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13/09/2016 - 18:58hs

Arabs interact with Brazil in art biennial

The writer Raduan Nassar and the architect Oscar Niemeyer emerge from the works of Lebanese Rayanne Tabet and Kuwaiti Alia Farid in the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo.

São Paulo – Two Arab artists have works on show at the 32nd edition of the Bienal de São Paulo. Lebanese Rayanne Tabet and Alia Farid, from Kuwait, created their works exclusively for the São Paulo art biennial. Both their works establish a connection between the Arab world and Brazil and with “Live Uncertainty”, the theme of the show being hosted at Ibirapuera Park.

Tabet based his project “Sósia (2016)” (Double, in a literal translation) on the book “A Cup of Rage”, by Raduan Nassar, from 1978. Building on the novel, which portrays the tense relationship of a couple, Tabet discusses Lebanese immigration to Brazil. The presentation of the work at Bienal is very complex. On a table, an old edition of the novel is shown besides manuscripts of its translation into Arabic. The manuscripts belong to the professor of Arabic at São Paulo University (USP) Mamede Mustafa Jarouche, who translated the book and expects to release it next month by publishing house Al-Kamel Verlag.

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Work by Tabet includes Raduan Nasser and upcoming translation by Jarouche

In an interview to ANBA, Tabet said that the story of the Lebanese diaspora was his first experience with Brazil. “I first heard about Brazil as a number. For as long as I can remember, I was told that there were seven million Lebanese living in Brazil. Not one more, not one less, seven million exactly. Being that it is almost double the population of Lebanon, this figure has always been used as the national narrative of a successful diaspora that will, one day, come to rescue our country from itself”, said Tabet.

The artist also recalls that he almost refused the invitation to take part in the art biennial in January of this year. His thinking changed one day as he “picked his brains” about the invitation while he waited for his sister in a bookstore.

“I walked towards the classics section and picked up the thinnest book I could find. It was ‘A Cup of Rage’, by Raduan Nassar; a novel written by a Brazilian writer of Lebanese origins in the 1970s that had just been released in English. The text had never been translated into Arabic. So I started to think about what would Raduan Nassar sound like in his ancestor’s voice. What would it mean to bring the text back to Lebanon. What if the diaspora returned as a story that did not resemble any other classical narrative of success and wealth and yearning for a country lost. What if it came back as a story written during the height of military dictatorship about love, lust and anger. What if the uncertainty of that moment in the past could help me deal with the uncertainties of the present. That’s when I realized that there’s was no way I could avoid dealing with this story and accepted the invitation to participate in the show”, he said.

Twice Niemeyer

Another conversation in the exhibition is the one proposed by Alia Farid. Born in Kuwait, the artist lives between her home country and Puerto Rico. One of the main features of Farid’s work is its analysis of the dialogue between architecture and its insertion in the urban environment. For the art biennal, it wasn’t any different. In this work, the star is Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

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Alia Farid linked projects by Niemeyer in Lebanon and Brazil

The building that hosts the Bienal, as well as Ibirapuera Park and its buildings, were especially designed by Niemeyer for São Paulo’s 400th anniversary in 1954. Farid shot a video named “Maarad Trablous” (“Tripoli’s Fair”) at the Rashid Karami International Fair in the Lebanese city Tripoli, a place also designed by Niemeyer.

Unlike Ibirapuera Park, which has many green areas, the Lebanese site is made of 15 standalone concrete buildings, which were not finished due to the Civil War that started in 1975. In the video, a woman walks through the construction site. Her images are interrupted by scenes with workers and gardeners. Speaking with ANBA, Farid compared the scenes in which the woman walks through the construction site with “a hollow vessel”, which is at once a symbol of hope and defeat.

Anxieties and challenges

This year, the Bienal’s theme is “Live Uncertainty”, under the curatorship of a team headed by German Jochen Volz. The proposition for the theme is vast and comprehends, especially, the challenges that modern civilization faces towards the future. The curators already stated that they don’t expect answers or solutions, but indeed a thorough evaluation by the artists on the theme proposed.

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Painting by artist from South Africa portrays afflictions of modern society

 Among the many works in exhibition, the visitors can see, for instance, urban objects that can be used for the creation of a plantation. Drums and even truck tires can be used as “vases” in the project named “Migration, exclusion and resistance”, by Portuguese Carla Filipe.

Another work that strikes a conversation with the theme proposed by the curators is the one by South African Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi. Her painting “Tears of Africa” shows the conflicts and the harshness of human relation in the urban day-to-day, worsened by the degradation of the family environment. Other works by her are also on display and were created based on an artistic living period of the painter in Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia. This period resulted in creations that promote the conversation between Brazil and the African continent, however, without setting aside the “Live Uncertainty” that guides the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo.

Quick info

32ª Bienal de São Paulo – Live Uncertainty
Pavilhão da Bienal
Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral, s/nº, Parque Ibirapuera, Gate 3, São Paulo, SP
Phone +5511 5576 7600
Until December 11, 2016
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and holidays: from 9 am to 7 pm (entrance until 6 pm)
Thursdays and Saturdays: from 9 am to 10 pm (entrance until 9 pm)
Closed on Mondays
Free Admission

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani

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