Indigenous Histories

MASP, Art Museum of Sao Paulo

Feb. 25, 2024, 12:00 am

Avenida Paulista, 1578 – Bela Vista, São Paulo, Brazil

MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, in collaboration with Kode Bergen Art Museum, presents, from October 20, 2023, to February 25, 2024, the group exhibition Indigenous Histories, that occupies galleries on the first floor and on the second sublevel of the museum. Afterwards, the show travels to Kode in Bergen, Norway and is going to be displayed in the museum from April 26 to August 25, 2024.

The show presents, through art and visual cultures, different perspectives on indigenous histories from South America, North America, Oceania and Nordic Region, and is curated by Edson Kayapó, Kássia Borges Karajá and Renata Tupinambá, Curators-at-Large of Indigenous Art, MASP, and international invited curators: Abraham Cruzvillegas (Mexico city); Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow, Jocelyn Piirainen, Michelle LaVallee e Wahsontiio Cross (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa); Bruce Johnson-McLean (National Gallery of Australia, Camberra); Irene Snarby (Kode /Tromsø, Norway); Nigel Borell (Auckland, New Zealand) and Sandra Gamarra (Lima, Peru). In addition, curatorial direction of Adriano Pedrosa, Artistic Director, MASP, and Guilherme Giufrida, Assistant Curator, MASP. Indigenous Histories is organized by MASP and Kode, master sponsored by Nubank, supported by Sotheby’s and the Norwegian Consulate, and cultural supported by the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Canada, Musée des beaux-arts du Canada; Canada Council for the Arts; Creative New Zealand – Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa and INBAL.

In a follow-up of the exhibitions dedicated to Histories at MASP, that happen since 2016 – with Histories of Childhood (2016), Histories of Sexuality (2017), Afro-Atlantic Histories (2018), Women’s Histories, Feminist Histories (2019), Histories of Dance (2020) and Brazilian Histories (2021-2022) – Indigenous Histories offers new visual narratives, more inclusive, diverse and plural, reflecting the series approach, with diverse points of view not only of artists and works, but also integrating the curatorial team.

The show brings different perspectives on the indigenous histories of South America, North America, Oceania and Nordic Region, with curatorship of indigenous artists and researchers, gathering about 285 works of around 170 artists on several media, with categories, origins and dates that go back from the period before the European settlement to nowadays.

The exhibition has eight sections: seven dedicated to different world regions, those being: Nourishing Relations: Family, Community, and Land (Canada); The Construction of the “Self” (Mexico); Desert Painting Histories (Australia); Pachakuti: The World Upside Down (Peru); Rupturing Representation (Māori, New Zealand); Time Not Time (Brazil); Várveš: Hidden From the Day (Sápmi, Norway); and one thematic section organized by all the curators working in the show, called Activisms.

In order to fully comprehend the show, it is important to take into account the specific meaning of “history” in Portuguese, that gathers both reality and fiction, with private and historical, public and personal narratives, that happen in a small scale or expanded field. In Norwegian, the term “historier” shares a similar dual significance, signifying both an interpretation of the past and a personal narrative. Therefore, history has polyphonic, speculative, open, incomplete, processual, and fragmentary characteristics, different from the ones related to the traditional idea of it. Although it has an international scope and an expanded time frame, the project doesn’t assume a totalizing or encyclopedic view – on the contrary, it seeks to allow for a transversal hack of these histories with a concise and relevant selection that overlaps different outlines from diverse regions.

The exhibition starts on the first floor with the section Activisms, with curatorship by all the group of curators, gathering artworks from different indigenous social and political movements, in different media such as flags, photography, videos, paintings and posters. “The section intends to show different political fights, and invites us to leave the numbness state we sometimes find ourselves in. If the body is a land of colonization, it can also be decolonized, especially when it is artistically triggered as a subversive political power”, states Edson Kayapó, Kássia Borges Karajá and Renata Tupinambá. An example of this operation is Edgar Corrêa Kanaykõ photography called Retomando o poder | Movimento Nacional dos Povos Indígenas [Retaking the Power | National Movement of the Indigenous Peoples], that shows indigenous mobilization in the annual event Acampamento Terra Livre (ATL), demonstrating indigenous groups achievements in power related and decision-making arenas.

Family and community bonds are displayed in the section Nourishing Relations: Family, Community, Land, curated by Alexandra Kahsenni:io Nahwegahbow, Jocelyn Piirainen, Michelle LaVallee and Wahsontiio Cross. Indigenous cosmovisions are built upon a myriad of relations between generations, cultures and lands. The sense of community in the common spaces of daily life can be observed in the work called The Visit (1987), from Jim Logan, where a routine experience in the place where the community spends its time together becomes an extraordinary event. The nurturing of the land, felt in a deep way, is present in the work of Melissa General. In Nitewaké:non [The Place Where I Come From] (2015), the artist presents a green landscape that defies the profound red of the clothing of a woman leaving traces of her movements in the forest. Being a self-portrait, it states, in a powerful way, the indigenous existence and the artist’s reconnection with her land, as well as the Six Nations of the Grand River.

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