Termite Mounds as producers of life and art
The Cupinzeiros (Termite Mounds) series is comprised of coils and ridges in various shapes and sizes, patiently molded by Lidia Lisbôa and marked with her fingernails. “From the dirt floor house in Paraná, I could see an avocado tree standing straight and several termite mounds. My mother told me to stay away from them because they were dangerous. I didn’t touch them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Years later, I wound up creating my own termite mounds,” says the artist.
Seemingly dried out and dead on the outside, termite mounds are living mountains, shaped by termites with saliva, earth, plants and droppings to store food and eggs – they are, therefore, shelters for generating new life. Lidia Lisbôa’s termite mounds are made of clay, from the artist’s hands and memories. Like termites, she devours organic matter – racism, abortion, rape, and other psychological materials that she returns to the world as art objects.
Adriana de Oliveira Silva is an anthropologist and journalist. In 2018, she defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Galeria & Senzala (Gallery and Slave Quarters): the (im)pertinence of the black presence in the arts in Brazil”, at the University of São Paulo’s Department of Anthropology.
Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.