Jota Cunha is an artist born in Bahia in northeast Brazil, which is a state very rooted in traditions, especially from Western Africa.
Brazilian anthropologist, researcher, and co-curator of this exhibition at its first venue in Brazil, Hélio Menezes.
This work, called Black Resistance Organizations – Ilê Aiyê, it’s a textile from 1995. It was designed for Ilê Aiyê which is one of the most important Black groups from Carnival in Brazil. In fact, it was the first Black group, founded in 1974.
Though presented here as a textile for display, it is meant to be worn by people marching in the Carnival parades. Co-curator Kanitra Fletcher:
The work is a large-scale grid with several squares that contain symbols and references to various Black resistance organizations. There are references to carnival blocks or street bands, afoxés, which are carnival groups linked to the Candomblé religion. There’s also references to religious sisterhoods, political parties, quilombos, which are escaped slave communities and, social movements. I think there’s just really graphic, modern appearance to the work, but the format is also referring to historical African traditions at the same time.
So in the center you have the Brazilian flag which is normally green and blue, and here it is replaced with red, yellow, black and white, the colors of Ilê Aiyê. The motto “Order [and] Progress” is replaced by the word “Candomblé.”
Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition that has evolved and incorporates various deities that were worshipped by the enslaved Africans that arrived in Brazil, and some of those deities’ symbols are incorporated into this section such as the bow and arrow of Oxossi, and the axe of Shango, and all of these deities refer to strength and justice and can be thought of as ways to resist the oppressions and the subjugations that Black Brazilians have experienced.