In 2017, the centenary of Mestre Didi, as the Salvadoran Deoscóredes Maximiliano dos Santos was called, was celebrated. Plastic artist, writer and priest, he received several honors in the state where he was born. Now, it is the turn of Didi's trajectory to be celebrated by the Almeida e Dale Gallery, in São Paulo, with the exhibition Mo Ki Gbogbo In – I salute you all which opens on the 7th of April.
To understand Mestre Didi's art, it is necessary to understand his strong connection with his ancestry. The son of an ialorixá who was very influential in the introduction of Candomblé in the country, the artist dedicated his life to preserving the memory of his African and Afro-Brazilian ancestors through the visual, written and oral narratives he produced.
For Antônio Marcos dos Santos Cajé, a master in History of Africa, the Diaspora and Indigenous Peoples from the University of Recôncavo Baiano and a friend of the artist, the question of ancestry in Mestre Didi cannot be seen only from a religious point of view: “When we talk about ancestry, we talk about culture in general. It has a central role in religion, but not only. It speaks on behalf of a larger ensemble,” he says.
The artist had a huge concern with the identity of the black population. He believed that, through the recognition of past histories, it was possible to strengthen the fight against racism. “Mestre Didi created a project for children up to 14 years old to learn about their ancestors through tales and oral tradition”, he comments. This initiative dates back to Didi's own life, given that he grew up in Ilê Axé Opó Afonjá, where he learned about his roots in the stories that were told mainly by Mãe Anininha, whom he considered a grandmother, and Mãe Senhora, his biological mother. For the researcher, this was a political act by the artist, who “did not participate in movements, but moved his own community”.
With his wife, Juana Elbein dos Santos, and the photographer Pierre Verger, who has photographs in the show (as well as Mário Cravo Neto), Mestre Didi went to Nigeria and the Republic of Benin in 1967. Sponsored by UNESCO, they were going to make a comparison between the sacred art produced in Brazil and West Africa. “It was a journey on which he went to look for his roots. Therefore, it was from there that he began to understand his origins much better”, declares Antônio Marcos.
The works featured in the exhibition Mo Ki Gbogbo In date mostly from a period subsequent to this discovery made by Didi. In this way, it is possible to visualize much more closely this encounter between Didi and what would be her identity. There are 48 sculptures by the artist exhibited by Almeida e Dale, in partnership with Paulo Darzé Galeria, from Salvador. In addition to them, original ibirís and xaxarás and testimonies by Mestre Didi are on display. From April 21, the artist will also have a special exhibition at the Afro Brasil Museum, curated by Emanoel Araújo, entitled Um Deoscóredes – 100 years of Alapini Deoscóredes Maximiliano dos Santos.