Date of Award


Document Type

MA Project - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Project Type

MA Project - Curatorial Proposal

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Aliza Shvarts

Second Advisor

Morgan Falconer


This solo exhibition focuses on the understanding and contextualization of Afro-Indige- nous culture in Brazil, dealing with themes such as colonization and slavery of black and indigenous people, also raising questions about religion and racism. Brazil was long inhabited by pre- historic tribes before the arrival of Portuguese colonizers in April of 1500, on the Bahian shores of Rio Buranhém, under the direction of Pedro Alvares Cabral. During the process of domination of the lands, Portuguese investors were needed for portions of land and for sugar mills, and decades later sugar would become the agricultural and financial pillar of Brazil. Portuguese colonizers also had to establish and maintain positive working relationships with the locals. In the beginning they tried to convert the Indigenous to Roman Catholic religion, hoping that it would be an easy transition. Later on, the colonizers figured the Indigenous weren’t as condescending as they seemed, thus several wars occurred and a large number of locals were captured and en- slaved. Towards the end of the 1500’s and after years of fights, most of the Indigenous people had fled to the interior parts of Brazils in order to escape the colonial figures. The Europeans then decided to import slaves from Africa. The slaves were brought to work on the farms and forced to help with the conquest and occupancy of different parts of Brazil by their owners. The exploitation of black people in Brazil longed for almost four centuries, until May of 1888, when the Brazilian Princess Isabel of Bragança signed the Golden Law which abolished slavery in all its forms. Along the first centuries of colonization, the groups started to intermingle, as well as the cultures, religious rituals and genes. Colonists adopted part of the Brazilian culture, as much as the Indigenous adopted the European and African culture, and so on. Throughout history, art and religion have functioned as complementary actions, the one feeding upon the other, settling values and subverting concepts. In Brazil, the European colonizers brought their images and implanted in our midst the curves and folds of the Baroque, an art of imperfection, a God-fearing one. Subsequently, with the arrival of millions of enslaved people, new images appeared, originating from cults of faith which were persecuted and driven to the deviations of marginality. The works produced by Josafá Neves for this exhibition reveal the potency of images despised by our official discourse. Here there is no room for accommodations, for conciliatory.

Nowadays, estimated 91 million Brazilians are of African ancestry, according to the 2010 census, which found that more than half (50.7 per cent) of the Brazilian population now identified as preto (black) or pardo (mixed ethnicity). Many generations of Brazilians of African de- scent have preserved their cultural heritage and religions. Brazilian Portuguese language was also influenced by the speech of African peoples, and a new Afro-Brazilian vocabulary developed. African religions such as the Candomblé not only survives but thrives in Brazil today.

Josafá Neves is a Brazilian living artist, Afro-Indigenous descendant, who has experienced in daily life the effects of racial and social class differences in the country inherited from the colonial period. Using different mediums like sculpture, installation and painting, he seeks to discuss the naturalization and deletion of a colonial past in everyday life. Neves has been seek- ing to rewrite the history of Brazil through art from other life experiences erased by the official white, Euro-centric, colonial versions. He seeks to unravel how for centuries the systems of slavery and exploitation of black people have been sustained. These relationships are updated in con- temporary times – whether because black people continue to be associated exclusively with domestic work or physical strength, or because racism still exists globally and afro-descendants have to fight daily for their rights. The constant verbal or physical violent acts against black people culminated in the Black Lives Matter movement this year, bringing to center of international political discussions the matter of racist power relationships and acts against black individuals who have been killed over the spam of centuries for no reason.

The exhibition is scheduled to begin on May 25, 2021 and spam for at least three months. The opening date will coincide with one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, which triggered Black Lives Matter movement off and raised acknowledgement of the problems our society faces.