Brazilian Notebook: The Tree of Words
May 25, 2012. São Paolo, last day, last post.
We visited two stunning museums here, each of which moved us deeply both for the substance of their collections and the brilliance of design qualities in the their exhibitions and installations. First, the Museu Afro Brasil, which so powerfully tells the story of cultural relationship between Brazil and Africa, of slavery and the African diaspora, of the syncretism in art and religion that have developed from the fifteenth century to the present. We felt the terrible kinship of this society with our own, seeing a reconstruction of a slave ship and woodcuts illustrating the heartless ferocity of the slavers, every inch of a ship’s deck covered with human woe. No comfort to see a contemporary photograph showing a policeman arresting four black youths suspected of being robbers, thick ropes laced around their necks tying them together as they were being taken out of a cane field. Racism is hidden and subtle here, we were told, by our museum guide who had been a student at Howard University. It was very meaningful, she said, to have a teacher who is black, to talk about how we deal with diversity in our country. It is rare to see black doctors or professors here, she said, though schools are now required to teach Afro-Brasilian history.