Atlantic Archives Artist Profile: Rosana Paulino

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I wear a lot of hats, but if I had to choose one thing to do that brings the most joy, it would be my work as a visual artist. Brazilian culture is rooted in the same African principles and aesthetics which serve as the foundation for popular culture in the United States, which has influenced the world. Much in the same way, Black Brazilian culture is diluted, plagiarized, and exploited. And for the same reason, it’s important to uplift the culture keepers of the past and the present. 

Today I want to highlight an artist who is inspiring the many ways that Brazilian identity is seen and understood. 

“Tropical paradise?” 2017

Rosana Paulino is a Brazilian visual artist, curator and educator born in Sao Paulo in 1967. She has a doctorate in visual arts from the University of Sao Paulo’s School of Communications and Arts and a certificate in engraving from the London Print Studio. Since the 1990s, she has addressed topics like gender, identity and Black representation that were rarely tackled in the Brazilian art scene.

Her work primarily addresses social, racial, and gender issues affecting black women in Brazilian society. In this way, the production challenges the norms of behavior and beauty that have historically been applied to Black and indigenous women. She provides a critical examination of her own life that is mediated by the violence perpetrated against the Black community.

She incorporates a variety of media into her work, including sculpture, engraving, photography, painting and installations. Numerous of her pieces feature interactions between photography, engraving, and drawing. In the 2013 series Settlement, she manipulates portraits of Brazilians who were once slaves taken by French photographer Auguste Stahl (1824-1877).

These pictures were originally made by Stahl for Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz (1807–1873)’s book Viagem al Brasil, which examined theories of racial superiority. 

Paulino cuts and rearranges copies of these life-size photographs to reveal how the trauma of slavery mutilates identity. In a similar manner, Paulino changes the significance of nineteenth-century scientific iconography in her 2016 book “Natural History.”

In interviews, Paulino explains how the production of images has always been a tool of power and how scientific images have a legacy of dehumanizing and erasing the Black body. She creates, from her own work, a new, critical, affective and human history of the Black population in Brazil. 

… science has a great impact on black and indigenous populations. It is not possible for us to deny or  pretend that this responsibility does not exist. Science will have to review its dogmas in relation to these populations and in relation to people’s culture as well.”

From the “Assentments” series

She became the first Afro-Brazilian artist to win an individual exhibition at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in 2018 after 25 years as a working artist. She displayed the traveling exhibit “A Costura da Memória” (The Stitching of Memory) there. Brazilian decolonial and gender issues were the main topics of this exhibition.

“Love for Science”. 2016

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