Black Heroines Mural

Ways of Remembering (Black Heroines Mural)
Digital print on wood
Variable sizes

The mural of the Black Heroines consists of a portrait gallery of Black heroines in Brazilian history whose life histories and historical importance stills needs more visibility in society . In this version, only sixteen of hundreds of Black heroines are portrayed ranging from powerful and influential women during the times of slavery, to politicians, priestesses, feminists, composers, singers, writers from the 16th to the 21st century.

The mural is accompanied by short biographies of each heroine for the public to take home.

This piece was inspired by Black author Jarid Arraes who wrote a series of heroine biographies in a poetic/pulp fiction style typical of Northeastern Brazil, the "cordel", and whose volumes are available in the Mãe Preta Library.

Click to download the Black Heroines Poster


The Slave Anastácia (ca. 1740 - ?), saint

Antonieta de Barros (1901- 1952), journalist and politician, pioneer in anti-discrimination laws in Brazil specially focused on women. 

Carolina Maria de Jesus (1914-1977), writer, author of Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesús. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1962 that recounts her life as a single Black mother living in a favela in São Paulo. Her novel was widely acclaimed when it was first published in 1960, and Carolina Maria de Jesus is one of the main references for Black women writers to this day. 

Clementina de Jesus (1901-1987), singer. Clementina began her professional career when she was 63 and her distinctive voice can be heard on four solo albums, as well as other recordings with well-known samba artists such as Pixinguinha and João da Bahiana. She was known in Brazil as "Mom". Despite having had a short career that started late in her life, Clementina de Jesus is one of the most popular singers in Brazil, known for her contribution to carnival music and for her identification with the poor.

Dandara of Palmares (17th century), Black warrior in maroon communities and resistance fighter in defiance to the colonial system, known to the be the wife of Zumbi dos Palmares, the most famous maroon leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares that resisted colonial rule for 85 years in the 18th century. 

Esperança Garcia  (18th century), first enslaved woman to write and send a letter to the government denouncing crime and abuse towards herself and her children inside the plantation house where she worked. Her letter is known to be the first historical record of an enslaved woman who authored an official document in the state of Piauí, in northeastern Brazil. 

Maria Felipa de Souza (1790? - ?), heroine of the resistance and independence movement in Bahia, having helped to defeat the Portuguese in the island of Itaparica, Bahia. Maria Felipa de Souza is also held as a queer icon as she was known through different accounts to practice sodomy, which is how the Inquisition officially called the practice of homosexuality. 

Laudelina de Campos Mello (1904-1986), Black politician, one of the first organizers of Black associations and events celebrating Afro-Brazilian culture in the early 20th century. She also championed civil rights and workers' rights for domestic workers which is still dominated by Black women until this day. 

Lélia Gonzalez (1935-1994), was a Brazilian intellectual, politician, professor, anthropologist and a woman human rights defender. She helped found several Black political and cultural organizations placing Black women's demands on the political agenda since the 1960s. Her writings, simultaneously permeated by the scenarios of political dictatorship and the emergence of social movements, reveal her interdisciplinary commitment and portrait a constant concern in articulating the broader struggles of Brazilian society with the specific demand of blacks and especially of black women. 

Luiza Mahin (1785 -? ), said to be born in the Gulf of Benin (birthplace uncertain) and enslaved in Brazil, assumed to belong to the Mahi tribe from the Nagô Nation, practictioners of the Muslim faith. She was a key player and strategist in the Malê Revolt as she helped to distribute messages in Arabic to others involved. It is said that had the Malê Revolt been successful, she would have been declared the “Queen of Bahia”. It’s not clear whatever happened to Luiza Mahin. Some reports say she escaped to Rio de Janeiro, was found and arrested before being deported to Angola. Other tales say that she escaped to Maranhão where she settled and helped to influence Afro-Brazilian culture there. She had at least one son, Luiz Gama, who was a well-renowned Bahian poet and abolitionist, who was sold as a slave by his gambling Portuguese father, and whom Mahin never found again. We know about Mahin through one of his poems.  

Mãe Menininha do Gantois (1894-1986), famous Iyalorixá (priestess in Candomblé) from Bahia, responsible for articulating the end of the prohibition of Candomblé that began in the 1930s and revoked as late as in the 1970s. She is known for having opened Candomblé to other religions and increasing the respect and understanding for Afro-Brazilian religions in a predominantly Catholic society.   

Nzinga de Angola (1582 - ?), queen in Angola, warrior of the resistance against colonization and the Portuguese slave traders in Africa. 

Tereza de Benguela (18th century), maroon community leader in Mato Grosso, and, under her leadership, the black and indigenous community resisted slavery for two decades, surviving up to 1770, when the quilombo was destroyed by the military forces.

Tia Ciata (1854 - 1924), Iyalorixá (priestess), musician, community organizer, founder of samba in Rio de Janeiro. Born in Bahia and arriving in Rio as an adult, she settled in a house which would become an important meeting point for black society in the late 19th and early 20th. It is in her house where the first sambas were composed.  Tia Ciata's house became legendary because not only she would hold regular Candomblé sessions, but also because these sessions were followed by a samba, a kind of party where people could drink, eat, play, dance to music, meet each other, and form romantic couples. In fact, as the sambas were persecuted by police, they were frequently disguised as religious activities.