CONTEMPORARY ART FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
by Rosana Paulino, IFP Alum | University of São Paulo, 2008
I was born in São Paulo, the largest and richest city in Brazil. I realized I would become an artist when I tried other careers – bank clerk was one – and it drove me crazy. I got very depressed. I’d drawn and painted ever since I was a child, so I decided I would become an artist.
I have chosen the black female as the main focus of my work. As a black woman myself, I question my role within a society that has suffered through slavery. It’s very important to me. My intention is to investigate the marks that slavery planted on the black female body and soul, and on Brazilian society.
It’s interesting; in Brazil, we have plenty of literature about the slave era, but the majority of these writings are about the male experience. I felt that we needed to better understand the role played by female slaves, so I started to create some drawings. When I realized the value of my research, I turned it into my post-graduate project.
The title of my doctoral thesis is IMAGENS DE SOMBRAS (Shadow Images).
I chose this name because the slaves weren’t considered people; they were more like “shadows” of human beings. For the oppressors, they were like animals in a human body. Slaves had no soul. The name is hard to explain because it is a very “poetic” name for a thesis.
Below is the ABSTRACT, as it appears in the written document:
The goal of this thesis is to offer, through artworks in the field of visual art, a reflection that seeks to comprehend how black women are seen in current Brazilian society and the way that shadows cast by slavery over this population is still reflected in female black descendants today, creating and perpetuating social and symbolic places for that group. This issue will be tackled on the basis of a research that moves across different art forms, ranging from installations to printmaking, and always looks for suitable art materials to produce the works that will address the problem. A brief analysis of the reasons for choosing certain technical procedures necessary to create the artworks, the choice and application of different artistic media, and the adaptation of them to the visual thinking are also part of this investigation.
The thesis was divided into three parts: Past, Present, and Future. The first deals with the era of slavery, the second with Brazilian society today. The last offers ways to break open the social and symbolic place now occupied by black females.
A selection of this work appears below:
I believe that developing a work around gender and ethnicity is very important for my country.
This kind of dialogue is rarely present within the Brazilian contemporary arts. When I see groups of young people going
to visit an exhibit, I often wonder, Will they recognize themselves in that environment? Are they represented in those exhibits? What kind of critical thinking is being developed and encouraged in these museums?
A visit to any museum is worthwhile, but when we talk about contemporary art, we need to pay special attention to what we see and where we see it.
As an artist, I don’t pretend to “fix” the problem, but I believe that the images we produce have the power to build curiosity, and to encourage the kind of critical thinking that helps us create a world of solidarity and equality.
Visit Rosana's blog: http://rosanapaulino.blogspot.com
Read about her work in the following journal:
Appropriation and the Body: Representation in Contemporary Black Brazilian Art
by Kimberly Cleveland
from The Journal of Black Studies