The reencounter of the Atlantic shores

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posted on 05/12/2015
An artist whose work endeavors to reveal the legacy of African slave trafficking into Brazil, Bahia’s Ayrson Heráclito exhibits in Dakar the artworks he created during a two-month residency in Senegal

Artist Ayrson Heráclito has built a corpus of work that deals with the heritage and historical, cultural, social and religious influences of the arrival of Africans in Brazil, and particularly in Bahia, his native land and the first state in the country to receive Africans brought as slaves. His visit to the memorial and museum dedicated to the memory of African slave trafficking in Senegal’s Gorée Island spawned the video performance Les Retrouvailles des Côtes de L’Atlantique, to be featured in the exhibition Généalogies des Matières, alongside photography, sculpture and installation pieces. The show opened at the Raw Material Company headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, on May 22.

The exhibition is the outcome of Heráclito’s research work during a residency he won at the 18th Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil (2013), for Funfun (2012). The piece is a video-installation requiem for a mãe-de-santo (female Candomblé priest) who died at age 105 in Cachoeira, the city where the artist lives. Considering the scope of his research, the 18th Festival’s international award jury and the Videobrasil Residency Program partners chose to assign Heráclito to the program offered by the Raw Material Company, an art center that fosters artistic and intellectual creativity in Africa.

In 2014, Heráclito participated in the show Unerasable Memories—A Historic Look at the Videobrasil Collection, curated by Agustín Pérez Rubio, with the video Barrueco (2004), created in partnership with Danillo Barata. He also participated in one of the show’s Public Program sessions in which he presented the performance Batendo AmaláIn 2015 and 2016, Unerasable Memories will tour different countries, such as Argentina (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires), Spain (Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo), Mexico and Germany.

In March 2015, he was one of the eight Brazilian artists selected by Marina Abramović to participate in her largest Latin-American exhibition, entitled Terra Comunal, also held at Sesc Pompeia. In the show’s opening event, Heráclito presented the performance Transmutação da carne, in which the performers wore clothes made out of dried meat and iron branded by the artist himself, just like the method by which slaves used to be identified up to the 19th century in Brazil. In her contribution to FF>>Dossier 036, which was dedicated to Heráclito, the curator and art critic Alejandra Hernández Muñoz considers Transmutação da carne – and the 2005 namesake video it originated – as being part of a “tetralogy of slavery” comprised of Sangue, sêmen e saliva (2006), Barrueco (2004) and As Mãos do epô (2007), in which Heráclito uses palm oil due to its objective and mythical-symbolical connections with motherland Africa. 

The record of the performance Batendo Amalá (2014), the videoinstallations Funfun (2012) and Buruburu (2010), as well as the videos As Mãos do Epô (2007) and Barrueco (2004) are part of the Videobrasil Collection.