BRUMADINHO, Brazil – At the heart of the Inhotim Institute, a contemporary art museum here, are four yellow-gold partitions. In homage to the Afro-Brazilian god Oxum, the walls represent spiritual and material wealth. They stand out from the perfectly white frame of the Mata Gallery, which houses them.
As vibrantly colored as the partitions, the works hanging on the freshly painted walls are the realization of a dream of the Brazilian artist and civil rights activist for decades. Abdias do Nascimentos. He wants to open a discussion about Black aesthetics in a country where more than half the population is Black, highlighting the value of the often underappreciated work of Black artists. and of those who refer to the representation of Black culture in their works – by making it more visible. He envisioned the Museum of Black Art (Museu de Arte Negra), and began collecting pieces to fill it, but after years of exile during the military dictatorship in Brazil, he died on 2011 before his plan was implemented.
His widow, Elisa Larkin Nascimento, has kept the fire alive with the Institute for Afro-Brazilian Research and Research (IPEAFRO) in Rio de Janeiro, where she and her husband started in 1981. It is now taking care of care for the archives of the Black Art Museum. “Black art has always been seen as something secondary,” said Larkin Nascimento, director of the institute. “It has always been associated with folklore or handicrafts, and all sorts of adjectives are often applied to things that are considered ‘smaller’. ”
In 2020, everything changed. Bernardo Paz, founder and owner of Inhotim, contacted Larkin Nascimento about working together to eventually provide the Museum of Black Art a temporary home.
“Honestly, to me, it was like something magical,” says Larkin Nascimento.
They agreed that over the next two years, Inhotim would facilitate the discussion that Abdias do Nascimento always wanted about the influence of African traditions on the visual arts.
More than 70 years after its founding, the Black Art Museum has for the first time a physical space where Nascimento’s collected paintings, drawings, photographs and installations can be seen. Even temporary existence is a milestone for those behind the effort and for Black artists.
The works depict everything from Oxum itself, which, like the baffles, representing spiritual and material wealth, to people enslaved during the centuries-long search for gold of Brazil.
These works are the legacy of the original Museu de Arte Negra, or MAN, conceived in 1950 as an outgrowth of the Black experimental theater under the guidance of Abdias do Nascimentoswho was then inspired to explore other art forms.
Nascimento first started painting in 1968 – four years after Brazil’s two-decade military dictatorship – when his friend, poet Efraín Tomás Bó challenged him to create his own artwork. me. That same year, he participated in an exchange program that brought him to the United States, where he met leaders of the civil rights and Black Arts movements, visited Black Panthers headquarters in Oakland, California, and participated in protests in the US against South African apartheid and the Vietnam War.
During his exile in the United States, he spent some time in the New York apartment of painter Ann Bagley. Here, he used his friend’s leftover matches and paint to continue creating his work.
But by the time Nascimento returned to Brazil, the military regime had shut down Congress and suspended guarantees of constitutional rights, a move that paved the way for the institutionalization of torture, common in the dictatorship. talent. As a result, Nascimento, the subject of several military police investigations because of his active work, lived in exile in the United States and Nigeria until 1981.
“An amazing thing happened to me,” Nascimento, who wrote in Portuguese, once said of his time in the United States, according to the institute. “Blocked by English, I developed a new form of communication. I discovered that I had another form of language within myself: I discovered that I could draw; And by painting, I can express what no one else can say. An experience difficult to explain. It is most appropriate to say that the orixás have descended and I paint in intimate contact with the orixá,” he said, referring to the gods in the book. Candomblé religion, which has long been practiced in secret in Brazil.
During his exile, he organized his first exhibition, which took place at the Harlem Art Gallery. It includes work he did during his exile and paintings he brought back from Brazil.
Now, the Black Art Museum’s exhibition in Inhotim, running through December 2023, will showcase some of those works, as well as a few others that he drew and collected from artists other artists for many years, hopefully one day he will find them permanently Home.
The first act, titled “Tunga, Abdias Nascimento and Museu de Arte Negra,” introduces museum attendees to the Black Art Museum, Nascimento and his friendship with Famous Brazilian sculptor Tungawho said in 1968, “for me, Negro art was the first to break the shackles of the saturated images of the Renaissance.”
Others whose work is in the archives of the Museum of Black Art include sculptors José Heitor da Silva and Chico Tabibuia, known for working with wood, an important tradition in the arts. of Black Brazilians.
Through its partnership with Inhotim, the institute has begun to shift its focus away from the usual European perspective of Brazilian museums.
For Julio Menezes Silva, coordinator at IPEAFRO and curator of the Black Art Museum, communication with the museum is crucial to the success of the project, and the conversations between the two institutions with local quilombo communities – settlements originally founded by people who had escaped slavery.
“We came to Inhotim with the idea of dialogue with the territories surrounding the museum and with leaders from the territories in and around Belo Horizonte,” he said of the state capital, Minas Gerais. “And we asked them, ‘What should we do with this space? How should we dominate this space in the next two years? ‘”
Douglas de Freitas, curator at Inhotim, explains that residents of quilombo settlements “always had access to the museum, but this opened a door to much better communication”.
While many details of the upcoming actions are still to be finalised, Larkin Nascimento says that the next two phases of the Black Art Museum in Inhotim will have a connection with nature, a central component of the project. Candomble religion. Inhotim is home to a botanical garden.
The museum is also working with religious experts to properly care for the sacred objects on display in the Black Art Museum’s collection and hopes to host more live events, such as ceremonies. Afro-Brazilian religion, pandemic restrictions allow, de Freitas said.
Nascimento says that the Museum of Black Art “is the museum of the future,” says Deri Andrade, assistant curator at Inhotim and head of research at Inhotim. Projeto Afro, a platform built to map and promote Black artists across Brazil. “And now what we have is an encounter with his legacy.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/arts/design/black-art-museum-inhotim-brazil.html In Brazil, Museum in Heritage Restoration Museum