The Pinacoteca de São Paulo museum, managed by the State of São Paulo Culture and Creative Economy Department, holds for the first time an exhibition of contemporary indigenous art, curated by indigenous researcher Naine Terena. Véxoa: We Know will bring together 23 artists/art collectives from several areas of the country, presenting paintings, sculptures, objects, videos, photographs and installations besides a series of activities performed by indigenous groups. Works will be open for public visitation from october 31, 2020, to march 22, 2021 at Luz building.
The show is a milestone of representativeness at Pinacoteca: “Pinacoteca de São Paulo has been dedicated to Brazilian visual arts since its foundation in 1905, but only in 2019 did it incorporate into its collection Brazilian works of art produced by indigenous artists. This exhibition is the outcome of an active dialogue in recent years between the museum and several contemporary agents of Brazilian indigenous art, putting into question the history of art that the museum intends to narrate and those histories that have remained invisible”, says Jochen Volz, the museum’s director.
Last year, through Pinacoteca de São Paulo’s Patrons of Contemporary Arts Program, works made by indigenous artists were acquired by the museum. This had never happened before in Pinacoteca’s history. The acquired works were A Spell to Save Raposa Serra do Sol, by Jaider Esbell, and Voyeurs, Menu, Mourning, Shop Window: The Modern Anthropologist Was Born an Old Man and Civilization at Last, by Denilson Baniwa. These works are part of the new institutional collection exhibition that will also be opened to the public on August 29.
Véxoa: We Know takes up the three new temporary exhibition rooms located on the second floor at Pina Luz and establishes a dialogue with the new presentation of the museum’s collections. Activist Naine Terena, Ph.D. in Education by PUC-SP and MA in arts by UNB, has long dedicated herself to a research that has deepened in the last one and a half years. “Our main intention is to make an exhibition that does not revolve around the curator’s or the institution’s thoughts, but that takes deeply into account the artists’ place of speech, their yearnings”, she comments.
The selected works, historical and contemporary productions by individual artists and also by artists’ collectives, illustrate the plurality of indigenous artistic production. Paintings, installations, sculptures, objects, videos and photographs debunk the identification of indigenous art with handicraft objects.
In Véxoa, the works are not exhibited chronologically, because the show takes into account different temporalities of indigenous artistic production, which changes across time and is neither fleeting nor time-specific. “That is why the works occupy a dialogical space that has nothing to do with their structure, original locality, artist or any other ethnographic classification”, Naine explains.
The exhibition shows reverence to historical figures and brings in hitherto-unknown works by well-known artists, but it also opens up space for upcoming names, while demonstrating the strong presence of indigenous film and photography and amplifying existing communication initiatives such as Radio Yandê.
It highlights works produced on different media, from photography and video through ceramics, embroidery and natural materials, among others. There are works by Ailton Krenak, one of Brazil’s great indigenous thinkers. As far as painting is concerned, Collective Huni kui Mahku, from Acre, made up by indigenous visual artists who make murals based on their experience of the particular place where the art should be made for, will try to transfer to canvas the distinctive dimensionalities of both Pinacoteca and the exhibition itself.
Visual artist Jaider Esbell, a Macuxi Indian, brings into the exhibition interactive dialogues contained in the collective work The Tree of All Knowledge, a 2 meter-tall canvas panel that has been painted since 2013 by indigenous peoples from Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, United States and Mexico. He also presents four videos discussing neoshamanism and the commodification of the knowledge of the first nations, denouncing attacks against his Macuxi relatives and demonstrating the insertion of a new indigenous generation in digital technology in order to record their current memories and experiences.
Denilson Baniwa was born in the village of Darí at the Baturité/Barreira community, Amazonas, and is already well know by the public. He presents two works: an installation made from remains of the National Museum’s fire in Rio de Janeiro, as a reference to the indigenous material culture that perished in the conflagration, and a performance consisting in planting flowers, medicinal herbs and chilis at Pinacoteca’s external “territory”, which will be transmitted by security cameras to the inside of the museum.
Female activism will be present in the production of Yakuña Tuxá, a Tuxá indigenous woman from Bahia, who puts forward a reflection about the challenges faced by women in general and indigenous women in particular. Her illustrations showcases her ancestors, the strength and beauty of indigenous women and the prejudice they suffer on big cities.
The exhibition also highlights “indigenous ethnomedia” productions, in which media tools are used by indigenous peoples themselves, generating autonomy, representativeness and plurality of discourses. Olinda Muniz Tupinambá (Tupinambá, Bahia), Collective Ascuri (Mato Grosso do Sul), Anapuaká Tupinambá (Tupinambá, Bahia) and Edgar Correa Kanayrõ (Xakriabá, Minas Gerais) are represented.
Ascuri (Cultural Association of Indigenous Film-Makers), made up by young artists and cultural producers who use the language of film, brings to the exhibition different aspects of the life of Terena and Kaiowá peoples, among other groups, propagating the “indigenous way of being” with their production.
Still in the realm of video, director Olinda Muniz Tupinambá debuts the film “Kaapora”, a production that according to her was made for her own people and also for the outside public. She explains that the film is a means for strengthening her community’s worldview, although she also has in mind what non-Indians will understand about her art. Daiara Tukano, a well-known activist, presents a series of paintings called Hori, that propose a dialogue with the Tukano worldview.
The first indigenous web radio in Brazil, Radio Yandê (we in Tupi), will also be represented by its cofounder Anapuaká Tupinambá, broadcasting specifically-developed programming.
Many works highlight the relationship between art and indigenous activism as an intrinsic aspect of these artist’s practices. Such is the case with Edgar Kanayrõ’s black-and-white photographs depicting his people, the Xakriabá, dancing, painting their bodies and fighting for land demarcation and boundary revision in the municipality of Itacarambí, Minas Gerais.
In sculpture, Pataxó artist Tamikuã Txihi exhibits Áxiná (exna), Apêtxiênã and Krokxí, symbolizing the guardians of memory. In 2019, those pieces were attacked at the M’BAI Visual Arts Regional Exhibition at Embu das Artes. The attacks were motivated by racism against indigenous peoples.
The exhibition also discusses stereotypes about indigenous art, often identified with handcrafts. In this sense, artists Gustavo Caboco, Lucilene Wapichana, Juliana Kerexu, Camila Kamē Kanhgág, Dival da Silva and Ricardo Werá exhibit objects made by Indians but usually not considered as such. Since they carry symbols and elements which are not deemed to belong to the culture of original peoples, they were mistakenly taken out of the realm of indigenous art.
During the period in which the show will be open for visitation, ceremonies and other activities will also be performed at the exhibition’s premises. Jaider Esbell will open proceedings with an activation ceremony. Terena women from Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul shall intone their playful and ritualistic chants. The presence of the Praiá, a materialization of the enchanted beings of the Pankararu (a community that lives in Greater São Paulo), is also confirmed to occur during the period of the exhibition, expanding visitors’ repertoire, views and outlooks. The dates for these activities will be disclosed afterwards.
OPY and The Sotheby’s Prize 2019
Véxoa: We Know is part of a research project called OPY, undertaken in collaboration by three distinct institutions: Pinacoteca, Casa do Povo and Tekoa Kalipety – a state museum, an independent cultural center and a Guarani-Mbyá community located next to the Barragem district to the south of São Paulo. OPY raises wider questions around the project: what if we look at the history of art from the point of view of something that does not exist? Through an exhibition of contemporary indigenous artists and a series of performances and seminars, promoting activities outside the physical boundaries of the museum and creating friction between museum collections and indigenous artistic practices, the project aims to call attention to the absence of indigenous art in museum collections, address matters of preservation and knowledge transmission and try out a new Brazil. OPY won the The Sotheby’s Prize 2019 in recognition of the excellence of the curatorial proposal. In this way, it has received financial support to facilitate the exhibition, public program and research developed by Tekoa Kalipety.
Véxoa: We Know
Opening: October 31, 2020
Curator: Naine Terena
Address: Praça da Luz, 2 Luz
Visitation is free from wednesday to monday, but reservations should be made through the website.