Abigail Lapin Dardashti

Doctoral Candidate, Art History/ArchitectureCity University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Award Information

2017 IDRF Program

Art History/ArchitectureCity University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Politics, Religion, and Modernity in Transnational Afro-Brazilian Art, 1962-1988

Two competing definitions of Brazilian blackness emerged from 1962 to 1988 through the visual arts. The first began in 1962 when the Brazilian government positioned itself as a leading economic and diplomatic partner for newly independent African nations by showcasing Afro-Brazilian art abroad for the first time. Officially-sponsored exhibitions in Africa portrayed Brazil as a non-racist, progressive Third World country. The government presented black culture and religion as timeless and restricted exclusively to the northern state of Bahia. The second definition emerged through the Afro-Brazilian civil rights movement that began exposing the country's pervasive racial inequalities in 1975. Mobilizing against racism through art making and marches, artist-activists celebrated blackness as a central part of Brazilian nationality by depicting monumental black bodies and Afro-Brazilian deities in black urban spaces, challenging the state's stereotypical depictions of black religion as backward. Artist-activists presented their work in the United States and Nigeria and shared ideas with local activists, contributing to a new Afro-centric historiography of global black activist art. By drawing on local images of Afro-Brazilian religion and space, state-sponsored and activist artists redefined blackness both nationally and internationally through their engagement with a dynamic transnational network of diasporic artists, institutions, and governments. My dissertation investigates why and how transnational art and exhibitions within and outside Brazil came to shape new understandings of Afro-Brazilianness.