Mural Marielle Franco (collective creation), Escadão Marielle Franco (collective creation) and Fumaça Antifascista (collective creation). Image made in memory of the three years since the murder of Marielle Franco, an occupation of various artistic actions reminding that justice has not yet been done. Photo: reproduction

Faced with the socio-political chaos of the moment, man still counts on memory as a refuge to rebuild the space of utopia, dream and resistance. the collective Brazilian Stories, which occupies the 1st floor and the second basement of the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), provokes connections between contemporary man and his ancestry, mixes science, popular knowledge, reflection on native and Afro peoples, recalls social and political struggles faced by Brazilians over time.   

Following the impulses between tradition and novelty, Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director of the museum, and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, guest anthropologist, along with nine other curators, orchestrate the exhibition with almost 400 works signed by 250 artists. The conceptual trigger of the show is to escape the official history, to imagine thematic frameworks that provoke renewed reflections on our colonization. Pedrosa and his team have carried out exhibitions tied around different narratives that began with Childhood Stories (2016), Stories of Sexuality (2017) Afro-Atlantic Stories (2018) Stories of Women, Feminist Stories (2019) e Dance Stories (2020), which occurred only online because of the pandemic. 

“Now with the bicentennial of Independence, we Brazilian Stories. Masp is one of the only major Brazilian museums that did not create anything around the 1922 Modern Art Week,” says Pedrosa. According to him, the institution is more focused on social history and the field of culture. “This press conference makes more sense to us.” 

The eight nuclei that mark out the great exhibition do not constitute a guide, they all have a life of their own and they are: Flags and Maps, Landscapes and Tropics, Land and Territory, resumptions, Portraits, Rebellions and Revolts, Myths and Rites, Party. The press conference starts showing what it came for. In flags and maps, Bruno Battistelli shows his work Afro-Brazilian Flag (2022), which is not only an indicator of the author's taste, but a proof of resistance and militancy. The artist changes the colors of the national flag and transforms it into an Afro-Brazilian flag. Lilia, who shares the curatorship of this segment with Tomás Toledo, sees this work as payback. “Here we have the kidnapping back, not only for black activism, but also for LGBTQ+ activism and the resumption of maps. Every map is imaginary and a 16th century map is no less imaginary than Jaime Lauriano’s map, which demystifies racial democracy.” 

In fact, artists are occupying national symbols, as Lilia observes. Everything is made with supports from various sources – canvas, garbage bags, discarded objects – in short, a mixture of what is more temporary with what is more permanent. Faced with an armed and violent society, the presence of 5664 Women, (2014), work by Beth Moyses. The revolver bullet casings are supported by tulle with pearls and represent the 5664 women murdered by their partners in Brazil in 2013. 

Em Myths and Rites there is the questioning of the Portuguese colonial occupation that until today seems to be kept in public secrecy. Most of the artists in this segment are of African origin and their works were mined by the curators Fernando Oliva, Glaucea Britto and Tomás Toledo. “Much more than religions, this nucleus deals with myths, religiosity, questioning the colonizing project,” comments Oliva. The intersections that move the two groups of inflection with religions of African and indigenous origins reverberate in the history of Brazilian art, although, according to Oliva, it is difficult to detect this in Brazil, in the field of visuality.

A canonical genre within the history of painting, the portrait gains a large “aisle” in the exhibition, with dozens of works. According to Pedrosa, Masp has a tradition of full-length, full-scale portraits like those of Velázquez, Rubens, Ticiano, Victor Meirelles. “I wanted to commission and juxtapose, contrast, contrast them with the work of contemporary artists.” In this context, the curator asks Panmela Castro, for the group dedicated to the genre, for a portrait of Maria Auxiliadora da Silva; in the same segment, the painter No Martins shows a work based on a photograph, the only one that is not a self-portrait. 

The history of Brazil is strained from any angle one tries to understand it. Land and Territory it leaves latent the struggles for territorial spaces since the 16th century. Pedrosa curates this segment with Isabella Rjeille and comments that the theme involves national and foreign artists. The African-American painter Hank Willis Thomas created one of the most synthetic works of the genre, the map of North America linked to that of Africa, in a clear allusion to the route of slave ships. Poet Langston Hughes, black, communist, linked to the beatniks and activist in the 50's, had already talked about this cursed bridge between these two continents.

Brazil, with its kilometers of coastline and dense forests, is a multiplier of landscapes. With Guilherme Giufrida, Lilia works on the theme Landscape and Tropics and recalls that Brazil has always been represented by fallen humanity, which are theories of miscegenation and, on the other hand, by the eternalization of the landscape in the great tropics, like Eden on earth. Here the issue of horizontality is at stake, a topic debated among the curators, so it is not surprising that Histórias Brasileiras has this language that revolves around a continuous, endemic horizon, as Lília explains. Among the works mined, the paintings landscape with boa constrictor (1660), by Frans Post, which represents the Brazilian landscape, and photography Still Life 1 (2016), by Denilson Baniwa, which features the silhouette of an indigenous person killed in the Amazon rainforest, an analogy to the simultaneous extermination of both the forest and traditional peoples.

With André Mesquita, Lilia revives Rebellions and Revolts. “Brazil has always kept the mythological image of a peaceful, harmonious country, yet it was the last to abolish slavery.” Today the revolts are born against the past, like the protagonism of false heroes like the Bandeirantes. The curator emphasizes the presence of the work Confrontation with the Troops of Arthur Oscar, from Ceará, Descartes Gadelha, in addition to the collective a Horizon line, which speaks of censorship with flags of the mothers of May. André Mesquita comments on points in the show, such as the anarchists' strike on the streets of São Paulo in 1920. These struggles are made using pamphlets, from an ephemeral production that is transformed into art. In the middle of the room, Rubens Gerchman's gigantic sculpture from 1968, synthetically created with the letters LUTE, was part of the artist's activism against the military dictatorship in the 1960s.

We advance to the core resumptions, curated by Clarissa Diniz and Sandra Benites, who decided to cancel it in protest against the non-inclusion of photos of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and the indigenous struggle, taken by João Zinclar, André Vilaron and Edgar Kanaykõ Xakriabá. After negotiations with the artistic director of Masp, the photos are back, and they agreed to retake the core. 

Clarissa points out several occupation works with different forms of struggle present in this segment. The curator fights on the border between resistance and discovery. Among the findings of Brazilian Stories the “resurrection” of the Puri people stands out, through culture, language, and, above all, through the work of organization and the publication of a dictionary whose vocabulary was recovered with travelers or Puri Jesuits. “With that, a group of descendants, who knew nothing about this ethnic group, began to study Puri and also to compose, make poetry and communicate in that language,” explains Clarissa. 

Multiple counter-hegemonic narratives are in all nuclei. The decolonization movement began around 2010 and is now gaining strength and space. draws attention Monument to the Voice of Anastasia (2019), work by Yhuri Cruz, representation of the tortured slave forced to wear a shackle and a tin mask until her death. 

Of Guarani descent, Sandra Benites says that the struggle of indigenous peoples in Brazil is broad and violent. “The diversification is great, there are indigenous people living in demarcated areas, in the city, in the favelas, all of them erased as subjects. In the confrontations for the retaking of our lands, the mainstream media sees everyone as invaders”, laments Sandra.

The core Parties closes the exhibition and its curators, Amanda Carneiro and Adriano Pedrosa, believe that the works present there put the public in contact with the contradictory waysthose to celebrate, from different groups. Madame Satã's razor stands out (Pernambuco, 1900-Rio de Janeiro, 1976). João Francisco dos Santos, the mythical Madame Satã, was a homosexual, a kind of high-end bandit, who lived in Lapa in the 1930s, a territory free from carioca trickery, and which is also part of the legendary stories of Brazil. 


Brazilian Stories
Masp (São Paulo Museum of Art): Av. Paulista, 1578 – Bela Vista, São Paulo (SP)
On view until October 30, 2022
Opening hours: Tuesdays, from 10 am to 20 pm (entry until 19 pm); from Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 18 pm (entry until 17 pm)
Mandatory online booking via link
Tickets: R$ 50 (entry); BRL 25 (half-price); free tuesdays and thursdays


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