Afro-Brazil

An art paper for my class, We went to an exhibit and these are my thoughts





What is art? The exhibit posed this question to the viewers, showing art of mediums that may not be considered ‘classical,’ including cinematic, installation and photography. The exhibits displayed in the Afro-Brazil gallery represent the mix of cultures in Brazil and the influence of the slave trade and how it brought the African people, and so, their culture, into the country. The mixed cultural customs, including deity worship, dance, and art forms led to a new art phenomenon. The mixes of cultures created a new method of looking at art from this part of the world, and is shown in the Afro-Brazil exhibit to allow people to witness this collage of culture.
    The installation pieces displaying different types of altars were very interesting in that they showed the the cultures mixing with African deities. On two of the altars, one to a storm goddess and another to a war god, the artist placed Japanese katanas. This could have been a reference to the Asian culture in Brazil as well as a representation of the warrior deities. The paintings above the altars had similarities to album covers or comic posters. This most likely is due to the methods and processes utilized to create the art. Also the similarity to comic characters and ideas causes viewers to question the origin of the characters in American culture, but the gallery focused more on Brazil, not America so viewers must look elsewhere for that information.
    The effect of culture on the art was also reflected in the photography. The subjects of the photos are examples of traditional ritual, such as dances and gatherings with various importance placed upon them. Subjects also include jewelry and crafting, such as necklaces and baskets made of local material comprising of shells and local woods. The composition of the photographs seemed better suited to a tourist magazine than an art gallery in that the photos seemed to be trying to explain something else, rather than have a meaning of their own. In one picture an arrangement of shells spiraled out of the center of the photo, to the edges of the frame. These shells were used to make a necklace seen in another photo. Also in the photos were baskets made of reeds by local women, this tradition dating back for hundreds of years into African culture where baskets held everything from crops to water to beads and shells. This importance carried over when African people came to Brazil and continued the traditions.

    Another mode of artistic delivery exhibited itself in the small theater. A video of women dancing in traditional costume showed on a projector screen in the small room. The costumes were European Colonial in style, reminiscent of the Spanish and Portuguese settlers who came to Brazil in the Age of Exploration.  The colors and cloth pattern are more African, in their bold patterns and bright colors. This created a cultural conjunction emphasized in the exhibit. The video itself was not professionally done as a documentary or a narrative, rather a handheld video camera lost in a crowd attempting to get evidence of the dance ritual. This may have been intentional to represent the frailty of the culture and how it attempts to survive the modern age and the globalization of culture.
    The most interesting pieces in the gallery were the dolls. The wooden models dressed in scraps of cloth and articles of jewelry put together to create traditional outfits on the dolls. Each doll represented a deity or important figure in Afro-Brazilian culture. The fascinating thing about these dolls was the mixture of cloths and jewels on them, it looked like a mess of things were sorted out and coherent costumes came out of the detail work. The dolls themselves weren’t carved or anything, and might have been the possible models used in art classes that are sold at art supplied stores. I can’t be sure however because the artist didn’t mention the doll in their medium attribution. The jewelry was familiar, a bracelet used as a necklace on one of the figures was similar to another seen on the altarpieces.
    The culture mix in Brazil with the people of African decent has creates a new way of creating art that is unique to the Afro-Brazilian people. This creation of culture is evident in all of the art pieces. Although the art may not be considered classical in the traditional sense of art dating back to the greeks, there is still meaning in the artwork that can be studied to learn more about this culture.

The End

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