When Waleff Dias, of Black and indigenous descent, was born 30 years ago, he was registered as “white” by a vital records office in Macapá, the capital of the state of Amapá, in northern Brazil. Because of that birth certificate, an important identification document, the light-skinned Black artist has referred to himself as white when asked to self-declare his race. Waleff Dias has a master’s degree in visual arts and is a doctoral student in psychology. He uses the body as an object of work from the interface of visual arts with psychology and in response to the memory of racism with art.
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Dias heard a saying that left a profound impact on him: “Even vultures are born white”. In an appearance/performance piece named for this phrase, Waleff Dias presents his birth certificate, rubs white clay all over his body and, after it dries, uses a loofah to thoroughly and violently scrub the clay from his skin. The work was selected for the exhibition entitled Dos Brasis – Arte e Pensamento Negro (Black Art and Thought), which is dedicated exclusively to the production of Black artists. In conversation with C&AL, Dias reflects on the process of miscegenation in Brazil’s far north region: “In my work, I research the intersections of my diasporic, Afro-religious mestizo body and the unavoidable dilemmas of being a Black man, seeking other perspectives on being a Black man and of masculinities beyond the persecution offered by the West”.