Ten years after the death of renowned Afro-Brazilian artist, activist, scholar and poet Abdias Nascimento (1914-2011), a two-year project will bring its legacy to Brazil’s most popular contemporary sculpture park. The collaboration will present the Museu de Arte Negra (Museum of Black Art) to a wider audience and develop Nascimento’s legacy.
âAbdias Nascimento and Black Art Museumâ is a joint project between the Inhotim Institute and the Institute for Afro-Brazilian Research and Studies (IPEAFRO). “There was no unilateral decision, but a consensus between the two institutions”, explains Douglas de Freitas, curator of Inhotim. From this month until December 2023, the Black Art Museum (which ultimately hopes to secure a permanent home) will reside in the gallery spaces of Inhotim, with a series of exhibitions divided into four acts.
The collaboration opened with the Obadiah Nascimento, Tunga and the Black Art Museum, which features a dialogue between Nascimento and his longtime friend, the late Brazilian sculptor Tunga. âThe idea of ââthis first act is to explore the Black Art Museum and the work of Nascimento through Tunga, who is an extremely important artist in Inhotim’s collection,â explains de Freitas. “Obadiah Nascimento had long been friends with the poet Gerardo Mello MourÃ£o, Tunga’s father, and Tunga grew up in contact with Nascimento and his work.”
Paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and installations are on display in the exhibitions âin addition to a rich collection of documents that tell of parts of Brazilian culture, with blacks as protagonistsâ, explains Deri Andrade, curator deputy of Inhotim. The first act is an overview of the aesthetic and thematic connections between the work of Tunga and Nascimento, the second and third acts will be extensive presentations of the collection of the Black Art Museum and the fourth act will be a comprehensive exhibition focused on the work of Nascimento. .
Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Nascimento has had a long history of activism, fighting racism and promoting the multifaceted creations of black artists from Brazil and elsewhere. IPEAFRO was created to bring black heritage to the attention of schools, policy makers and educators. âThe collection of the Black Art Museum has been in the care of IPEAFRO for over 40 years,â says Elisa Larkin Nascimento, widow of Nascimento and co-founder of the institute. “Abdias Nascimento and I founded IPEAFRO to deliver to Brazil his own works, created in exile, as well as pieces that African and African-American artists donated to the Black Art Museum during his exile.”
Between the late 1960s and early 1980s, Nascimento lived and worked in Nigeria and the United States in forced exile due to police oppression and Brazil’s authoritarian rule. âHe had no choice in 1968 but to stay out of the country, given the persecutions against him in the form of multiple military police investigations at the time of the Fifth Institutional Law, which closed the Congress and ushered in a period of intense and violent repression, torture and political assassinations, âsays Larkin Nascimento.
During these periods, he played an active role in the Pan-African movement, participating in social and political events in the struggle for civil rights and highlighting the issues facing black people. Even though Nascimento’s experiences outside Brazil âenriched and strengthened his artistic, political and activist work,â his basic intellectual and political training was already developed before he left the country, says Larkin Nascimento. âHe could express himself freely and deepen his thought outside the context of the absolute hegemony of the myth of ‘racial democracy’ that reigned in Brazil.
All of these experiences contributed to Nascimento’s extensive work in the visual arts, raising awareness of the black experience, addressing religious cultures of the African diaspora and resistance to slavery and racism. âHe developed his painting by incorporating an African epistemological symbology like Adinkra, Haitian Veve and Egyptian visual references,â explains Larkin Nascimento. The experience of life in exile was also instrumental in the creation of the Black Art Museum, founded in 1981.
âColonialism and anti-African racism are essentially similar phenomena in Nigeria, Brazil and the United States,â adds Larkin Nascimento. “Nascimento’s experience and understanding in his native land did not differ in substance, but was influenced by various contours of his experience abroad.”
For Inhotim, which is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary, the collaboration is an opportunity to connect with new audiences in the surrounding region and beyond. âInhotim and IPEAFRO seek to broaden the discussions beyond the planned exhibitions, aiming for greater contact with the communities of the Quilombola remains in the region where Inhotim is installed,â explains Andrade. âWe also aim to circulate the ideas of Abdias Nascimento and other intellectuals of the black movement, by organizing debates within a public program that is developing within the framework of the project.
Larkin Nascimento is optimistic that the collaborative project will lead to changes not only in the art world but on a larger scale in Brazilian society. âWe hope that this visibility will open new horizons for the protagonists of black arts and culture. But we also understand that this is a time of huge and growing inequalities, âshe said. âBlacks and indigenous people in Brazil are the hardest hit by neoliberal policies that spend billions to feed banks and financial speculation while people starve. We called on Inhotim to engage with us in remedial actions capable of solving some of these problems. “
- Obadiah Nascimento, Tunga and the Black Art Museum open to Inhotim Institute, Brumadinho, Brazil, December 4