Juliana Gontijo: How does Malungas continue the project Readings to move the center?
Ana Hupe: The Readings to Move the Center project came from my relationship with literature, as a way of putting me in the other's shoes. I was in a residence in South Africa when I discovered, in a collection of short stories by African and Afro-descendent writers, a tale by the Brazilian writer Conceição Evaristo. The story of the tale takes place in a bus that goes from the southern part of Rio de Janeiro to a "favela" on the outskirts. A maid took fruit she had earned from her mistress for her two young children. A man robs the bus, steals from everyone, but she recognizes him as the father of her youngest son and he does not assault her. When the thief runs away, the people on the bus rape her because they consider her an accomplice. It is a terrible story, like many tales of Evaristo. At that time, I didn't know any black Brazilian writer and I kept thinking about how we are indoctrinated from an European, white and male perspective. As I was in South Africa living an experience of extreme inequality between blacks and whites, this discovery worked as a paradigm break in my social relations. The end of apartheid is very recent, and the constant discussion about decolonization acts there as a collective cure, while here, in Brazil, little is said about the need to free us from the colonial unconsciousness, and racism is something very veiled. Readings to move the center started, then, from my desire to understand who Brazilian black writers are and their literature. I gathered several books published by Africans and Afro-Brazilian descendants from meetings with African immigrants living in Rio de Janeiro, to whom I asked about their relationship with literature and whether this literature was a place to decolonize the body. Many of them brought me books that they believed were representative of the place of their origin, such as those by Cheikh Anta Diop, one of the most recognized writers in Senegal. I began to understand a little more of the literature of each place from these women, but I realized that this topic was difficult to address because most of them did not have a relationship with literature. It's all about orality: the stories are oral, and the conversations we had always went to a place far beyond literature. In Malungas, therefore, I decided to abandon this question, although the project still has a relationship with literature: for each woman I photograph, I construct a non-linear and very open story, based on book clippings. Furthermore, I wanted to work on the issue of Latin American in Europe and not just the immigrant black woman, because I myself live in an itinerancy between Germany, Brazil and several other places. In my life in Germany, there is the eternal presence of marriage as a way to obtain a visa to stay in the country legally and I am always helping with translations or being a witness, it is almost an activism.
JG: Afrofuturism is an aesthetic and conceptual reference for both proposals. How does it act in this context of immigration and decolonization of bodies?
AH: Afrofuturism has always been used as a weapon, as an aesthetic and political strategy of the African diaspora of the United States to become visible and demonstrate its power. This artistic form did not look at history in a linear way, but rather as perpendicular events. Afrofuturism transforms past, present and future into a comet, as if we had only the present time. In Readings to move the center, I played with this idea of the future from a very artificial aesthetic, full of LEDs and Chinese products, but I wanted to work only with black and white in Malungas. Faced with a black and white photograph, we lose a linear notion of space-time, especially if the photograph has the granulation of analogue: it can be as much from 1920 as from 2050. Times mix. I imagined a future in black and white instead of a future in cyber colours. As a reference for the portraits, I used the cartes-des-visits of the German photographer Albert Henschel. He had been hired by the Portuguese Royals in Brazil as an official photographer around 1850, and he used techniques similar to those he used to portray the court to photograph enslaved people in his studio, in an attempt not only to document them, guided by exoticism, but also to exalt them as subjects. I adapted the technique and used a Lomo camera, inspired by the model used at that time, because it was cheaper and easier to obtain. Other old techniques, such as photogramming, for example, allowed me, once again, to explore a temporal anachronism. The process, which dates back to the beginning of photography (approximately 1850), is very slow: for each photo, I had to spend thirty minutes in a dark room. In this project, I actually entered another space-time. I hope, therefore, that the exhibition will bring this temporal confusion.
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