C&AL: You’re one of several contemporary artists who has renewed so-called Afro-Brazilian art with your personal experience, similar to that of many young black Brazilians, Africans, African Americans, and Afro-Caribbeans. Tell us a little about your background and how you came to the visual arts.
Moisés Patrício: Laroye Exu! Three important factors define my life history, research, and work: I am a candomblé practitioner, son of the orixá Ésú (Exu), and a witch doctor. I was initiated into the Ketu nation at the age of three, all my values are linked to the philosophy of the terreiro communities, to the circular Yoruba worldview, with no beginning or end.
I am also the result of a beautiful social and educational initiative called “Meninos de arte” (Art Boys), created and developed by the Argentine painter and teacher, Juan Jose Balzi (1931-2017), and where I first came into contact with the visual arts. In 1994, Professor Balzi, as he was known around the neighborhood, hosted several drawing and painting workshops on the boundary between the cities of São Paulo (Vila Industrial) and Santo André (Vila Sá). As part of the initiative, they offered children and teenagers drawing and painting classes, as well as tours to São Paulo’s major museums.
I lived nextdoor to where the workshops were held. I was passing by one day and I saw the workshop. I took a class, liked it, I went back and I kept going back to the space. During that time, I was given all kinds of encouragement to study, I became Balzi’s “pupil” and I was mentored by him until 2017, the year he died of cancer, at 86. In short, I started out as a student, two years later I became a worker in the workshop, and later the teacher’s assistant. I’m an art educator, I’m interested in initiatives that deal with young people in conflict with the law.
C&AL: You have a way with social media: many people follow you, are impacted by your work, your trips, your ability to bring people together, like with the Presença Negra (Black Presence) project.
MP: I was born around the same time the Internet first cropped up Brazil. I owe my social media skills to that, coupled with a historical lack of being heard, seen, recognized, and valued as a citizen. I come (my ancestors) from a history of devaluation and subtraction of black values, knowledge and actions. Social media allows me to break with this depraved cycle of our society.