be said that her inclusion in the Recife society, in the intellectual circles and in the path as a carnival researcher was also due to and mainly because of the support and guidance given by that family.
Robert Cate’s work would not allow them to stay living for a long time in one place. In Brazil, the couple stayed in Pará, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Brasília. Wherever she went, Katarina would not miss the opportunity of recording the folkloric expressions of the place. In Pernambuco, she was committed also to the study of the culture of the African nations.
Seduced by her object of study, Katherina Kate Royal becomes a “gringa abrasileirada” (Brazilian foreigner) who, slowly, is recognized as a “representative of the state folklore” even receiving the title of Recife citizen, when she occupied the job of general secretary of the Comissão Pernambucana de Folclore (Pernambuco Folklore Commission), in the mid-1960s.
Her research allowed her to gather extensive material that she tried to preserve, document and report. There are texts, photographs, recordings, interviews and lectures besides a collection of valuable objects for the study of popular art. In the period when she lived in Recife, Katarina kept this collection in her apartment – known as “A Torre do Frevo” (Frevo’s Tower). She was committed to spreading Brazilian art in the United States, especially that from Pernambuco, promoting the exhibitions of her personal collection: in 1959, at the Anthropology Museum of North Carolina University (Folkways of Northern Brazil); in 1978, at the Mingei Museum of World Folk Art, in California (A Cultural Mosaic of Brazil), one of the first exhibitions in the United States of popular arts, parties and traditions of Brazil; and in 1997, developed by the Santa Fe Museum of International Folk Art in New Mexico, which afterwards was added to the permanent exhibition of this Museum.
She was very active in institutions which valued folklore and carnival, the objects of her study. Among them: the Comissão Nacional do Folclore do Rio de Janeiro; the Comissão Pernambucana de Folclore (1964-1968), occasion when she promoted a campaign for the construction of the Museu do Carnaval; the Comissão Organizadora do Carnaval do Recife, where she was the president (1966-1968); the Museu do Homem do Nordeste, from the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation (Fundaj), where she helped organize an exhibition of the maracatu do baque virado. To Fundaj, Katarina donated a huge photograph collection.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Katarina came to Recife a few times to purchase some pieces here, meet old friends there and make new friends.
The path of the anthropological studies and research about Carnival in Recife made Katarina travel to some Brazilian cities and settle in the city of Recife in the 1960s. The universe of popular Carnival from Recife enchanted her to the extent that she was integrated to the culture from Pernambuco itself. She wrote books, articles, spoke in conferences, promoted exhibitions, converted thus, into a disseminator of folklore and carnival. Their works are reference for those who dedicate to the study of popular Brazilian culture.
Katarina Real died on 6 June 2006, in the city of Tucson, in Arizona, United States of America.
In the year 2007, the Comissão Pernambucana de Folclore in a partnership with the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation organized, in homage to the anthropologist and folklorist, the exhibition Katarina Real: outros carnavais.
Folkways of Northern Brazil (1959)
O folclore no Carnaval do Recife (1967, 1990);
A Cultural Mosaic: the folk arts of Brazil (1978);
Eudes, o rei do maracatu (2001);
Os ursos no Carnaval (1967)
A ‘la ursa’: os ursos de carnaval do Recife (1991)
Vivências no Nordeste brasileiro: o folklore (1997).
A grande vitória: o carnaval de 1968 (2001)
Evoé: the Carnaval of Recife and Olinda in Pernambuco, Brazil (2004)
BENJAMIM, Roberto. The Lady loves Latin America. In: KATARINA Real: outros carnavais. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, . Catálogo da exposição.
KATARINA Real. [Foto neste texto]. Acervo da Fundação Joaquim Nabuco.
KUBRUSLY, Clarisse Q. Reflexão antropológica sobre a “experiência etnográfica” de Katarina Real com os Maracatus em Recife. 2007. 140 f. Dissertação (Mestrado em Sociologia) – Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Sociais, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, 2007.
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BARBOSA, Virgínia. Katarina Real. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar> Access on: day month year. Ex: 6 Aug. 2009.