Decolonizing the Brazilian Arts

There is an important renewal of the arts in Brazil, coming from the country’s peripheries. Critically engaged artists are addressing the challenges of decolonizing historical representations and expanding social and political imagination. The Brazil LAB is committed to creating a space at Princeton to reflect on forms of cultural expression emanating from indigenous, Afro-Brazilian, and independent artists and against the backdrop of structural violence and growing authoritarianism. 

The seeds for Decolonizing the Brazilian Arts came from the LAB’s early engagement with the work of the Brazilian artists Adriana Varejão, Denilson Baniwa, and Yasmin Thainá as well as conversations with our partner Lilia M. Schwarcz. The recent set of creative events celebrating the centennial of the acclaimed Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, organized together with Jhumpa Lahiri (Lewis Center for the Arts) and Marília Librandi (Spanish and Portuguese), have consolidated this hub. The poetic musical concert Agora Clarice and the sonic library Clarice 100 Ears are our first major public outreach initiatives. The hub’s activities have also been supported by the Humanities Council, the Program in Latin American Studies, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Department of Anthropology. We believe that supporting cultural spaces for marginalized groups and resisting with and within the Brazilian arts is the way forward to achieve a more plural and inclusive society.

Clarice Lispector by Claudia Andujar

Clarice Lispector by Claudia Andujar. Courtesy of Paulo Gurgel Valente.

Inspired by the country’s original work in the social sciences and the humanities, Decolonizing the Brazilian Arts operates as an experimental artistic studio and sponsors film screenings and discussions with Brazilian artists. All projects are in conversation with and extend the work of the LAB’s other research hubs. 

Amazonian Poetics, for example, brings the region’s multiple artistic practices to the center of representational, ethical, and activist debates. This project is led by Pedro Meira Monteiro, Carlos Fausto, and Marília Librandi and is co-sponsored by the Departments of Spanish and Portuguese and Anthropology, the Program in Latin American Studies, and the Humanities Council. From travel narratives to documentary film and musical production and from the visual arts to poetry and translation, Amazonian Poetics puts into dialogue different languages and diverse media to discuss the many Amazons that are being imagined and experienced in the region under assault. The research team is currently producing a distinctive archive/catalogue of visions of futurity activated by and emanating from the Amazon and its peoples.

Adriana Varejão

Mapa de Lopo Homem. Courtesy of Adriana Varejão.

Lilia M. Schwarcz and Carlos Fausto will be collaborating with Irene Small (Art & Archaeology) in the project Princeton Terra Indígena e Africana (Princeton Indigenous and African Land). In 2022, they will bring to campus indigenous and Afro-Brazilian artists to produce artworks based on reimagining/recrafting representations of Brazilian peoples found in colonial books housed at Firestone’s Rare Books and Special Collections. A small crew from the Kuikuro indigenous art collective (that Fausto works with) will film this artistic work. Together with Firestone and the Art Museum, the LAB will organize an exhibition of the original artworks and the film at the Milberg Gallery (as part of the LAB’s activities around the bicentennial of Brazil’s independence).

Artwork by Denilson Baniwa

Princeton Terra Indígena. Courtesy of Denilson Baniwa.

Decolonizing the Brazilian Arts is also sponsoring a pilot project by Pedro Meira Monteiro and filmmaker Sandra Kogut De olho no Mundo / Keeping an Eye on the World. In the talk show (in Portuguese and livestreamed to the Brazil LAB YouTube channel), the hosts interview renowned Brazilian public intellectuals and discuss images that speak to our times and curate our visions of futurity. Given the experimental nature of the hub, the LAB makes yearly calls for artistic proposals from affiliated faculty and undergraduate and graduate students, as we want to support and showcase their creative projects.