AKEWANI, Prece da Terra, Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brazil
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AKEWANI, Prece da Terra, Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brazil
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AKEWANI, Earth’s Prayer The poetics of Hariel Revignet draw on the construction of time-spaces able to activate cures for bodies that official narratives have configured as minorities, making use of affect as its process and/or practical action. As such, it is paramount to highlight that the artist’s research focuses on the intersections between the social, the ancestral and the spiritual, within an auto-bio-geographical panorama. According to Manoela dos Anjos Afonso Rodrigues (2017), the concept of auto-bio-geography consists of ‘a critical, localized and creative methodology able to articulate decolonial practices, allowing the flourishing of an immigrant awareness’, in which the author uses approaches provided by humanist and feminist geography.

This concept adopted by Revignet in her artistic research generates an epistemic and political disobedience in the field of art, since the construction of narratives that draws on established images further promotes the creation and development of a hegemonic collective imagery. Therefore, there is an increasingly urgent need to create counter-narratives (and/or other discourses) that can offer history a review of Western colonial ideas coming from those that have been inscribed outside the official discourse. By decolonizing classical references, particularly in the field of painting (commonly perceived as essentially white, Eurocentric, male and rational), the artist subverts the narrative by proposing pictorial representations that derive from rhizomatic ancestral technologies that go beyond linear time-space as we know it.

In this sense, Revignet’s practice reveals her subjectivities as an Amerindian black female artist crossing between Brazil and Gabon; her autobiography is a way of thinking not only about herself but also about a collective black body. If the desire to narrate one’s own history grants the subject the right to establish one’s own identity and to name one’s own reality, the act of self-denominating establishes a self-awareness that can no longer be shaped by anyone except one’s own self. Therefore, the artist traces her history based on her genealogical tree. Coming from a matriarchal lineage, the women that surround Revignet – both in the physical and spiritual planes – reveal her African and indigenous roots and give grounding to her works.

What are you willing to give and receive?

Featuring works created between 2020 and 2021, AKEWAMI, Earth’s Prayer presents a group of paintings that despite not reflecting directly on the present pandemic – of worldwide reach and with tragic consequences for Brazil – carry a symbolic load that makes us question the need to rethink current power structures, whose non-regenerative character has been pushing us towards other foretold catastrophes.

If we look at the increasingly fierce land dispute that perpetuates the extractive mindset that has been imposed in Brazil since colonial times – in a process where everything is taken away and nothing given back – the present exhibition’s counter-narrative emerges as a call to rescue land as a right to live. By talking about the right to live in a moment when thousands of lives have been lost purely and simply because of governmental negligence, Revignet creates installation-paintings that make us face the need to deconstruct what we know so we can enter new fields of knowledge, forging a movement of ongoing exchange, where one must ask permission to enter and leave something in exchange before exiting.  

Her paintings record scenes of indigenous and Afro-diasporic people in communion with knowledge from the Earth, such as in Contadeiras [Women Who Count]. In this series, women count the seeds that nurture the land and come back as nourishment. A subtle but powerful gesture of re-imagination: to think of nature as fertility, as a form of gestating and generating new fruits; to respect it as something cyclical and to place oneself in its spiral of regeneration, otherwise, we shall be destined to the reverse of everything that mother nature can offer us.  

In Procissão [Procession], we see bodies carrying offerings that can also be perceived as crowns. This movement of symbolic displacement makes us see that only the real heirs of the land will be able to recover it. Other paintings feature plants and symbols of energy power, which have the religious function of activating ritualistic powers, making a bridge between the physical and the spiritual planes. In this sense, the artist shows us that we must abdicate from conservative stances that endorse the collective falling-ill of Earth. We must cultivate to receive; worship to cure; respect to create new possible worlds.

By placing us before new/other perspectives as a way of rethinking and feeling the world as we know it, Hariel Revignet weaves stories from images that confront current colonial ideals, proposing an experience of collective re-imagination. In the current terrain of conflict and facing the urgent need for a new form of social organization, the artist’s paintings offer new possibilities of interdisciplinary articulation between the ancestral and the visual arts as a way of composing a historical narrative that can include identity strengthening for diasporic and indigenous people. We must burn frontiers to pay back the debt. Hoping that the seeds planted here can flourish and produce good fruits for those who are listening to Earth’s calling. Say your prayer and be thankful. AKEWAMI!

Carollina Lauriano

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