The first major U.S. traveling exhibition of popular art from the Northeast of Brazil will open its U.S. tour at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit, with a free public reception on August 15, 2013, from 6 pm – 9 pm.
Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints – Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil presents popular art (the art of ordinary people) from Brazil’s northeast to tell the story of how African, European, and indigenous cultural traditions have interacted over a period of more than 500 years to form this distinctive regional culture in Brazil. Beginning with a Portuguese colonial settlement in the early-1500s, nearly a century before the first permanent British settlement at Jamestown, the exhibition brings to life the people, the captivating history, and the culture of the largest country in South America.
Through nearly 200 works of art, visitors will learn about slavery in Brazil, the plantation economy, popular heroes and heroic acts of resistance in the face of adversity, and the raucous escapades of legendary outlaws and bandits of Brazil’s “Wild West” – a history that inspires us to think of parallels to our own in the United States. Visitors will also encounter the widely practiced spiritual traditions that give meaning and cohesiveness to people’s lives in Brazil’s Northeast. Woodblock prints and carved wood figures of Catholic saints and forged iron symbols of African deities – called orixás – introduce popular Catholicism and the ecstatic African-Brazilian religion called Candomblé. In the exhibition, life-size mannequins of the orixás wearing the colorful ceremonial vestments of Candomblé seem to dance in front of video footage of a Candomblé ceremony actually filmed in Bahia.
Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints has been organized by Con/Vida – Popular Arts of the Americas, in partnership with The Wright Museum. Exhibition curators Marion (Mame) Jackson, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History, Wayne State University; and Barbara Cervenka, O.P., Professor Emerita of Art, Siena Heights University, have traveled extensively in Brazil’s Northeast during the past 20 years. They have worked directly with popular artists and scholars in this poorest region of Brazil to organize this exhibition.
“While the Northeast is materially poor compared to Rio and São Paulo and the cities of the South of Brazil,” observes Cervenka, “the culture is vibrant and rich and filled with good humor. The Northeast is considered the historic and cultural ‘heart’ of Brazil.”
The strong African presence in the Northeast of Brazil can be felt throughout the exhibit, especially in the percussive rhythms of its music. “Sound tracks and amazing video clips accompany the art and will linger in the minds and imaginations of visitors long after they leave” says Jackson. “All cities have their rhythms - but not all cities have such dramatic and percussive rhythms as Salvador and Detroit.”
Bandits & Heroes includes nearly 200 works of art by more than 50 artists who draw inspiration from their local culture and make a living through their art. In addition, two eminent Brazilian photographers – Adenor Gondim and Antônio Neto – have collaborated on this exhibition, providing unusual photos and video footage showing the lively festivals, ceremonies, and pilgrimages that shape life in the Northeast.
“That’s my cousin… that’s my aunt,” exclaimed Juanita Moore, President & CEO of The Wright Museum, upon viewing one of the exhibition’s videos celebrating the diversity of Brazil’s Northeast in the faces of its people. “This is a very important exhibition,” said Moore. “We are proud to collaborate with Con/Vida and inaugurate its national tour at The Wright Museum.”
Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints – Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil opens at The Wright Museum with a free public reception on August 15, 2013 from 6 pm – 9 pm, which will also feature demonstrations of the folkloric Brazilian art of Capoeira Angola of Bahia by TABCAT Detroit. This event is free and open to the public.
The Wright Museum, located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am until 5 pm, and on Sundays from 1 until 5 pm. Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints will be on display through January 5, 2014, and during normal museum hours is free with museum admission, which is $8 for adults (ages 13-61), and $5 for seniors (62+) and youth (3-12). Admission is free for museum members and children under 3. After January 5, 2014, the exhibit is scheduled to travel to the DuSable Museum, Chicago, Illinois; the Robert W. Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center, Atlanta, Georgia; and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina.
Funding for Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints has been provided by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities and the Michigan Humanities Council, with additional support from Wayne State University, TechTown, and the Adrian Dominican sisters.
Con/Vida – Popular Arts of the Americas
Established in 2000 by university professors Marion (Mame) Jackson, Wayne State University, and Barbara Cervenka, Siena Heights University, Con/Vida is a non-profit organization located in Detroit’s TechTown and is dedicated to fostering understanding for the diverse cultures of the Americas through exhibitions and programs featuring the arts of ordinary people, showcasing particularly the cultures of Brazil and Peru. Cervenka and Jackson have circulated traveling exhibitions to more than 50 museums and cultural centers in the U.S. and Canada in the last 20 years; these exhibitions have been viewed by approximately 500,000 people. For more information visit www.convida.org
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Wright Museum provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.
For more information visit: www.TheWright.org