Mãe Preta (Black Mother) - PhMuseum

Mãe Preta (Black Mother)

Patricia Gouvêa

2016 - Ongoing

Brazil

MÃE PRETA | BLACK MOTHER is an artistic research by artists Isabel Löfgren & Patricia Gouvêa that aims to trace the connections between motherhood and slavery in colonial times and the voices of Black women and mothers in Brazil today.

The research began in 2015 and with the grant we received from the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro in January 2016 we made our first exhibition. It was conceived especially for the Instituto de Pesquisa e Memória Pretos Novos (Institute for Research and Memorial of the Pretos Novos - IPN), a memorial site for slavery in Rio de Janeiro's now revitalized colonial port area where the archaeological site of the Pretos Novos Cemetery is located. Thousands of enslaved Africans who died after the transatlantic crossing were buried in this cemetery in very shallow graves from 1799 to 1836. IPN houses a memorial, a study room, a research library and an art gallery, the Pretos Novos Contemporary Art Gallery.

It is an homage to all the women and children buried at the site by addressing the iconography of "black mothers" (mães pretas), those enslaved women working as wet-nurses during colonial times. They breastfed their masters’ children and as such provided the most vital life support of the colony during the more than three centuries of slavery in the country. A pivotal character in the life of the colony, the wet nurse was at once the closest to the intimate life of the colonial family structure but also very often deprived of a family and children of their own.

The research addresses the status of black mothers first by selecting representations of motherhood and maternal relationships in the vast archives of paintings and engravings of daily life in the colony made by Jean-Baptiste Debret, Johann Moritz Rugendas, Joaquim Cândido Guillobel among others. With the photographic turn in mid-19th century, there are even more photographs of wet nurses in the negatives found in the Instituto Moreira Salles archive, as well as other collections.

By using optical objects such as magnifying glasses and lenses and also objects related to the African ancestrality, we highlighted the duplicity and complexity of the different relationships entertained by the wet-nurses with both the white children they took care of and their own children, causing a shift of perception that makes the mother the protagonist of each scene.

The archival research is counter-balanced by the video-installation “Modes of Speaking and Listening" that bridges the past and contemporary voices in the present time. In this art piece, seven contemporary black mothers give testimonials about maternity, memory, ancestry, invisibility and everyday struggles.

At the end of 2016 we received another grant from Funarte (part of Culture Ministry of Brazil) to take the project to São Paulo and São Luís do Maranhão, creating new works related to local slavery memory and the feminist resistance in past times and today.

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  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on photograph
    (Marc Ferrez c.1885
    Partida para a colheita do café, Vale do Paraíba
    Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on photograph
    (Marc Ferrez c.1885
    Partida para a colheita do café com carro de boi, Vale do Paraíba
    Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on photograph
    (Marc Ferrez c.1882
    Escravos em terreiro de uma fazenda de café na região do Vale do Paraíba
    Vale do Paraíba
    Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on photograph
    (Georges Leuzinger
    c. 1865
    Fazenda de Quititi, Jacarepaguá, Rio de Janeiro
    Georges Leuzinger/Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/ Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on photograph
    (Marc Ferrez c.1890
    Fazenda Monte Café, Sapucaia, Rio de Janeiro
    Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on photograph
    (Escravos descansando, c. 1858
    Victor Frond/Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/Acervo Instituto Moreira
    Salles)

  • Venus of Gamboa #1
    2016
    Interference on a book with photographs by Augusto Stahl,
    ca. 1885

  • Venus of Gamboa #2
    2016
    Interference on a book with photographs by Augusto Stahl,
    ca. 1885

  • Ways of Revealing
    2016
    Intervention on deteriorated negative by Marc Ferrez
    (Negras, c. 1884, Salvador - BA
    Marc Ferrez/Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on a book with a print by Johann Moritz Rugendas,
    detail
    Em Voyage Pittoresque dans le Brésil, 1835

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on book with print by João Cândido Guillobel
    (Figuras Populares do Rio de Janeiro; s/d, undated)

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on a book with print by Nicolas-Antoine Taunay
    Circa 1816

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on a book with print by Jean-Baptise Debret
    De Voyage Pittoresque et Historique au Brésil, Paris, Firmin Didot
    Frères, 1834-39

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on a book with print by Jean-Baptise Debret
    De Voyage Pittoresque et Historique au Brésil, Paris, Firmin Didot
    Frères, 1834-39

  • Ways of Seeing
    2016
    Interference on a book with print by Johann Moritz Rugendas
    ("Negras do Rio de Janeiro", De Voyage Pittoresque dans le Brésil, Paris, 1827-1835 )

  • Ways of Dwelling
    2016
    Photomontage based on photographs by Marc Ferrez and Augusto Stahl
    (Baía de Guanabara, c. 1885 Paquetá, Rio de Janeiro
    Marc Ferrez/Coleção Gilberto Ferrez/Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Dwelling
    2016
    Photomontage based on photographs by Augusto Stahl and Georges Leuzinger
    (Vista do bairro portuário da Gamboa, c. 1865, Rio de Janeiro
    Georges Leuzinger/Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles)

  • Ways of Speaking and Listening
    2016
    Video still
    Video 27'27"
    In collaboration with Mats Hjelm
    With the participation of
    Carla Gomes, Cristiana Rosendo da Silva, Gabriela
    Azevedo, Glauce Pimenta Rosa, Jessica Castro,
    Michelly Ferreira Alves, Nídia Mara Santos.


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