C&AL: We can see in both, “Tupi Valongo” and “Vagina: caverna da terra”, that your work also focuses on female protagonism in art history. How do you address this?
AE: Much of our fragmented view of Afro-Indigenous issues comes from the profound need to reconsider the protagonism of women in history. Because if most of the slaves who arrived from Africa were men, it’s clear that the blood of indigenous women who were raped and domesticated runs through our veins. But these women have been erased from history. So when I present a performance that invites women to paint their bodies with stamps and repeat the positions found in rock paintings, I’m inviting us to understand our place in this decolonized art history. When I use ocher, which is a clay colored by iron dioxide, I am reestablishing connections with blood, with this element that gives life and death. Lindia [Joselma Santos’s nickname], one of the women who participated in the performance Ocher, is part of the São Raimundo Nonato capoeira group and a member of the Pimenteira indigenous nation, who were almost decimated. It’s the intersection of several stories rising to the skin’s surface as forces from the past.
C&AL: This involvement with the land, with materials available in nature, seems to be at the heart of your artistic practice. Is that correct?
AE: By using these techniques – stamps, ocher, the same materials used thousands of years before colonization – it’s like I’m able to connect with what they were seeking. When we speak of decolonization, we’re talking about territories, structures of power that have been established and that continue to reverberate with atrocious force. The places where people gathered to perform these great rituals were spaces endowed with a force. That is why the Serra da Capivara mountain range has such an huge concentration of paintings, because many people moved there. So when I present a performance – as it’s called in the world of the juruás [“whites” in Tupi], but for me stands firmly in the place of ritual – it is inevitably linked to the force of this land. We’re working on a project for an artistic residence inside the Serra da Capivara National Park, where we can bring together indigenous artists and thinkers from all over the world on this sacred land.
Anita Ekman is a visual and performance artist, illustrator and researcher of Amerindian and Afro-Brazilian art.
Lorena Vicini is an editor, researcher and cultural manager. She coordinated the “Episodes of the South” and “Echoes of the South Atlantic” projects by the Goethe-Institut São Paulo.
Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.