Representing Africa in the Museu Afrobrasil (Afrobrazil Museum)
Posted: 18 Feb 2020
Date Written: April 17, 2013
Although Brazil has the highest number of peoples of African descent outside the African continent, this fact is not reflected in the nation’s museums. The Museu AfroBrasil is one of the few institutions that includes African art and material culture in its collections and exhibitions. Further, it is the only Brazilian museum that presents African material culture as part of a larger narrative of African influences on Brazil from the slave era to the present. The institution’s mission is to, “promote recognition, valorization and preservation of Brazilian, African, and Afro-Brazilian cultural patrimony, and its presence in national culture.” Though, because much of the public is reluctant to acknowledge the country’s African heritage, getting Brazilians to engage with African art and material culture in the museum setting is especially challenging. Using as its evidentiary basis a diverse group of sources, including exhibition catalogs, interviews, and primary research conducted at the museum, this paper critically explores how the Museu AfroBrasil represents African art and material culture to its visitors in the Africa: Diversity and Persistence section of the permanent collection exhibition and the temporary exhibition Africas and Africanisms (September 7, 2012 – March 31, 2013).
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