“Véxoa: We Know,” open to visitors at the Pinacoteca in São Paulo until March 22, 2021, is the first exhibition dedicated to indigenous art put on by the institution founded over a century ago. “Some Brazilian institutions are reconsidering the ways they are dealing with indigenous art, but we still have a long road ahead,” curator Naine Terena cautions in an interview.
C&AL: When did contemporary Brazilian art made by indigenous individuals start to be absorbed by institutional spaces in the country, like museums, without being labeled “folkloric”?
Naine Terena: It’s difficult to specify a date, but I believe that this has been happening over the last ten years, and especially since 2018. Indigenous art, of course, always existed, but recently, contemporary indigenous artists started incorporating new expressive tools in their art, such as video and photography. This was clear in the exhibition Teko Porã e ReAntropofagia [Teko Porã and ReAntropofagia 2019; Fluminense Federal University (UFF)], curated by [indigenous artist] Denilson Baniwa and [coordinator of the UFF Arts Center] Pedro Gradella, who gave an overview of contemporary Brazilian indigenous production with representatives of several ethnic groups, including Daiara Tukano, Moara Brasil and Jaider Esbell. As indigenous artists were diversifying their media, some Brazilian institutions, such as the Pinacoteca in São Paulo and the São Paulo Museum of Art, were finding inspiration in decolonial thought—a hot topic in the world today— and started paying more attention to this production.
C&AL: Are Brazilian institutions reconsidering the way they deal with indigenous art?
NT: Some are, but we still have a long road ahead of us in this country. It’s not enough just to want to have an exhibition. The team has to be prepared to maintain a dialogue with indigenous artists and communities, besides understanding the specific features of this production. In my view, the major difference in comparison to non-indigenous art has to do with the relationship with the market. Some works by indigenous artists have no price, for example.