Ways of Dwelling

Ways of dwelling
Photomontage with images by August Stahl, Marc Ferrez, Georges Leuzinger.

The series Ways of Dwelling refers to the importance of the ocean regarding the memory of slavery. 

In Bantu cosmology, the sea was known as Kalunga and the place of ancestors. In fact, one of the myths passed on from generation to generation since the times of slavery is that when ships were boarded in Africa, it was believed that the ships would sail towards the land of ancestors. 

In this series we used photographs from the port zone of Rio de Janeiro and images of islands in Guanabara Bay from the 19th century, which is close to what thousands of enslaved Africans would see upon arriving in the port of Rio de Janeiro. An image of a Black pregnant woman hovers above the landscape of arrival, in the same way that the child she carries floats in the liquid in her belly. She symbolizes the water of the ancestors and the amniotic fluid that nourishes her baby inside her belly and under breasts already full of milk. 

The Pretos Novos Cemetery, where this piece was exhibited for the first time, was located very close to the port. By examining old maps of Rio de Janeiro, we located it at around 100 meters from the shore, which is now landfilled beyond recognition of the original coastline. From the port, thousands of bodies of those who did not survive the transatlantic voyage of the Kalunga were carried to this terrain, without an appropriate burial. Without proper rituals, the souls are condemned to hover about the earth until they are able to be reunited with the ancestors. 

The cemetery is today considered the point closest to Africa in Brazil since it contains bodies of Africans who died too early to experience life in captivity. 

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