It was June 18, 1964, when black and white activists broke into the Monson Motor Lodge hotel in Florida and jumped into the pool. The simple act, more than peaceful, was encouraged by the desire for the right to fun, leisure and citizenship. But for hotel manager James Brock, that scene in the whites-only space had to be stopped immediately. He didn't think twice, grabbed a bottle of hydrochloric acid, used to clean tiles, and threw it in the water to force the protesters out of there. The episode happened days after Martin Luther King was arrested for trying to have lunch in a segregated area in the restaurant of that same hotel. The activists were arrested, but the impact of the protest was so great that, the next day, the US Senate approved the Civil Rights Act, which ended the legality of racial segregation in public and private places, after months of debates.
Even though today the black population is not legally prevented from occupying the physical spaces they so desire, the imaginary and symbolic spaces are still in dispute. Therefore, there is a great effort to make visible, in the artistic environment, images of these people far from stereotyped portraits and marked by violence, tension, pain and loss. And it is against this backdrop that the exhibition is born. Blacks in the Pool at the recently opened Pinacoteca do Ceará. With about 60 Brazilian artists, it presents the social landscape that is being built little by little, where “black, indigenous and transvestite bodies, among many other equally black ones, can have the right to work and rest”, as the curatorial text says .
Curated by the researcher and writer Moacir dos Anjos and the journalist, teacher and writer Fabiana Moraes, presents a space framed in a kind of large blue tiles that, together with the works, invite us to immerse ourselves in welcoming social poetics. There is no mistake here when they say “you can jump in, the water is warm”. Right in the first environment, we pass under the flags of Haroldo Saboia that carry, among other excerpts from songs, the words “I want to see you happy”.
According to Moacir, it is an exhibition that communicates with everyone, without great conceptual mysteries. For example, the excerpt from the popular Brazilian film, what time does she come back many are moved by showing the character of Val, the maid, entering the pool of her bosses that was forbidden for her. Afonso Pimenta's children's party photographs and Renata Felinto's Banquets also generate high and easy identification, placing the table as this meeting place and food as a point of celebration and abundance.
Even so, the curators managed to combine elements of lightness with completely political discourses, placing the black population as the protagonist and author of their own narratives. “Life, I'm eating you”, proclaims Yhuri Cruz's phrase printed in bold letters on the wall. The series collage Debret's Traumatic Update , by Gê Viana, also features people celebrating and a fruit totem in place of the flogged slave in the French painter's original image.
It is also worth mentioning that the collective brings to the public, in addition to young artists, unprecedented names on the national artistic scene, such as the Retratistas do Morro project, João Bertolini, Jéssica Amorim, Julio Souza, Marlon Diego, the Ceará duet Terroristas del Love, among others.
However, the curators lament the mismatch between the exhibition's success with the public and the disproportionate lack of visibility in the general press. In a single day, Blacks in the Pool received more than 2 thousand people, a number that is not so common even in the great museums of São Paulo. This “shows a very anachronistic view of what Brazil is”, says Fabiana Moraes. “What is happening in Ceará, in terms of cultural equipment, is unprecedented in Brazil. It is a very large investment in cultural equipment even during the Bolsonaro government”, she completes referring to the achievements of the inaugurations of Pinacoteca do Ceará, Centro Cultural do Cariri and Museu da Imagem e do Som, all held in 2022.
Blacks in the Pool comes to us as a strong wave of insurgency and freshness this summer. A wave that covers and exceeds resistance times, bringing the possibility of breathing underwater. It is a created space that, as Arnaldo Antunes would say, whoever has the privilege of visiting is “protected, safe, out of danger, relieved, without forgiveness and without sin, without hunger, without cold, without fear, without the desire to return”.
Blacks in the Pool
Location: Pinacoteca do Ceará
Address: Rua 24 de Maio, 34 – Centro, Fortaleza – CE
Date: Until May 7, 2023
Opening hours: From Thursday to Saturday, from 12h to 20h. Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm.