Clicking on publications provides access to some academic research. On the calendar, people can see and participate in events selected by the Project, like courses, exhibitions or debates, as well as access calls for competitions. Every week, the Artist of the Week section highlights a name on the site’s homepage. The Afro Project maintains actions that go beyond the virtual environment, such as its partnership with MAM São Paulo when they held the debate The Afro-Brazilian Hand: 30 years later, in 2019, which included Hélio Menezes, Márcio Farias and Juliana dos Santos’s participation. The Project also supported the round of meetings Black Resistance in Movement: discussions about art and society, at Sesc Santana in São Paulo, in which Leonardo Fabri, Wallesandra Souza Rodrigues and I participated.
C&AL: Do you see any difference between the concept of Afro-Brazilian art and black arts?
DA: A dynamic concept still under constant discussion, Afro-Brazilian art entered the academy as a topic of masters and doctoral theses and is already an official field of research across the whole country. I tend to agree with scholars, Dilma de Melo Silva and Maria Cecília Felix Calaça, for whom these terms are synonymous. The first discussions about the topic arose with the coroner and racist anthropologist, Nina Rodrigues, at the beginning of the 20th century, followed by other thinkers like Arthur Ramos and Clarival do Prado Valladares. Despite the polemics around the author, in 1904 Rodrigues submitted an article titled, As bellas-artes nos colonos pretos no Brazil (The Fine Arts in the Black Settlements of Brazil). Above all with this text, the author became known as one of the pioneers to record the term Afro-Brazilian art, relating it to the dimension of the sacred.
C&AL: How would you explain the emergence of so many young black contemporary artists?
DA: Black artists have always existed in Brazil, what is lacking are more studies that allow for new discoveries. In the field of research, various names are references and their writings serve as a theoretical basis for the Afro Project. I’ll cite a few here: Alexandre Araújo Bispo, Luciara Ribeiro, Hélio Menezes, Roberto Conduru, Igor Simões, Janaína Barros, Diane Lima, Renato Araújo, Alecsandra Matias de Oliveira etc.
With 148 artists in the Afro Project up to now, it is difficult not to notice all the potential of this production of black authorship in the country, which was propelled over the past years through shows, events and courses offered by cultural institutions. These, on the one hand, carry out the most diverse research on themes, utilize varied support and multiply narrative possibilities. It’s an intense, vibrant artist-driven production, among whom some names are represented by commercial galleries. On the other hand, emerging artists are achieving success, building a new independent scene, organizing collectively, researching and producing. They are new agents that are constructing another history of Brazilian art, showing their creative force, which is original and distinctive.
Alexandre Araujo Bispo is an anthropologist, critic, independent curator and educator.
Translation: Sara Hanaburgh