In Conversation with Rebeca Carapiá

How to Talk about Difference Without Explaining It?

Opening up her writings and notebooks, artist Rebeca Carapiá discusses environmental racism and the right to die of sculpture.

C&AL: The cotton canvas prepared for painting, the nobility of the copper, and the toughness of the iron: these materials meet and enter your investigation involving the working class neighborhood of Uruguai, in Cidade Baixa, in Salvador. How does this take place? And how does this area pulsate in your other exploration entitled “A Boat Made to Sink?”

RC: How many questions are there within one territory? The encounter with the materials I work on is a reaction to experience lived from and with the place. The copper on the canvas has a direct relationship with the Baixa do Fiscal neighborhood and my childhood memories of when we used to salvage copper from the burnt out engines to sell. The cast iron, my father’s locksmith shop, and living among the builders of the rebar that structured a large part of the city. Part of the Itapagipana Peninsula is a buried area, a region that started out as an industrial hub that poisoned and killed off one of the basins of the Tainheiros cove, which today is the place called Uruguai, where I was born and raised, and am still discovering to this day. In my Rust Diary, which began in 2020 together with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and flooding in the Uruguai neighborhood, I tell about my experience with sculpture and talk about daily life and our collective memories, including going back to one from when my brother and I used to make small metal boats to sail the tide, but that always ended up at the bottom of our flooded house. In How to Put Air Into Words, I was thinking above the area and now I am thinking under it.

C&AL: Your sculptural work, when associating the body with iron memories, carries its own performativity. What does this have to do with what you have been calling “the sculpture’s right to die”?

RC: I’ll choose an excerpt from my Rust Diary that I believe answers this question well: “In those days we talked about death, or rather, about the right to death, after all, we think that living too long in this time would be unbearable. We imagine rust living on the surface of the iron, alive like skin, where it breathes oxygen and reacts. The body-iron-matter, living and dying in its slow time, creates thick layers that tell of crossings. Rust is the sculpture’s right to die”.


Diane Lima is a writer, independent curator, and one of the leading black feminist voices in contemporary Brazilian art. She is co-curator of Frestas – 3rd SESC Triennial of Arts. She lives between São Paulo and Salvador.

Translation: Zoë Perry