Tiago Sant'Ana Open Society
Performance "Refino 2" by Tiago Sant'Ana. Photo: Reproduction.

O Brazilian Tiago Sant'Ana, 29, was one of the artists awarded by the scholarship program for the arts from the Open Society Foundation, a philanthropic organization created by billionaire George Soros. He is the first Brazilian to be chosen for this scholarship. The program is in its third year and announced last Tuesday, July 14, the ten recipients for the 2020 scholarships. They are artists, curators, cultural organizers and researchers working at the intersection of migration, public space and the arts. From Brazil, Botswana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Palestine, St. Croix, Syria, Tlingít Aani, United States. Selected fellows receive a grant of US$80.000 – equivalent to R$431 – to carry out an ambitious project within the next 18 months.

For Rashida Bumbray, Director of Culture and Art at the Open Society: “The Covid-19 pandemic and the current global scenario with systemic injustice amplifies the inequalities in our societies that marginalized communities have faced for generations. This is why the work of our colleagues is so urgent, as they work on the front lines of culture to advance self-determined narratives and inspire collective change.”

Among the proposals for projects to be developed are: a collaboration between performing artists and social activists to document an alternative history of Syrian migration; sustainable sculptures in Jamaica's Cockpit Country, a historic Maroon resistance area now threatened by environmentally destructive policies. 

In Brazil, Sant'Ana will develop performances exploring connections in Brazil between colonization, slavery and the sugarcane trade and current struggles for racial justice.

The artist was born in Santo Antônio de Jesus, a city in the Recôncavo region of Bahia. Sant'Ana holds a degree in Communication at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB), a master's degree in Culture and Society and is finishing his doctorate also in Culture and Society at the Federal University of Bahia. His work spans different languages, from performance to video, from photography to painting. He started getting involved in the arts ten years ago when he was still in college. In 2018, the Bahian held his first solo exhibition at the Bahia Art Museum (MAB). It was from this individual that Sant'Ana elaborated her project submitted and selected by the Open Society. He has also exposed at Paço Imperial, in Rio de Janeiro, and at Senac Lapa Scipião, in São Paulo.

Tiago Sant'Ana Open Society
Work “Refine”, by Tiago Sant'Ana. Photo: Disclosure.

“It was a process that started in July last year, in October I already knew the news, but due to a series of issues, the schedule was postponed, mainly because of the coronavirus”, the artist told the artist.  G1. Sant'Ana, being from the Northeast, recognizes in his selection the importance of thinking about art in Brazil outside the Rio-São Paulo axis.

In the interview with the news portal, he also states: “My project is to carry out a series of actions, performances, videos and photographs in these places [the engenhos], trying to bring out these memories linked to the issue of slavery. Thinking about it too, a contemporary look. To think, for example, how the consequences of this enslavement process as a result of the sugar cycle reverberate today”. Sant'Ana intends to visit at least a dozen other sugar mills in the region where he was born, and his plan also includes interaction with communities neighboring the mills – whose stories were forgotten as they became ruins.

The result of his project should be presented at an exhibition in Salvador next year, although the barriers imposed by the pandemic make it difficult to predict more accurately, both the date and the place.

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