Carlos Vegara, Sem título, da série ‘Carnaval’, 1972, Coleção particular [Private collection], São Paulo, Brasil [Brazil]
Telling the story of the transatlantic slave trade, The “Afro-Atlantic histories” exhibition was first shown in Brazil from June 28 – October 21, 2018, marking the 130th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Brazil. Traveling to Houston in early 2021, the exhibition will find a new audience to correspond to; an audience very much devoid of African education, especially in the arts.

The exhibit will be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, making a second stop at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in the Spring of 2022. Afro-Atlantic Histories presents a selection of 450 works by 214 artists ranging from the 16th to 21st centuries and centered on the “ebbs and flows” among Africa, Americas, Caribbean and also Europe, to borrow the famous phrase by Pierre Verger, the French ethnologist, photographer and babalô priest who made Bahia his home.

Sidney Amaral, ‘Mãe Preta ou A fúria de Iansã’ [Black Mother or the Fury of Iansã], 2014, Acervo [Collection] Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brasil [Brazil], Doação [Gift] Cleusa de Campos Garfinkel, 2015, São Paulo, Brasil [Brazil]
Brazil is a central territory in the Afro-Atlantic histories, having received about 46% of the roughly 11 million Africans brought against their will to this side of the ocean throughout more than 300 years. The country also was the last to end the slave trade with the so called Golden Law of 1888, which perversely did not include any social integration plan, setting the stage for enduring economic, political and racial inequalities.

On the other hand, Brazil’s leading role in those histories also sowed here a rich and lasting legacy from African cultures. Afro-Atlantic Histories is motivated by the desire and need to draw parallels, frictions and dialogues around the visual cultures of Afro-Atlantic territories – their experiences, creations, worshiping and philosophy. The so-called Black Atlantic, to use the term coined by Paul Gilroy, is geography lacking precise borders, a fluid field where African experiences invade and occupy other nations, territories and cultures.

The exhibition avoids a chronological or geographical organization, instead being divided into eight thematic sections which gather works from different eras, territories and media, at both institutions co-organize the project.

Titus Kaphar, ‘Space to forget’ [Espaço para esquecer], 2014, Cortesia do artista e [Courtesy of the artist and] Jack Shainman Gallery, Nova York, Estados Unidos [New York, United States]

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