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Mônica Ventura: Lending Visibility to Ancestral Religious Practices

The four-meter-high by nine-meter-wide installation—partially constructed with materials collected from around the museum and botanical garden, such as earth, straw, and sand—features elements from various religious practices of African and Indigenous American ancestral origins.

C&AL: How can we understand Noite suspensa and what do you as an artist learn, and what have you learned, from silence?

MV: Noite suspensa is the mystery, the moon, the feminine, and embodies the idea of movement and vibration. We don’t know if the sculpture is coming or going. I like to think of an object that is landing, almost hovering, in a gentle dance. The choice of symbols and the hanging sheets of earth, made using the rammed earth technique, reinforce this idea of lightness and floating.

There is also a proposition of movement, where the viewer is invited to walk through the installation and unveil its layers. Everything is alive in this composition: soil, straw, sand, natural pigments and vibrating symbols.

The central sculpture stands 4.70 meters tall and confronts all those who look at it. Its shape resembles a being that’s looking back at us. Who is observing whom?

I love silence, but that doesn’t mean silence doesn’t make sounds. I believe I’m referring here to the act of calming thoughts and surrendering to the gaze. What can I learn from the sound of looking?

In the rat race of everyday life, on social media, the news and the noise of the city, it’s difficult to access silence. We always have something to say, but here the proposition is about listening. Listening to the silence.

C&AL: Could we understand your work as a counterpoint to the restrictions/persecutions by which both peoples of African origin and their beliefs and indigenous peoples of Brazil suffer and continue to suffer in this country?

MV: For me, the purpose of the exhibition is to give continuity to my position, as an artist and a Black woman, of accessing spaces that are forbidden for racialized bodies. When I enter Galeria Praça at Inhotim, I’m not only taking my art, but also my body and my life story, which is similar to the lives of thousands of Black women.

Mônica Ventura (São Paulo) researches philosophies and constructive processes of pre-colonial architecture and handicrafts, and combines the results of this investigation with personal experiences to develop her artistic practices. Her works talk about the feminine and raciality, in narratives that seek to understand the psychosocial complexity of women of African descent inserted in different contexts.

Fábia Prates is a journalist and writer.

Translation: Zoë Perry