View of the exhibition. Photo: Daniel Cabrel

How do songs that tell the history of the world become an image? How do the visions of an ayahuasca ceremony translate to the canvas? How do the visible and invisible worlds connect? The questions may echo in MAHKU: Mirações, new solo show by the indigenous collective. On display at MASP until June 2023, the show is curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Guilherme Giufrida, artistic director and assistant curator of the institution, and by Ibã Huni Kuin, guest curator and one of the founders of the Huni Kuin Artists Movement.

Those who visit the São Paulo museum find works of intense color and densely laden with elements. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations and murals that seek to translate and record the original traditional chants and mirações — visual experiences generated by the ingestion of ayahuasca in the nixi pae, the central ritual of Huni Kuin communities.

MAHKU's artistic production is, therefore, extremely synesthetic: the components portrayed on the screen not only transpose the lyrics of the sung stories, but also add rhythm to the visual art through their compositions. The tones, vibrant and saturated, refer to the psychedelic universe experienced during rituals with the sacred drink. “This is the language of miração. It is the spirit of the world that we have there and that we are transmitting in these paintings and in these songs. Songs of enchantment that existed before we came along. You can feel them, you can reflect on them,” explains Ibã to arte!brasileiros.

Because they contain the myths and stories of the foundation of the world belonging to the Huni Kuin cosmology, songs are today a fundamental way of transmitting knowledge. For Ibã, listening to the music, experiencing the visions and seeing the works of art allows one to feel what one cannot fully understand. “At that moment you can feel, you can remember that traditional knowledge that we are losing.” For him, the paintings make it possible for those who are not Huni Kuin to approach and be enchanted by this culture, “doing a good healing thing so as not to end up with this language of my people”.

 

THE LADDER-RAMP IS A BRIDGE

This communion between different cultures is fundamental to the Huni Kuin, dating back to the beginning of the world. The traditional story tells that after a long walk, humans reached a point where they needed to cross the sea to continue their journey. A bridge alligator offered itself as a path. The mythical creature asked for food in exchange, with only one condition: that the people would not kill any of its cubs and that they would not give it one of them to eat. However, with increasingly scarce options, humans hunted small alligators, betraying the trust of the big one, which submerged, breaking the bridge and separating peoples, causing different cultures and languages ​​to be founded in the world. Today, the Huni Kuin population builds new bridges, which connect these peoples and allow transit between their worlds and the enchanted and visible worlds.

The MASP exhibition references history by transforming its iconic red ramp into a bridge. The architectural piece is the most routine way for museum visitors to reach the MAHKU: Mirações and, when it becomes a work, being the basis for a temporary mural made by the Huni Kuin Artists Movement, it introduces the connection between different worlds: the western one, from Av. Paulista and the exhibitions of the European canon, to Huni Kuin cosmology; the visible of art and the invisible of visions.

As Guilherme Giufrida, curator at MASP, explains, “I thought that this staircase could be that point of contact, which is very much there in the myth of the alligator-bridge. This huni kuin drive to communicate with the other side and produce this relationship. Even with a series of risks, difficulties and asymmetries, it seems that they are always insisting on this communication, this transmission of knowledge”.

Walking through the exhibition, we are gradually guided to this communication. As a counterpoint to this knowledge transmitted through singing and rituals, the curators' choice was to unveil this story at MASP through the text. Throughout the expography, we come across wall writings that, instead of organizing the exhibition into nuclei, seem to transcribe the Huni Kuin culture in a didactic and ethnographic way, which seek to explain that in this case you are not just “entering an exhibition by another artist who happens to be indigenous. You really are entering another visual universe and another cosmology”, explains Giufrida, who was responsible for preparing this material and the exhibition book after an immersion in the village. The curator adds: “I think the text can be an 'appetizer', which awakens people's interest in discovering more of this culture”.

The setting is also given by the expography, but in a more subtle way. The wooden tripods that support the works and divide the space, bring a simple and minimalist look — so different from the works with their intense colors and rhythms — and seek to create a fluid space for those who walk through the exhibition. “There is no linear, chronological or even successive rule of events. You can see the exhibition entering from either side, it has no beginning, middle or end”, explains Giufrida.

MOVING TRADITION

Thus, presents MAHKU: Mirações presents the ten years of the artistic group's formalization without tying it to the past. As Giufrida explains, this is not about portraying the indigenous universe and its art in a static way, the cliché image of a people trapped in the past, but rather the plurality and transformations that accompany tradition in the history of the Huni Kuin Artists Movement.

“When we think of a white artist, of tradition and of the Western canon, it is very easy to assume that production changes over time, because it has the need for improvement, transformation and innovation, typical of the modern bourgeois world. While in the indigenous world, at first we have an assumption that art would be linked to a more stable idea of ​​tradition”, explains Giufrida. By bringing together productions from different periods, media, themes and that show partnerships made over the years, MAHKU: Mirações, seeks to go against the grain, and shows the plurality in the collective’s production: “When you look at the group’s production in about ten years, you see the immense transformation that this group produced based on its practices”.

Thus, introduces us to MAHKU. Collective that began informally in 2009, in contact between the anthropologist and educator from São Paulo Amilton Mattos and the artists Bane and Ibã Huni Kuin; who consolidated his artistic research when Ibã became Amilton's advisee on the course at the Federal University of Acre, developing strategies for recording knowledge and oral practices in the form of figurative images (dami), in order to keep his memories; and was consolidated in 2013. An artistic movement that today occupies major museums and creates bridges between worlds.

Sample MAHKU: Mirações integrates the MASP programming year dedicated to the cycle indigenous stories, which includes exhibitions by Carmézia Emiliano, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe, Comodato MASP Landmann of pre-Columbian ceramics and metals, and Melissa Cody, in addition to the large collective exhibition of the same name. “I think that everything that happened in the macropolitical sense, with the reduction of demarcations, the total disregard for indigenous causes in the last government and this resumption now with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and with a series of resumptions of public policies aimed at this population , this year became a very strong milestone [of this discussion]”, says Giufrida.

For him, MASP's programming is part of a specific resumption: “It is the great resumption of the population that is here before any movement of European invasion, of all the complex, contradictory and violent fact that this colonization caused in our country. So, we are returning to something that is very fundamental and that makes the narrative of Brazilian art much more complex, plural and radical”.

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