The first ever exhibit in the islands by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on the Road program will be on display at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu. “Bandits and Heroes, Poets and Saints: Popular Art of the Northeast of Brazil,” looks at how Africans, brought in as slave labor to work sugar plantations, contributed to the rich culture found in the region.
The exhibit explores the blending of immigrant culture and art with indigenous and colonial traditions to form a vibrant and complex cultural mosaic. It is being brought to Hawaiʻi with the help of the Hawaiʻi Chapter of The Links Inc., a non-profit group committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry, and will be displayed on the first floor of UH West Oʻahu’s James and Abigail Campbell Library, February 12—March 16.
Paula Major, a UH West Oʻahu associate professor of elementary education, believes the community will find this exhibit appealing because of the large Hawaiian and Portuguese populations.
The opening of the exhibit coincides with Black History Month in February. Major believes the exhibit will be a great way to teach local residents about African ancestry, and more importantly, how African culture influenced several parts of the world.
“Despite the distance of South America to Hawaiʻi, I want our community to make comparisons and recognize similarities of African influences and direct impact on Hawaiian culture,” said Major.
The exhibit consists of three parts: “The Land and its People,” which presents the complicated history of plantations and slavery in colonial Brazil; “Expressions of Faith,” which is an examination of the rich African-Brazilian religion of Candomblé; and “Poetry, Celebration and Song,” an examination of singing poets.
It includes free-standing display units, art objects and artifacts, photographs, audio/visual and interactive elements, and wall-mounted banners and graphics along with other colorful elements.
The exhibit was organized by Con/Vida—Popular Arts of the Americas and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in partnership with the Mid-America Arts Alliance. The exhibition has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of NEH.
—By Greg Wiles