Indigenous Histories

MASP (Sao Paulo), Oct/23-Feb/24

Indigenous Histories is one of the four shows now on display at MASP, not to mention their long-term show with European and Brazilian art pieces. It is part of the theme of the year 2023 at MASP: Indigenous Histories, which has been orienting the events and shows held at the museum. The main goal is to show and discuss the diversity and complexity of the indigenous cultures and to try to bridge the gap in art history when it comes to their cultural and artistic practices.

MASP is one of the oldest art museums in Sao Paulo city. It was founded in 1948 with a preoccupation of putting the local audience in contact with modern art, but not only – from its very beginning it collects Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance art. As a matter of fact, they hold one of the most relevant European art collections in the Global South. This is one of the reasons why this indigenous art show is so important for them, as they want to broaden their understanding of what is art and what to collect.

This show is organized in collaboration with Kode Bergen Art Museum, an institution in Norway devoted to art, crafts, design, and music. That museum will hold this show from April to August 2024.

Partial view of the show. Photo Luis Sandes.

It was curated by 12 people, from various countries and institutions (some of them are indigenous), plus Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director at MASP, and Guilherme Giufrida, his curatorial assistant. It is nice to remember: Pedrosa is this year’s Venice Biennial curator.

It occupies two, out of four, floors in the museum. Two other shows on display are closely attached to this: one is a video room by Cecilia Vicuña and the other is a solo show of textiles by Melissa Cody.

Partial view of the show. Photo Luis Sandes.

On display are works by artists or artists collectives from across the world: South America, North America, Oceania and Nordic region. There are 285 works (tapestries, paintings, installations, objects, and so on), by 175 indigenous, or of indigenous descent, artists from many periods (from the European colonization to contemporary) and peoples, such as Tupinambá, Huni Kuin, Sámi, Navajos, Maori, and so on.

Aiming at not developing an encyclopedic view of the indigenous art, the curators chose to create 8 cores. Seven of them are devoted to different regions and peoples from across the world, while one is devoted to the indigenous activisms around the globe.

The core on the indigenous activisms is crucial to the show. It gathers videos, posters, flags, paintings, and photos that deal with topics relating to social movements, contemporary or past. It is about their struggles against oppression, against those who try to rule their lives. ‘If the body is territory of colonizations, it can also be territory of decolonizations, specially as long it is artistically triggered as a subversive politic power,’ stated Edson Kayapó, Kássia Borges Karajá e Renata Tupinambá, curators at MASP.

Partial view of the show. Photo Luis Sandes.

According to Edson Kayapó, one of the show’s curators, ‘it’s histories in plural, bringing the idea that there is a huge diversity when it comes to memories, cosmologies, traditions, languages and the ways in which each people organize itself.’ More than ever, diversity has been the motto in the art world. It is impossible not to incorporate in the art shows and collections art that has been done by the non-white, non-male artists. In this sense, it is pressing to try to understand the indigenous artists’ view of art and of the world and give them room in the art world.

Come walk with us at MASP. We will be able to help you enjoy this amazing show and may take you to the other shows on display. It will be a great opportunity to see depictions and creations on indigenous peoples’ lifes made by indigenous persons. We will show you how they are deeply connected to the history of the museum, which moved from downtown to this building in the 1960s and now is about to finish the restoration of a nearby building in order to expand its premises.

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