Tarsila do Amaral
75,5 x 93 cm
oil on canvas
The work of Tarsila do Amaral (Brazil, 1886–1973) came to my attention about a decade ago. She has remained an important reference artist for me, not only because of her great paintings but also because she has been a constructive ‘bridge-figure’ between different cultures, creating a fusion between ‘tropical’ Brazilian representations and ‘western’ modernism.
One of her most well-known paintings is ‘Abaporu’ (1928), translated as ‘flesh-eating man’, which was a gift to her husband and poet Oswald de Andrade. It inspired him to write the ‘Anthropophagic Manifesto’, and was the starting point for the ‘Anthropophagic Movement’:
“This Movement sought to devour and transform the culture of the external other, i.e. the cultures of Europe and North America and the culture of the internal other, i.e. the cultures of the Native Americans and the descendants of African and Asian immigrants. This approach adhered to the metaphorical character of the word “Anthropophagic”. In summary, one should not reject or imitate foreign cultures, but rather “swallow”, “digest”, and integrate them in a new creative process. The figure of the Abaporu became the symbol of the Anthropophagic Movement that advocated a rebellion against the submission of the Brazilian cultural standards to the art doctrines of developed countries at the time.” (tarsiladoamaral.com.br – biography)
The idea to link the figure of cannibalism to the idea of ‘swallowing cultures’ is in my opinion still very actual in terms of rethinking cultural colonialism. The work of Tarsila do Amaral is a great example of a female painter who was able to explore these complex issues at the forefront of Modernism and throughout the various periods of her career whilst keeping an open, fresh and curious look onto the world.
Hadassah Emmerich, 2017
Hadassah Emmerich (NL)
Ulterior Motive 8
74 x 47 cm
oil and printing ink on linen