The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), presents a selection of works by 20th-century Brazilian artists of mostly African descent in Samba Spirit: Modern Afro Brazilian Art. Opening the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the exhibition includes 15 paintings and one work on paper by key artists including Heitor dos Prazeres, Maria Auxiliadoro da Silva and Waldemiro de Deus, as well as two sculptures by Agnaldo Manoel Dos Santos. Rarely studied in the United States, these artists drew on a range of traditions and found inspiration in all aspects of Brazilian culture—religious rituals, urban and rural life, music and dance.
In the 19th century, Brazil had the largest population of African slaves in the Americas and was the last to abolish the institution in 1888. The pervasive impact of slavery on subsequent generations led one sociologist to write, “Every Brazilian, even the light-skinned fair-haired one, carries with him on his soul, when not on soul and body alike…the influence of the African, either direct or vague or remote.” The resulting blend of African, European and indigenous cultures can be seen throughout Brazil, from the world-famous choreography of the samba and the frevo to the practices associated with the Candomblé and Umbanda faiths. This influence extends to the visual arts as well, where the depiction of subjects and symbols related to the experiences of Afro Brazilians is prevalent.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Website