Batendo Amalá, performance by Ayrson Heráclito
Exhibition closes with meeting on indigenous and African issues in art and history
In the final Public Programs event of Unerasable Memories – A Historic Look at the Videobrasil Collection, held on Saturday, November 29, the show’s curator and art director for Malba, Spain’s Agustín Pérez Rubio, hosted a conversation about indigenous and African issues in art and history, alongside the artists Rosângela Rennó and Ayrson Heráclito. The panel Renegade Histories: Memories of Indigenous and African Descent took place at Sesc Pompeia’s Galpão area and featured an enactment of Heráclito’s Batendo Amalá performance. The exhibition, a production of Associação Cultural Videobrasil and Sesc São Paulo, ended on Sunday, November 30.
Rubio kicked off the debate by expounding on what the Unerasable Memories exhibit, which may go on an international tour in 2015, represents to Brazil, Latin America and the world. The curator discussed the starting point for his curating, his guidelines in selecting the artwork, and the exhibition’s role within Brazil’s current art scene. He remarked that Unerasable Memories was inaugurated as the 31st Biennial of São Paulo began, adding to the debate on art and politics. At the same time, Histórias Mestiças (Mestizo Histories), curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Lilia Schwarcz at the Tomie Ohtake Institute, shed light on the mestizo issue and its repercussions in art production. “Through art, the show represents a place in which to address really important issues to society, beginning with Brazil. Through socio-political issues we can understand our history. By re-situating ourselves, we are able to understand what we are and what we were at each point in history,” Pérez said in his speech.
Also invited to the panel, the artist Vincent Carelli was unable to attend, but sent a letter which was read by the director of Associação Cultural Videobrasil, Solange Farkas. Carelli provided backstage details and explained the meaning of the film A Arca dos Zo’é, featured in the exhibit, which he made with the anthropologist Dominique Gallois. The film was shot by indigenous filmmakers from the Waiãpi tribe (from Brazil’s Amapá state) via the NGO Vídeo nas Aldeias (Video in the Villages), and documents the trip of Waiãpi tribe chief Wai Wai and his film crew to the village of the Zo’é tribe, in the state of Pará. Wai Wai became aware of Zo’é culture on television. “Arca dos Zo’é was not a film about natives, it gave voice to the natives, a film where natives ceased to be objects to become protagonists of their own story; it did not underscore their distant exoticism, it highlighted their humanity, which is so close to our own,” Carelli wrote.
Rosângela Rennó commented on Vera Cruz (2000), her first work in video. Made on occasion of the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of Brazil, it is based upon and reinterprets the letter by Pero Vaz de Caminha, the first document ever written in Brazil, to the King of Portugal. The artist explained that the piece enabled her to create “a possible reading for a text that seemed so convoluted, tedious and long to me as a child.” Rennó also spoke on her experiences in studying language during trips to places such as Reunion Island, in Africa, and said she hopes to go to the Brazilian state of Amapá, on the border with Guyana, where she says the local speech is French- influenced.
Heráclito read excerpts from archives kept classified in Portugal up until the 80s of the past century, relating the “cruelties inflicted upon slaves by the richest man in Bahia and all of Brazil, throughout the second half of the 18th century,” Field Master Garcia d’Ávila Pereira de Aragão. In a way, these episodes summed up the concept of his piece Barrueco (2004), featured in the exhibition, which recounts the pain and the legacy of African slave trade. “What can we do with our injuries and our deepest wounds, and how can we make all these secrets productive?,” the artist inquired during the meeting with the audience.
The Batendo Amalá performance is a development of Heráclito’s inquiries into the heritage and the historical, cultural, social and religious influences of the arrival of Africans to Brazil, and particularly to the state of Bahia. The performative action has the artist preparing the “ajebó,” a votive ritualistic food for Xangô, the candomblé divinity of Justice, as he evokes his personal requests. Footage from a studio recreation of the performance, from 2013, has been donated by Heráclito to the Videobrasil Collection. In addition to Barrueco and Batendo Amalá, the collection features three other pieces by the artist: As Mãos do Epô (2007), Buruburu (2010) and Funfun (2012).
Unerasable Memories featured 18 Videobrasil Collection artworks made from the 1980s until our days, showcasing the power of first-person accounts and dissent in building the memory of countries marked by historical conflicts – including Vera Cruz, by Rennó, Barrueco, by Heráclito & Danillo Barata, and A Arca dos Zo’e, by Carelli & Gallois.