Indigenous curator Sandra Benites, now head of Funarte's visual arts department. Photo: Rodrigo Avelar
Indigenous curator Sandra Benites, now head of Funarte's visual arts department. Photo: Rodrigo Avelar

When, at the beginning of last February, National Museum employees welcomed Leandro Grass, who had just been sworn in as president of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (Iphan), there was tension in the air, as journalist Bernardo Esteves reports in the March edition of Piauí magazine. Since the fire that destroyed 85% of the institution's collection, Iphan has been the biggest obstacle to the reconstruction of the São Cristóvão Palace, and its then president, the monarchist Olav Antonio Schrader, even proposed that the place become a center dedicated to the memory of the family imperial.

In the meeting with Grass, the director of the National Museum, Alexander Kellner, renewed the invitation for Iphan to join the institutional committee that monitors the renovation of the institution and, this time, the response was immediate. “Where do I sign up?” Grass quickly asked.

Urgency, in a way, has been the pace of cultural professionals in Brazil, seeking to make up for lost time in the last six years, since the coup against President Dilma Rousseff took place. We cannot forget that the Ministry of Culture was extinguished by Michel Temer, but pressure from the sector made the MinC continue. Even so, since then, its budget has been reduced, until in the following management the ministry was extinguished for good.

According to data compiled in the Government Transition Cabinet Report, released last December, “since 2016, there has been a loss of 85% in the budget of the direct administration and of 38% in that of the indirect administration” of Culture. The document also points out that “the National Culture Fund (FNC), the sector's main government financing mechanism, had its budget reduced by 91%”. The cut was so severe that most of what was left was used for maintenance, making any final activity unfeasible.

With all this, summarizes the report, “the estimated loss of the cultural sector for the 2020-2021 biennium was BRL 69 billion”. In addition to the end of consistent public policies, the pandemic has greatly helped to devastate the sector. Still according to the document, “the estimates of participation of the cultural sector in the Brazilian economy, in 2019, ranged from 1,2% to 2,7% of GDP, with the set of people employed in the cultural sector representing 5,8% of the total. (5,5 million people), operating in more than 300 companies”. With the pandemic, the sector's turnover approached zero, as the only activities that continued to earn were those related to digital services, such as streaming video and music.

The scorched earth was only effectively avoided thanks to the approval and implementation of the Aldir Blanc 1 Law and the Paulo Gustavo Law, which, together, allocated R$ 6,8 billion to the cultural sector, based on an effort with culture secretaries , parliamentarians and cultural agents.

For all these reasons, the return of the Ministry of Culture, under the administration of the singer Margareth Menezes, the first black woman with this function, has been marked by the reallocation of resources on the one hand, and the choice of professionals with recognized expertise in the area.

At MinC itself, the presence of Henilton Menezes, from Ceará, as Secretary of Creative Economy and Cultural Fostering, is one of the great examples. He is one of the leading specialists in development policies in the country, having already held a position in the sector between 2010 and 2013, in addition to having published The Rouanet Law – Far beyond (F)acts.

Another of the MinC secretariats that is also occupied by a person from Ceará is dedicated to Training, Books and Reading, with Fabiano Piúba. He had also held this position in the Dilma Rousseff government, and, in recent years, was the Secretary of Culture of Ceará. It was there, during the inauguration of the Pinacoteca, at the end of last year, when he had not yet been nominated, that he predicted to arte!brasileiros that the reconstruction period will not be easy. “We will need at least two years to actually resume the necessary policies”, he said.

To occupy the Brazilian Institute of Museums (Ibram), until then occupied by the collector Pedro Mastrobuono, not used to public functions, Fernanda Castro, a career employee at the organ, was chosen, who was on a list of suggestions by ICOM, the International Council of Museums, which points to the support of the sector.

In fact, it is known that the previous management dedicated itself to appointing managers who were more focused on the destruction of cultural policies and the bodies they managed, one of the most exemplary cases being that of the Palmares Cultural Foundation, which even excluded 27 people from a list of black personalities, such as Milton Nascimento, Elza Soares and Gilberto Gil. It is a true mockery of an institution dedicated to combating racism and valuing black production.

Now, the black activist, lawyer and president of the Afro Bloc Olodum, João Jorge Rodrigues, has taken over as the new president of the Palmares Foundation, in the mission of resuming the organ to its original function.

In the possession of each of these figures, there was intense prestige from the government, as occurred in the investiture of Maria Marighella in the National Arts Foundation (Funarte), which is headquartered in Rio, and was created in 1975, ten years before the Ministry of Culture itself. .

The Minister of Culture, Margareth Menezes, and the president of the National Arts Foundation (Funarte), Maria Marighella, during her inauguration event at the entity, in downtown Rio de Janeiro Photo: Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil
The Minister of Culture, Margareth Menezes, and the President of the National Arts Foundation (Funarte), Maria Marighella, during her inauguration event at the entity, in downtown Rio de Janeiro
Photo: Tomaz Silva/Agência Brasil

Licensed councilor in Salvador, artist, granddaughter of deputy Carlos Marighella (1911-1969), signed by DOPS agents in an ambush, Maria received in her inauguration, at the beginning of March, the first lady Janja, in addition to several federal deputies, filling the Sala Cecília Meireles for two hours. Its management will be marked by a highly representative board, which includes the choreographer and former dancer of Grupo Corpo Rui Moreira, in the direction of performing arts, to the indigenous curator Sandra Benites, in the direction of virtual arts. The curator participated, in October last year, in the VII International Seminar: Culture, Democracy and Reparation, a partnership between arte!brasileiros and Sesc. And, after all the controversy that involved Sandra in curating the Museum of Art of São Paulo (Masp), her nomination has something of reparation.

It was at the inauguration of Maria Marighella, that Margareth Menezes recalled the persecution in recent years and the central role in the new administration: “Why the fear of culture? Because culture is a tool for transformation, emancipation, qualification, in addition to being an economic vector, which we can take better advantage of”. Like a mantra, she repeated several times: “The MinC is back”. ✱

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