Emma Ammos, Models, 1995

This year we celebrated the 130th anniversary of Abolition in Brazil, signed by Princess Isabel on May 13, 1888. And yet, the marks of slavery in the country are vivid and profound. Daily we are confronted with concrete evidence of racial inequality, whether through terrifying statistical data or through real dramas, such as the murder of Marielle Franco, which remind us how deep and ingrained racism is in the country. Despite the feeling that little progress has been made to combat this situation, the denunciation of this persistent segregation seems to gradually unravel the cloak of invisibility that covers the issue.

In this process of denunciation, reflection and combat, art plays a fundamental and amplifying role, despite being insufficient to reverse a situation of exploitation that has been perpetuated for centuries. If, until recently, exhibitions by Afro-Brazilian and African artists, or around issues linked to the slave-holding past and the racist present, were rare – and the Afro Brasil Museum (see opposite) seemed to be an essential, but isolated, focus of resistance – we have seen in recent times a flowering of manifestations in this sense. In addition to historical exhibitions held in recent years, such as Mestizo Stories, at Instituto Tomie Ohtake (2014); Territories: Afro-descendant Artists in the Pinacoteca Collection (2015/2016); Missing Dialogues, at Itaú Cultural, and SomxsTodxsNegrxs, at Videobrasil (both in 2017), a considerable amount of exhibitions, events and poetic reflections on the situation of black people in Brazil and in the world.

Dalton Paula, Paratudo. Bottle, rope, guinea plant, cachaça and cork, 60 x 60 x 180 cm, Sé Galeria, SP

At the moment, the exhibitions were simultaneously on display in the city of São Paulo ex-africa (CCBB), with the work of 18 contemporary African artists and two Brazilians, and the long-term exhibition É Coisa de Preto, organized by the Afro Brasil Museum, with a large number of exhibition centers.

On the 29th of June, a great exhibition began, entitled Afro-Atlantic Stories, conceived by a partnership between Masp and Instituto Tomie Ohtake. Bringing together approximately 400 works by more than 200 artists from Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas, it occupies all of the museum's temporary exhibition spaces. In addition, Masp has dedicated its entire 2018 program to discussing issues related to African and Afro-Brazilian art. In addition to an encouraging set of shows by black authors, such as the current exhibitions by Aleijadinho, Emanoel Araújo and Ayrson Heráclito, a small but significant change was made in its permanent exhibition, placing a new tone in this strongly Eurocentric collection and highlighting – the from the segment dedicated to modern art – the representation of blacks and the production of Afro-Brazilian artists.

Afro-Atlantic Stories will have eight different cores. the first of them, Maps and Margins According to curator Lilia Schwartz, it already signals the multiple, plural perspective adopted by the curatorial team. “In this river called the Atlantic, symbols, religions, ways of producing and above all people circulated”, she highlights, recalling the importance of authors such as Pierre Verger and Alberto da Costa e Silva (author of the metaphor of the Atlantic as a river) for the development of this project. , which involved three years of research and two international seminars.

The show brought in its different centers historical and contemporary, anthropological and aesthetic approaches, aspects that were deepened both in the catalog and in the book of essays that were released simultaneously. In international terms, African production, very little known here, gained prominence, as well as a wide production of Afro-descendants on this side of the Atlantic (with a strong presence of the current North American production). The Brazilian team – or produced in Brazil – is also wide, ranging from historical landmarks such as the Negro Woman with Child e black man, by Albert Eckhout, to a series of works commissioned especially for the exhibition.

Since the end of the 1980s, with the celebrations around the centenary of abolition and the promulgation of the Citizen Constitution, there has been a growing interest on the part of Afro-descendant Brazilian artists to reflect on a past that has not ended, gradually replacing the previous model that associated Brazilian art with an African matrix essentially to a universe linked to religious motifs and popular art.

Afro-Atlantic Stories not only gives space to the artists responsible for this turn, among which unavoidable names such as Rosana Paulino, Eustáquio Neves, Sidney Amaral and Dalton Paula stand out, who were present in practically all the previous shows already mentioned. The exhibition also sought to open space to identify new actors in this segment. Despite the important historical background, there is also a bet on new names for this production, both in Brazil (No Martins, Rafael RG…) and abroad (TitusKaphar, Nina Chanel Abney…), says Hélio Menezes, one of the curators of the exhibition next door. by Lilia Schwartz, Tomás Toledo, Adriano Pedrosa and Ayrson Heráclito.

A scholar of contemporary Afro-Brazilian production, Menezes says he is not deceived by the current interest that the art market has been dedicating to this production, which for years was ignored. But, according to him, there is no doubt that these artists are here to stay: “They are becoming unavoidable in the debate”. Another interesting aspect that he highlights in the research is diversity. Despite the emphasis on poetics more linked to political struggle, it is necessary to contemplate the wide range of languages ​​and themes worked by these artists. The curator exemplifies that the core Afro-Atl Modernismsânticos focuses on the production of black artists from Africa and the African diaspora, whose works are more oriented towards internal dialogues in art history.

As Menezes says, “each exhibition is a world”. The interesting thing is that, both due to the grandiose dimension and the friction it promotes between international production and the national scene, Afro-Atlantic Stories promises to expand knowledge and debate around African production in a contradictory country like Brazil which, despite – or perhaps because of – being the first country to bring slaves, has received the vast majority of the African population enslaved over more than 40 years. three centuries (it is estimated that XNUMX% of the blacks sold as slaves arrived here) and having been the last western nation to abolish this practice, it is still largely unaware of its history and the ties that unite it to black culture.

Also read interview with Emmanuel Araújo e Moses Patricio, two of the artists that make up the exhibition Histórias Afro-Atlânticas.

Leave a comment

Please write a comment
Please write your name