(National Catholic Reporter) Exhibit charts Brazil’s untrodden historical and religious ground

My article, “Exhibit charts Brazil’s untrodden historical and religious ground,” appears in National Catholic Reporter. Here’s a selection:

Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil

From the exhibit Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints: Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil at American University’s Katzen Arts Center. Photo by Menachem Wecker

… Like many of the works that hang in the exhibition’s display cases and on temporary walls, it is colorful and lively. But as visitors meander through the exhibition and take a closer look, the joyful gives way, in certain places, to the difficult and challenging.

In a section on slavery in Brazil — where 45 percent of the 11 million African slaves imported to the Americas from the 16th to the mid-19th centuries arrived to work sugar plantations, according to the catalogue — a wooden figure in a cruciform position hangs on the wall. Metal chains shackle the wrists and legs of the man depicted in “Untitled (Enslaved Man)” (1994) by Louco Filho.

The sculpture reflects both African and European influences, a wall label reveals, and it ties the Crucifixion to suffering slaves. Ultimately, the label suggests, the figure’s uplifted arms, posture and gaze “suggest a strength and spirit stronger than the chains.”

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