Occupation Paulo Freire

Glauco Rodrigues, Untitled, 1968.


Comment on the exhibition on display at Itaú Cultural (SP)

The extreme right in Brazil never imagined that the spirit of Paulo Freire lived in us and gave us so much energy. In Brazil, since last year, all Freireans have been meeting, talking to each other and conquering new readers and interpreters of Paulo Freire's ideas. The Coletivo Paulo Freire, very well coordinated by those who worked with him, has been giving all of us hope and has just launched the 100th anniversary book written by 100 collaborators.

On the exact day of Paulo Freire's birthday, Itaú Cultural opened the Occupation Paulo Freire, on the second floor of its building, located on Avenida Paulista. Fortunately, it will remain open until December and I call on all those who want to cancel it and those who do not agree with the attempt to destroy Freire's ideals to visit it.

The organizers of the occupation gave the installation a cheerful appearance, choosing video clips that present him in relaxed conversation. In one of the videos, he, who was a great storyteller, tells the story of being surprised by the unconscious assimilation of cultural norms and prejudices that he had already told me and my husband in the past.

Here's the story: in his exile in Chile, he made friends with a professor; one day the two were talking and Paulo Freire put his hand on his colleague's shoulder while talking, which was a common habit for him in Recife. The embarrassed friend warns him that, in Chile, a man does not put his hand on another man's shoulder, as this can be misunderstood. He returns home thinking there must be something wrong with the land for condemning a simple gesture of affection.

Some time later, in Tanzania, Africa, he leaves a class with a colleague to walk around the campus and the colleague takes his hand and walks away. Then it was Paulo Freire's turn to be very embarrassed, wondering what his friends in Recife would say when they saw him walking hand in hand with another man and, as soon as he could, he put his hand in his pocket. Affective cultural prohibitions penetrate us without our being aware of them.

Paulo Freire's epistemology is based on awareness and dialogue that lead to the decolonization of self and history.

Among the many photos revealing his captivating personality, there is one of him at the Art and Teaching Week at ECA in 1980 and much material produced in Spanish unknown in Brazil. The display design is very attractive, clear and undulatingly motivating and welcoming.

Among the books exhibited with Paulo Freire's comments in the book itself (marginalia), is one by Aldous Huxley, a great critic of European civilization that my generation avidly read. Paulo Freire is a decolonialist, so it is no coincidence that his Occupation, number 53 coincides with number 52, in honor of Sueli Carneiro, a black intellectual who has led the anti-racist struggle as a very intelligent and fearless activist, philosopher and teacher.

In this exhibition, Sueli's daughter tells a funny story. Many times she asked to buy something, and her mother said that she didn't give it because she was “hard”. One day she asked: “Mom, will you buy this for me when you are soft?

The occupations at Itaú Cultural constitute one of the first cultural and decolonizing curatorial projects in São Paulo. Occupations appropriate feminist research methods and life story-based methods. Decolonialism develops through actions not just verbal discourse. Decoloniality in museums and cultural centers is the awareness of practice. The additive multiculturalism disguises that we see in most museums no longer work.

That is, to make an exhibition that exalts white European and North American art codes and in the middle of the white cube, a model copied from Europe, place a piece, painting, drawing or sculpture by an indigenous or Afro artist to pretend egalitarianism. This is the instrumental practice of the colonizer to proliferate the process of hidden colonization that has obliterated us for 500 years.

“Civic vigilance” is needed to defend against insidious colonialism.

*Ana Mae Barbosa is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP.

Originally published on Journal of USP.


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