A gallery Gentil Carioca arrived in São Paulo a year and a half ago and installed its expanded space in a charming dead-end street, in Higienópolis. Denilson Baniwa is currently exhibiting a set of works with the humorous title Husbands stew, bringing together works that address concepts he defends, such as the impact of the colonial catechesis system on indigenous people and the preservation of the culture of all ethnicities. Denilson is an activist and also works in advertising, digital culture and hacking, building indigenous imagery that circulates in magazines, films and TV series.
I visit the exhibition with him. All the works on display have to do with his research into contact between the Western world and indigenous people. Denilson talks about the damage caused by the construction of indigenous boarding schools that operated in Catholic boarding schools, built in indigenous territories. “In my region, in the interior of Amazonas, there were some of these institutions that forced children to go there and forget their language and identity. My parents and grandparents were also hospitalized and were left with trauma. The presence of foreigners in catechesis contributed to the disappearance of the language of indigenous people of various ethnicities throughout Brazil”.
Arbitrariness and threats still spread across various locations today and cause terror, which is why many indigenous people become Catholics, and those who resist are demonized. The name of the exhibition is taken from the book Moqueca de Marido: Indigenous erotic myths, by Beth Mindlin. “The publication brings together several sensual, erotic, scatological stories that I brought into the research. Catechization created a taboo on sin, with all forms of punishment, including repressing sexual freedom, for example, and this brings trauma. The abuse is historic, but now we have the possibility of restructuring indigenous society. It is clear that knowing what happened in the past and still happens, reconstruction needs to be carried out, and from today onwards”.
Denilson points out the excess of other myths coming from outside, whether due to religion or mass culture. “In this exhibition there are works that talk about still ancient mythologies, one of them reconstructs the talk about the possibility of finding heaven, a heaven that we know exists, but we don't know, and that everyone says is good”. Denilson comments on two mythologies contained in this legend. The first talks about a party in the sky, where only those who fly could enter. A tortoise heard that heaven was fun and wanted to go, so he got into a bird's bag. When he got there he didn't like what he saw, he wanted to go back, but as he can't fly he stayed there, slipped and fell to the ground, which is why their carcasses are flat. “When the Catholic church arrives and promises us redemption in heaven, no one understands what heaven this is, so we lose the strength of our bodies and thoughts that are available to this heaven. This work talks about these possible heavens that enslave you.”
The anthropologist and filmmaker Carlos Fausto, who is the curator of this exhibition, writes in his text: “Denilson puts on stage the forms of eating, sexual and cannibalistic, in which people and animals mix, the enlightened nun receives a vibrator, the tapir with his huge penis dances close to the girl, a couple sucks a spaghetti of intestines and a woman delicately and sensually devours her husband's arm, lying in his canoe hammock stretched out into infinity. I want moqueca!” When I finished reading it I thought, phew! I'm glad I didn't get confused by this text that has the soul of the exhibition Forrobodó, whose party/vernissage took place at the headquarters of A Gentil Carioca, in the heart of Rio, with crazy performances with the look of an early carnival.