Meet the artists who empowered African culture in Brazil and around the world

Por Vinicius Turi - novembro 14, 2022
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On the day of black consciousness in Brazil, there is a lot of discussion about the space of black people in the universe of art. Known for being in elitist places, the plastic and visual arts have always been seen as erudite, since throughout history access to them came only from noble families. Beautiful landscapes, bourgeois parties and great museums have long hidden the black reality in past centuries.

In Brazil, it started with Tarsila do Amaral and other white artists around the world who gave African culture its due value and used their art to mainly show the beauties of the black people.

For this article, I have selected some renowned names such as photographer Pierre Verger, painter Hector Carybé and some others that show the daily life and empowerment of black culture.

Until around 1900, black people were practically not portrayed as protagonists, but as servants. This main role in Brazil came only in Modernism, with the painting ‘A Negra’ (1923) by Tarsila do Amaral. Over time, works such as ‘O Lavrador de Café’ (1934) and ‘Os Retirentes’ (1944) by Cândido Portinari also appeared.

Pierre Verger

French photographer Pierre Verger (1902-1996) came from a wealthy family and left everything to travel the world, creating a bond only in Bahia because of his interest in Candomblé and other rituals of African origin.

Black artists in Brazil

In Brazil, the proximity to the writer Jorge Amado, allowed him to know all the ills, but also the joys, of the black people of Bahia. Passionate about rituals, he spent seasons in villages in Africa to portray them. “The love for Bahian culture was so great that he left Paris and died in Salvador”.

Hector Carybé

The Argentine Hector Carybé (1911-1997) was a visual artist who also made Bahia his home. Together with Pierre Verger, he had a friendship in which the greatest bond was the love for Brazil and more specifically the Afro-Brazilian culture. “He was enchanted by the daily life in Bahian markets, fishing and horseback riding, which would characterize the faceless people and displaced bodies he painted”.

Black artists in Brazil
Hector Carybé

Carybé portrayed everyday life as samba circles and horseback riding.

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall (1955-present) is an American who portrays the black culture. Through his contemporary art, one of the resources he uses to carry out social discussions is the different shades of black in the construction of the figures, as a predominant color. He does not carry out an ‘inclusion of black people’, but rather place them as the main characters of his works and in the role of reflecting on this insertion within the history of art.

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry uses the shades of black in the works as a metaphor and not just as shadows.

Malick Sidibé

Malian photographer Malick Sidibé (1936-2016) was known for his black and white works of popular culture in Bamako, the capital of Mali, located in Africa. He placed in his photographs, for the first time, the representation of black person as an elegant person. He took care of the position of his hands to convey that elitist tone, which until then only appeared in white people’s photos.

Malick Sidbé
Black artists in Brazil

Much of Malick’s work involved showing empowerment through poses and gestures.

Kehinde Wiley

Recognized for portraying black personalities and empowerment, the American plastic artist Kehinde Wiley (1977-current) uses the field of power in his paintings and sculptures in a ‘heroic’ style for discussion and reflection.

Some of his work involved Mumbai, Senegal, Darkar and even Rio de Janeiro. “One of his best-known works is an iconic portrait of former US President Barack Obama.”

Black artists in Brazil

The contemporary artist uses strong colors that show poses of power.

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