Jornal Quilombo, created by Abdias Nascimento over the course of his Teatro Experimental do Negro, is the central theme of the collective Quilombo: lives, problems and aspirations of the black, which opened on November 19 at Galeria Lago, in Inhotim. The direct reference to the publication that, in its ten editions, has raised the discussion of racial problems in the country requires that the exhibition present artists whose works demonstrate the urgency of occupying public and private institutions to discuss the signs and meanings of their own bodies, religions, sexuality, among other themes. The exhibition then presents artists who highlight the importance of the processes and consequences of the elaboration and development of an exhibition – from the idealization of the concept of curatorship to the transformations of the market in view of participating in an exhibition in one of the largest institutions in the country, passing through for assembly and public speeches. They carry powers and voices that go beyond their works and call everyone to understand why they represent the main vanguard of our contemporaneity: to them belongs the power that, added to the legacy of Abdias Nascimento, inspires and calls others together to disrupt the system.
The show is part of the 2021-2023 program of exhibitions and events dedicated to Abdias Nascimento and the Museu de Arte Negra, conceived by the institution’s curatorial teams in partnership with Ipeafro – Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Afro-Brasileiros, also created by Abdias. Divided into four acts, the program has already presented two great shows – First Act: Abdias Nascimento, Tunga and the Museum of Black Art🇧🇷 and Act Two: Dramas for Blacks and Prologue for Whites – and will open two more in 2023.
Quilombo: life, problems and aspirations of the black, one of the “extra” exhibits that dialogue with the general program, unfolded from the reflections and research during the development of the Act Two: Dramas for Blacks and Prologue for Whiteso, which has occupied Galeria Mata since May this year. Also carried out in partnership with Ipeafro, the joint curatorship makes it possible to deepen Abdias Nascimento's legacies already present in the second act: Teatro Experimental do Negro, center of Abdias Nascimento's thinking, and Jornal Quilombo, a publication edited by TEN, are points of departure for the open exhibitions at Galeria Lago and Galeria Fonte.
Connected with international institutions that, for some time now, have been reviewing their collections and programs to be more connected with current guidelines, Inhotim announced, in 2021, that it was concentrating efforts to promote actions with the aim of expanding diversity in its collection and exhibitions . The first step of this movement was to acquire works by black artists – in the last two years, therefore, works by Arjan Martins, Pedro Nevez, Zéh Palito and Panmela Castro, among others, entered the institution's collection. The search for transformation, in this same movement, will extend to the pavilions: so far there is no pavilion for black artists in the largest open-air museum in Brazil, but projects have already been announced to change this scenario and the first black artist to winning a pavilion to call her own will be the Nigerian Otobong Nganka.
The new group show follows the same path of seeking transformation and diversity by presenting more than 80 works by 34 black artists and collectives. Some of them were acquired by the institute in the last two years and served as a guide for the preparation of the exhibition.
Understanding the importance of the newspaper for the black press in Brazil and for the black representativeness of the Brazilian people, the co-curatorship of Inhotim and Ipeafro is an important, albeit late, step towards inclusion. But the little participation of black artists in Inhotim did not go unnoticed by the artists and the way in which the process was idealized and communicated caused noise and revolts.
This is the case of Maxwell Alexandre, who, at the pre-opening of the press conference, criticized the concept of the exhibition and the attitude of the institution which, according to him, did not explain the scope in which his work would be inserted, having understood only when the official communiqué of opening. The artist requested, through his social networks, the removal of his work, writing in the post:
“There is no black artist pavilion in Inhotim. At the moment when, already late, they finally decide to make some space, they all cram into a single gallery, in a temporary exhibition. And then, in another gallery – which, by the way, why was it not used to expand the Quilombo exhibition? – put 3 white artists, with the title “The world is the theater of man”. 34 blacks under a title that suggests approaching THE BLACK'S dreams and problems. While 3 whites under one title with an emphasis on the universal, the world and humanity.”
Throughout the post, the artist criticizes, in addition to the lack of a black artist pavilion, the scarcity of black people on the museum staff and the fact that the parallel exhibition opened on the same day, “O Mundo É o Teatro do Homem” , in Galeria Fonte, be composed by, Jonathan Andrade, Barbara Wagner and Benjamin of Burca. The starting point of the show is Abdias Nascimento and the Teatro Experimental do Negro, a character and movement that rightly claim black protagonism in all arts, would be crucial and non-negotiable, therefore, a black protagonism in this exhibition as well.
It is worth remembering, however, that Jonathas, Bárbara and Benjamin work, in the exhibited works, with the concept of the “theater of the oppressed”, developed by the Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal, who was inspired and even exchanged correspondence and ideas with Abdias – one of them dated from 2004 and exhibited at the show, in which Boal announces: “Abdias helped me a lot in my beginnings in theatre: he read my plays and gave me advice, which was always useful, not only from a theatrical point of view, but what was most important to me, from an ethical and political point of view.
The work by Maxwell Alexandre, “Untitled (from the Novo Poder series), 2021”, is part of the Inhotim collection and is one of the highlights of the group show, starring in the eponymous core of the series in which the artist portrays blacks occupying spaces of art. Since November 18, the artist has been active on his social networks, expressing his indignation at the way public and private institutions treat black artists, requesting the removal of his work from the Inhotim exhibition. Through an official note, on December 2nd, the institution announced that it will comply with the request made by the artist: Inhotim takes a position [...] and expresses, in a spirit of conciliation, its intention to, at the artist's request, withdraw from the exhibition of the untitled work, from the series “Novo Poder” (2021), by Maxwell Alexandre. All the artists in the exhibition were informed about the withdrawal of the work, as well as the steps to be taken as a result of this change. From the 7th of December onwards, the work will no longer be on display at the exhibition. Quilombo: life, problems and aspirations of the black” at Galeria Lago🇧🇷
The Journal and “Meeting of vanguards”
The title Quilombo: lives, problems and aspirations of the black mentions the newspaper created by Abdias Nascimento's Teatro Experimental do Negro in the late 1940s. In its ten editions, published between 1948 and 1950, the tabloid addressed several fundamental agendas of black people in Brazil, such as issues of black representation and identity in the society of the time. Some of them guide the exhibition and enhance the debate on topics that are still latent in the country today.
The collective exhibition is divided by the curators into five thematic groups: “New power: reformulating an avant-garde”; “Public Lives”; “Black life and aspirations”; "They speak"; and “Rewriting history: construction and affirmation of identity”. According to Deri Andrade, “each nucleus, with its selection of works, flirts, dialogues with the topics raised by the newspaper itself”. The works constantly converse with the documentation about the Journal displayed at the exhibition.
The vanguard figure of Abdias Nascimento – an activist engaged in actions and creations for the seizure of power by the black population, a staunch critic of the myth of racial democracy who fought for the construction of a national identity with black protagonism – is the soul and often the body of the works in the show. Bringing together artists who carry in their poetics and aesthetics the power of their struggle and resistance, the collective seeks to reveal an avant-garde production that claims, each in its own language, achievements already proposed in Jornal Quilombo, but that still need attention.
“It is the first time that Inhotim has a collective exhibition that shows the work of an emerging avant-garde. It is a collective force, they are artists who are really changing many paradigms, both museological and epistemic and about the ways in which museum narratives are constituted in Brazil today”, evaluates Julieta González, artistic director of Inhotim.
The avant-garde thinking expressed in Quilombo by artists, intellectuals and thinkers addressed the complexity and strength needed to articulate changes towards a more inclusive and democratic idea of the country. “Abdias spoke a lot about this, the Quilombo was there to claim pertinent issues at the time, which today we understand as affirmative actions”, comments Deri Andrade.
It is with the rescuing of the uprising promoted by the newspaper that the exhibition begins, from the approximately 28 paintings made on leather and wood by mulambo for the series the leather withand, types of opening panels that are interspersed with the works. Each canvas rescues affective and resistance themes that are revisited throughout the exhibition.
The opening section “New power: reformulating an avant-garde” claims the black presence in art spaces and their seizure of power, putting into perspective who makes the avant-garde: artists who propose nation building.
In this segment of the exhibition, the selection of works by Panmela Castro is what draws the most attention, exploring the portrait genre and using important black figures in contemporary art as its characters. It is a mechanism to show who are the people who formulate this avant-garde and the importance of portraying them. Among the eight paintings by Castro, it is worth noting, are the portraits of artists who are also part of the exhibition with their works, such as Elian Almeida and Yhuri Cruz.
Emphasis on the metalinguistic configuration of the work “Dalton Paula (Residência Jandira)”, in which Panmela Castro includes herself on the canvas next to the artist from Brasilia Dalton Paula, in turn next to a painting of hers within the painting itself.
Still in the opening section, Ros4 Luz claims the place of the black woman based on the trans body. In his series “UóHol”, Rafa Bqueer makes reference to the famous silkscreens by Andy Warhol in the composition of portraits of forgotten artists from the LGBTQIA+ scene, such as Madame Satã, Jorge Lafond, Leona Vingativa and Marcia Pantera, subverting the logic of the space dictated by a white artist and giving them prominence.
The claims of the photoperformance series “I swallowed knives, along paths Or where you want pain I am a revolution” follow in this line, conceived by Erica Malunguinho when the artist and state deputy tried to block PL 504/2020 in the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo (Alesp) , which banned LGBTQIA+ advertising.
“The idea of the exhibition is to show how this production is diverse, it has artists interested in so many things, even beyond ethnic-racial issues. We tend to think that the black artist only talks about black issues, and that is not the case”, says Deri Andrade.
Leaving pragmatic issues to focus on the imaginary, the selection of works whose reference is the section of the newspaper that portrayed everyday life occupies the nucleus “Black life and aspirations”, which brings lightness and breath to the political content of the exhibition.
The look of boys is taken over by the blue of a day at the beach in Kika Carvalho's painting, which keeps company with the samba plot by Wallace Pato, the dance of boys in the countryside created by Antonio Obá and the prosperity of bodies in Pedro Neves' composition.
The importance of portrait
The course of the exhibition highlights the importance of representing the figure and identity of black people, commonly erased from History. Due to the need to subvert this stigma, portraits of historically important figures, produced by contemporary black artists, are recurrent in all centers.
“We have noticed that currently the production of black artists is focusing on portraiture, and not only artists who portray themselves, but also people interested in portraying, in establishing in the historiography of art the image of these figures who were so important to the History of our country ”, points out Deri Andrade.
This is the theme of the nucleus “Public Lives”, which contextualizes and presents the Brazilian identity from the point of view of black protagonism guided by important figures in the abolitionist and post-abolitionist struggle in Brazil, art, culture and social issues addressed by Jornal Quilombo. This core includes works by artists such as O Bastardo, Januário Garcia, Elian Almeida, Gustavo Nazareno, among others.
The opening is the portrait of Abdias made by O Bastardo, who comments: “This portrait is the first of a series of mine called 'Sinatura de Forgotten'. In it, I think about the issue of Abdias Nascimento from the point of view of a rescue, but not just as a tribute, as a reference. It has a direct purpose. I believe in what Abdias did and in his research, in what he wrote. What he revolutionized and created. This needs to be in contact with the black community, this needs to be access to the black community.”
“In my language, the aesthetic appeal that painting has is a channel, the way it manages to capture energy and mobilize people when they come into contact. In this series, I thought of using this precisely to bring these icons of History and the black Brazilian people to them.”
Elian Almeida’s work, on the other hand, recreates the anthological photo of the artists of the Modern Art Week, transferring the protagonism to black women: “Conceição Evaristo, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Beatriz Nascimento, Maria Auxiliadora da Silva and Djamila Ribeiro” (also the title of the work) . The work was the cover of Vogue in February 2022.
The nucleus “Elas Falam” gives voice to female artists, referring to the column by journalist Maria Nascimento in Quilombo, “Fala Mulher”, in which she claimed female emancipation as a black woman in contestation agendas. Her column carried political debates that ranged from the right to vote to the regulation of domestic work, raising awareness of the importance of black women in political life and racial and gender inequalities in that period, a debate that continues today in the body and voice of women. black women in search of protagonism and listening.
In this thematic selection, we see works by artists such as Kika Carvalho and Juliana Santos, the powerhouse of the Nacional Trovoa collective (made by black women who take on the roles of artists and internal curators of the work), self-portraits made by Ana Elisa Gonçalves and Larissa de Souza.
All the stories of sensitivity, strength and power of many women are seen and presented in this nucleus. Like the paintings in which Larissa de Sousa poses as a portrayed figure, as in the case of Three Marys, in which he evokes his affective memory using symbologies about his childhood, and see me again, which addresses belonging and identity.
Historical and social reconstruction of a country
“The nucleus that closes the exhibition brings points where we find works with more diversity of support and that more approach the historical reconstruction for us to think and rethink the country”, explains Deri de Andrade.
It is the “Rewriting of history: construction and affirmation of identity”, which presents a greater plurality of generations of artists sharing the exhibition space and where the works dialogue about the idea of a country. Big names in contemporary art, such as Rosana Paulino, Eustáquio Neves and Arjan Martins are alongside artists who are gaining more and more relevance in the current art scene, such as Robinho Santana, Yhuri Cruz and Silvana Mendes, among others. Robinho Santana comments: “it's amazing to be with my work alongside artists who are references for me, like Rosana Paulino and Moisés Patrício”. In the work “Retomada”, the artist brings the streets to the canvas when talking about art and education as weapons against the oppression of young black people.
The core exhibits the famous series “Aceita?”, in which Moisés Patrício portrays his left hand in 20 photographs, each showing a different offering, a fundamental gesture to break prejudice against candomblé. Rosana Paulino's monotypes guide the political discourse of education, repression and urban violence in “Fardo”.
The works of this core are associated with the present time and its urgency, making reference to current newspapers beyond the events and denunciations they carry, proposing new articulations. This is the case with the work of Arjan Martins: “The panel was created during my residency at the Bienal de Montevideo, Uruguay, in 2019. I came across news of children being attacked by the State, such as João Pedro, Ágatha and others, and I did the painting to denounce the murders of these children by those who should have been protecting them.”
Also famous, having participated in the exhibition on Carolina de Jesus at the IMS and the recent Brazilian Stories, from Masp, the work of Yhuri Cruz, Monument to the Voice of Anastasia, interferes with the portrait made by Jacques Etienne Arago in 1817. The original represented the woman enslaved with a shackle around her neck and a gag. Cruz frees her from the instruments of torture and puts a slight smile on her face, presenting the work in the format of the traditional saints distributed in the church, in which Anastácia becomes the saint of impossible causes.
The general set of works brings reflections on the past and the desired future for the country, so that every step taken so far towards racial inclusion and black protagonism is not erased from History and the present, as it is based on a trajectory of struggle and resistance to which the different generations of artists present at the exhibition refer, assuming together with the pages of Jornal Quilombo a yearning for transformation. For this reason, the title goes beyond the problems of black people and encompasses any minority group, also assuming aspirations for the future so that every different trajectory told so far is an articulation for change in Brazilian society.
Quilombo: lives, problems and aspirations of the black
Location: Galeria Lago – Inhotim
Address: Rua B, 20, IBrumadinho, Minas Gerais
Date: Until July 16, 2023
Opening hours: Wednesday to Friday, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
Ticket: R$ 50 full
* Half-price valid for students and over 60s and partners). Children up to five years old do not pay admission.