Mothly Guest Author: Araújo, Emanoel

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2014-09-03 20:56Z by Steven

Mothly Guest Author: Araújo, Emanoel

GAM – Global Art and the Museum
Karlsruhe, Germany
March 2009

This month it is a great pleasure for us to present as our fifth guest author Emanoel Araújo, founder of the Museu AfroBrasil, who was interviewed by Hans Belting on the occasion of the first GAM Platform in São Paulo in 2008. In this interview Araújo not only discusses the role of contemporary art in today’s Brazil, but also provides us a deep insight into the creation of this unique institution throughout the world.

The Museu AfroBrasil in São Paulo. A New Museum Concept

The Museu AfroBrasil was created by municipal decree on November 20, 2003—Black Awareness Day—in a ceremony attended by state representatives and the Afro-Brazilian community of São Paulo. On this occasion, the Governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alkmin, donated the Manoel da Nóbrega Pavilion, designed by the Architect Oscar Niemeyer, and located in the beautiful Ibirapuere Park, the city’s central park, to house the Museu AfroBrasil.

The museum opened on October 23, 2004 with Museu AfroBrasil: um Conceito em Perspectiva [Afro-Brazil Museum: a Concept in Perspective]. On November 20 of the same year, the exhibition Brasileiro, Brasileiros [Brazilian, Brazilians] was dedicated to the presence of the three races in Brazil. “Some people may not accept the idea of racial mixture that Brazil represents,” said Araújo, current director of the museum. The Museu AfroBrasil, as the visitor’s guide explains, “aims to tell an alternative Brazilian history. This means it has the complex task of deconstructing an image of the black population constructed from a historically inferior perspective, and of transforming it into a prestigious image founded on equality and belonging, so re-confirming a sense of respect for one of the founding populations of Brazil. […] In the 20th century the artistic division created by [… ] academic art widened. On [the other hand] there were distinguished Black artists who, because they were outside the canon of […] art, were considered merely talented craftsmen or, at most, ‘popular artists’– […] By putting these artists side-by-side the Museum would like to highlight the historical and ultimately arbitrary nature of this separation, and emphasize the intrinsic value of the works by Black artists for which these distinctions lose all meaning.”

Interview with Hans Belting

Hans Belting (H.B.): What is the role of contemporary art in Brazil today?

Emanoel Araújo (E.A.): I think it was important to create the Bienal de São Paulo to pull Brazil out of her cultural isolation faced by the hegemony of other countries. It was also important for Brazilian art to invite the Swiss artist Max Bill, and his Unidade Tri–Partida [Tripartite Unity] to the biennial in 1951, as his presence consolidated the Concretism movement. Currently, globalization meets with a certain commitment of the galleries and art fairs throughout the world; however, contemporary art in Brazil is marked by a discourse that is not necessarily comprehensible abroad, where the regime of international curators pursues other interests. Usually, artists in Brazil looked beyond borders and identified with the ‘established’, or the ‘civilized’, without paying tribute to their roots and to the fact that they mixed with others to become Brazilian. This type of anthropophagia led to a certain mystique without which all artistic expression on this side of the Atlantic would look like second class art…

…H.B.: How would you describe the relationship between the museum that you have founded and the community museums of the United States?

E.A.: I do not care for the community museums of the United States, and I am not even sure whether they exist. However, I should add that we are worlds apart from their racial problems. Our ethnic composition is rooted in Portuguese colonialism, and we are Catholic. The Portuguese, a people born out of many races, where ethnic mixing comes with enforced rule, are very different from the Calvinist protestant formation of the United States. Our colors, and there are many, were perversely created to allow for a system of racial democracy, where the white established a pact in the definition of race according to color. Brazil was not only a slave- driven society, but also the last country in the Americas to free its slaves on whose labor wealth was based. This labor was used to grow sugarcane, tobacco, coffee and to mine for gold and precious stones, and today Brazil has still not come to terms with the question of this slave-driven society. In the nineteenth century, when slavery was flourishing, some blacks were more important than they are today. There were Negro poets, journalists, jurists, physicians, editors, writers and engineers. Negroes were forgotten after slavery was abolished in 1888, with the military coup of the republic carried out by the land-owning elites, the oligarchies of Brazil. The exodus to the periphery of major towns and cities, and the lack of any formal education for the people made, and continues to make a very big difference between Brazil and the United States…

Read the entire interview here.

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How the slave trade shaped the Baroque

Posted in Articles, Arts, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery on 2014-09-03 18:35Z by Steven

How the slave trade shaped the Baroque

The Art Newspaper
Focus, Issue 260, September 2014

Emanoel Araujo, Founder, Head Curator and Director
Museu AfroBrasil, São Paulo, Brazil

As Catholicism spread across the colonies, slaves and freedmen created a uniquely Brazilian style

The Baroque movement that spread across the Portuguese and Spanish colonies has been important to the Catholic hegemony of the New World since 1500. The image of the cross was used as a powerful symbol of evangelisation so that the work of the Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans and other religious brotherhoods and third orders could add European men and women, Indians and Africans to the Christian faith that developed as the glue binding a new era during the 17th and 18th centuries in Brazil.

Wild and tropical Brazil was the ideal environment for a new aesthetic, which was made a reality through the force of the colonisers and through slaves from West and Central Africa, who overflowed from the country’s sugar mills to the gold and diamond mines of Minas Gerais state.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh

Black and mixed-race slaves and freedmen were fundamental in the building of one of the richest periods in Brazilian art. In the midst of many disgraces, their vision shows the impact of miscegenation in the culture of the national Baroque.

The Baroque ideal meant the transformation in curves of the tenets of Classical art. It was the great spectacle of the forms of nature mixed with a strongly angled geometry in gold and white marble. Dark wood was put together with large panels of Portuguese blue tiles; ceilings were painted with illusionist paintings against a sensory backdrop of frankincense, myrrh and organ music.

Brazilian gold reached Portugal in tonnes, while the few bars remaining adorned the carvings of the altars of hundreds of churches, cathedrals and monasteries across the country. Artists, gilders, sculptors, woodcarvers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, cabinetmakers, carpenters and masons transformed humble chapels of rammed earth (taipa), made of wattle and daub (pau-a-pique), into monumental churches, convents and cathedrals with interiors covered in pure gold and sterling-silver devotions.

Much of this work was done by black and mixed-race slaves and freedmen, despite restrictions such as a decree banning African and African-Brazilian goldsmiths in 1621. This culminated in goldsmiths’ stalls being smashed in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia in 1766, although there are some examples of these decrees being dismissed…

Read the entire article here.

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