Vermelho é a cor da paixão

Red is the colour of Passion

The body of work entitled Vermelho é a cor da paixão started in 2017. Those works are heavily inspired by the problematics around identity and the colonisation of Brazil. Through my art, I intend that image, historicity, and emotions intertwine, in the attempt to criticize the brutality of Colonialism, the exploitation of our land, the annihilation of the natives and consequently the people who were brought from Africa in the condition of slaves.

 

In essence, the aim of Vermelho é a cor da paixão is to demystify the traditional portraiture of the European Expansion across the globe, and deconstruct the obscure motivations behind it, as well as exposing the cruelty of colonial processes. The artworks are allegoric, each detail is placed meticulously, have a complex meaning and a history to tell. Everything is contaminated in order to problematize history. My works are dense, convoluting and often chaotic, and the intricacy of the visuals is an attempt to attract the viewers towards it as if they were moths attracted to light; and dare they come too close, they have the risk to get burnt and perhaps that’s exactly my intention.

 

Finally, each one of the pieces that are part of Vermelho é a cor da paixão, represents a desperate attempt to reconstruct the Brazilian identity quilt. Through the reframing of Eurocentric aesthetics, I want to present a new possibility for the traditional visual and discursive interpretation that had been imposed via the hegemony of Western culture translating in the romanticization of colonial portraiture throughout history.

 

Guaraná | 2018 | mixed media on canvas | 177 x 116 cm

The work Guaraná is inspired by the painting Carlota Joaquina, Infanta de España, Reina de Portugal by the Spanish painter Mariano Salvador Maella in 1785. The guaraná is a fruit originally from the Amazon basin, its flowers are small and white, and it has a lot of caffeine, what also gives the guaraná stimulating properties, and some of the effects attributed to the consumption of the guaraná is that it is also an aphrodisiac. The Sateré-Mawé indigenous were the pioneers in the planting of this fruit. They inhabitant the region of the middle Amazonas, and also, the Sateré-Mawé is part of the Tupi linguistic trunk, one of the largest indigenous linguistic branches in Brazil.

 

Guaraná was made to scale to the original painting. In my version, the pictorial elements are inverted via the use of bold colours and the mixed media technique itself. An empty birdcage replaces the canary that rests in Carlota’s fingers seen in the original painting, and it is as if this animal represented Brazil itself. The naive and delicate bird, perhaps also symbolise the “docile” and trustworthy aspect of how the native people of Brazil reacted towards the Portuguese invaders during “discovery” times. In my version of the painting, the empty cage represents a symbolic and ideological space in which Contemporary Brazilian society seems to sustain their paradoxical sense of identity.

 

The nine guaraná branches represent each one of Carlota’s children, some of these were supposedly fruits of unfaithful relationships. The aphrodisiac character of this fruit also has a relationship to the libertine behaviour of Carlota Joaquina. Finally, the excess of the colour red is to demonstrate the violent nature of colonial processes, and the reason why Carlota appears faceless in the painting is to allude to the erasure of female narratives in history and the difficulties faced by women to have agency.

 

Vermelho é a cor da paixão is an ongoing body of work that I started in 2017. The image Carlota Joaquin Infanta Of Spain Queen Of Portugal was used extensively throughout this collection as one of the main inspirations, particularly in the painting Guaraná. Carlota Joaquin Infanta Of Spain Queen Of Portugal is a very famous painting, and I remember seeing this image since I was a young girl and have always been very interested in it. The process of dissection of my work starts in the title, that is commonly presented in Portuguese (despite understanding here the problematic in using the language of the colonizer, Portuguese is still my mother-tongue), native Tupi-Guarani or other indigenous languages. 

PEST 2017 | collage and ink on paper | 21 x 29.7 cm

The bucolic image shows ships approaching the shore, clearly symbolizing the (concrete and symbolic) invasion of the European colonizers in the so-called Global South nations. The sea, painted in red, in also an allusion to the famous speech given on the 20 April 1968, by the former Member of Parliament, Enoch Powell. This speech became known as Rivers of Blood. This racist, biased and xenophobic discourse demonstrates a total lack of critical sense in relation to the destruction that his own nation has caused (and continues to cause) to other people and localities across the globe. Enoch’s words are truly astounding, but sadly not shocking, as large part of the UK population is still proud of the Empire's achievements.

 

This collage aims to problematize the hegemony of Western cultural production / ideology and its dissemination in the world as well as its dehumanising aspects. For instance, Karl Marx argues that the dominant classes have a circumstantial amount of control over the circulation of ideas, values, beliefs, and practices within society. Consequently, the working class is inclined to accept their submission, due to the primordial function of ideology, that is to naturalise this social inequality.

 

Still in relation to Marx’s views on the dominant ideology, the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, first introduced the concept of symbolic power in the book Language & Symbolic Power from 1991. In essence, it addresses the unconscious forms of social and cultural domination that take place in the everyday social activities supported by conscious individuals. Therefore, ideology emerges from institutions in general: school, family, state, religion, media etc. which establish the norms for social relations.

 

Similarly, as stated by the Brazilian philosopher Marilena Chauí: ‘Consequently, ideology is an explanatory and practical body of prescriptive, normative and regulating character whose function is to give the members of a class-divided society, a rational explanation for the social, political and cultural differences, without ever assigning such differences to the sphere of production.’

 

Finally, this work is a desperate attempt to address this historical amnesia, so we can reflect and work together preventing that history is not forgotten and especially not repeated. 

 

‘Images Courtesy of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University.'

A Exótica (The exotic) 2017 | collage and ink on paper | 21 x 29.7 cm

This allegorical image shows a misinterpretation of how Brazilian society is commonly perceived as being a beautiful and tropical paradise. This simplistic analysis of Brazil is extremely problematic as it doesn't’ take into account the complexity of the country. The colorful image disguise two important elements of Brazil’s historical composition that appear in both corners of this collage and that allude to the colonial processes that took place in the country. The image of the colonizers appears again in a  different colour scheme from the rest of the picture giving the sense of marginalization.

 

The name of the collage comes from the concept of Exoticism, that is the representation of a culture through the gaze of another for the purposes of the consumption or inferiorization of the former. This terminology was born from Imperialism and not only has an aesthetical value but also an ontological character, and is an attempt to decharacterize the cultural relevance of other societies.

 

Perceiving cultures as exotic may also be reconfigured as Ethnocentrism, that is the perception of a certain culture only in relationship to another one as if the latter was the reference to every other culture existing. In an attempt to understand this complexity the Germanic-American anthropologist Franz Boas proposed ideas that would later be linked to Cultural Relativism, which is is the conception that a person's beliefs, values, and practices should be understood based on that person's own culture, rather than be judged against the criteria of another.

 

The term Cultural Relativism was coined by anthropologists prior to Boas ’s death to express a synthesis of various ideas developed by him. He was also the most important intellectual to oppose the idea of Eugenics and understood that differences in human behaviour was not determined biologically but yet being the consequence of cultural differences acquired through social learning.

 

Finally, the collage portrays a woman of white features using traditional indigenous facial painting and denotes the problematic that encompasses the formation of Brazilian society and our complex identity quilt.

 

‘Images Courtesy of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University.'

The British love 2017 | collage and ink on paper | 21 x 29.7 cm

This image makes a critique of the exaggerated nationalistic character, which perhaps became more evident Post-Breshit, in the United Kingdom. Similarly to the collage Pest, this work also seeks a reflection on the violence that characterized the colonizing process of the British Empire more specifically. Chokingly, until the year of 1922, Britain ruled a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s total land area.

 

This almost comical image depicts three white men in garments unsuitable for the environment in which they find themselves, and of course, holding alcoholic beverages, proudly celebrating “their great achievements” and with an almost perceptible sense of "job done” in their faces.

 

Analyzing the collage, we see that the landscape in the background is coloured, and contrasts with the black and white of the male figures that are there. This was an attempt to mark these individuals by putting them on the margins, alienating them and making it clear that they do not belong there. Below, an extract from the Manifesto Antropofágico, that is a great source of inspiration for this whole collection:

 

 

‘We want the Caribé Revolution.

Bigger than the French Revolution.

For the unification of all the efficient revolutions for the sake of human beings.

Without us,

Europe would not even have had its paltry declaration of the rights of men.’

 

‘Images Courtesy of the Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture, Middlesex University.'

Crise de Identidade (Identity Crisis) | 2018 | mixed media on paper | 32.3 x 22.2 cm

The drawing Crise de Identidade is a preparatory sketch and also a self-portrait, in relationship to the lithography Carlota Joaquina of Spain as Princess of Brazil. The final drawing will also be made to scale to the original Marques de Aguilar artwork.

 

Here, I made the background upside down and this is to give an unsettling character. At a first look, this feature almost goes unnoticed, as it is made quite delicately. This is an attempt to demonstrate that at first sight some things can be lost if they are not given the proper analysis and thought towards them. Therefore, the aim is to demonstrate that something is wrong and needs to be untangled. Around my neck, we see Yoruba and Indigenous traditional bead neckless, a pearl neckless and a rosary. All those different cultural elements are attempting to coexist in the same space, despite all the problematic regarding how those various identities came together in the first place.

 

The compass pointing to South is again used in this drawing, and the crown seen in the original lithography is replaced by a traditional indigenous headdress. Finally, the figures were changed and instead I depict a confrontation between indigenous and Portuguese invaders at the moment at their arrival in the Brazilian shore, that sadly never really occurred. In essence, this work talks about the very clear separation that exists between the ideas of “us” and “them”, and how identities are chameleonic, never-fixed, and difficult to be conceived. 

 

At the bottom of the drawing, you see the result of a DNA test that I took back in December 2017, results are as follow: Iberian (56.7%), Italian (1.5%), North and West European (23.2%), Ashkenazi Jewish (3.6%), West African (2.8%), Sierra Leonean (1.1%), Maasai (1.5%), Kenyan (1.0%), Central America (4.7%), Indigenous Amazonian (0.8%) and Middle Eastern (3.1%).

The variety of regions shown in the result gives a sense of the complexity around the Brazilian identity and our difficulty in understanding our own heritage.

Raízes do Brasil (Roots of Brazil) | 2018 | fabric dress for base,  papier-mâché, MDF | 146 x 88 x 140 cm