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São Paulo Debate + live Q&A | Video by Crossmark | 57:54 mins

São Paulo Debate key summary:

  • An intersectional approach is needed to fully understand the ecological crisis.

  • We need to decolonise our knowledge. 

  •  Art can give voice to the suppressed epistemologies of black and indigenous communities.

The São Paulo Debate (57:54 mins) is moderated by Jochen Volz, 2019 Summit partner and director of Pinacoteca de São Paulo, and features:

03:54 – Djamila Ribeiro, Brazilian philosopher
06:09 – Naine Terena, indigenous artist and educator
7:23 – Panel discussion 
45:09 – Live Q&A

The São Paulo Debate discussed how giving voice to the knowledge of black and indigenous communities can contribute to a more equal and sustainable world. Instead of a hierarchical perspective, the panelists advocate for a circular view in which all aspects of existence are interconnected and mutually dependent. Art has the power to amplify alternative ways of thinking and to offer new visions for a different future.

An intersectional approach is needed to fully understand the ecological crisis, as environmental problems are connected to factors such as gender, race and class.

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Djamila Ribeiro at 2020 Verbier Art Summit

Djamila Ribeiro, one of the most influential leaders in the Afro-Brazilian women’s rights movement, invites us to frame the current ecological crisis in intersectional terms: structural oppressions that affect society intersect with one another. Therefore, the issues related to the environment are linked to other factors such as race, gender and class, as she powerfully explained in her 2020 Verbier Art Summit talk. She provides an example of intersectional analysis stating that for almost four centuries Afro-descendants have been treated like ‘commodities’ in Brazil and elsewhere

in the world. Their economic exploitation led to issues that are still being faced today. Impoverished Afro-Brazilians struggle to find proper housing, in which they have no choice but to build irregular houses in places that are often environmentally protected, contributing to the process of ‘favelisation’. Instead of implementing a housing plan that can include these populations, the government simply removes them from the protected areas, thus penalising an already vulnerable category. Instead of focusing on individual issues, Djamila suggests that we should understand that the real problem is capitalism. Historically, the owners of the means of production have been dismissive of ecological concerns. Colonialism and the economic exploitation of countries including Brazil has consequently led to environmental exploitation.

We need to decolonise our knowledge and listen to the teachings of black and indigenous communities who view human life in harmony with nature.

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Naine Terena, Jochen Volz and Anneliek Sijbrandij at the 2019 Verbier Art Summit

Djamila suggests that the knowledge of Afro-Brazilians is often considered ‘folkloristic’ due to prevailing colonial sentiments attached to their culture. For instance, the history of Quilombolas, black communities in Brazil who refused slavery and established independent settlements, is still invisible today. Djamila believes that in order to create a more equal and sustainable society, we should turn to the teachings of these black communities. For instance, Candomblé, a popular Afro-Brazilian religion, encourages people to live in harmony 

with nature, because natural elements like the sea are considered to be deities. It also embraces a circular view of life in which young and old generations are mutually dependent. Moreover, it is empowering for women, since in religions of African origins women are priests and thus responsible for safeguarding this ancestral knowledge. Naine Terena, an artist and educator from the Terena indigenous people of the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil, expands on this point. Similar to Afro-Brazilian knowledge, indigenous people have a holistic view of life in which all the processes of creation are embraced, which she also explained in her 2021 Summit talk. Naine claims that art is not separable from other aspects of life for indigenous people as: “To enter the museum, the process we go through is the same as we do when we reclaim our land.” Naine warns us about the increasing inclusivity of museums becoming a ‘trend’ and that we should make sure that institutions and policy makers continue to include indigenous people within their structures.

Art can give voice to the suppressed epistemologies of black and indigenous communities by communicating new truths in a profound way.


Exhibition Véxoa: We know, Pinacoteca de São Paulo, 2020

The exhibition curated last October by Naine called Véxoa at Pinacoteca de São Paulo was an important milestone for indigenous representation in the arts. The exhibition is about activism and resistance and represents the values of solidarity and collectivism of indigenous people. In a world plagued by fake news, Naine states that “art is the most accessible tool for the population” because it has the power to touch people in a profound way. In her work as an art educator, she witnessed how “art prevents the emptying of our territories and our bodies.” It uses sensations to move bodies, so that they can bring out the truth that has been dormant within them. Therefore, art can become a “cure for humanity.”
Djamila agrees with Naine by adding that philosophy is complemented by art. Both can help us rethink our values by making us question our privileges. Djamila concludes by pointing out that this process of unlearning brings discomfort which is necessary for change to happen.

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Exhibition Véxoa: We know, Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo, 2020. Photo by Levi Fanan

The newly released report The Art of Zero, created by Summit’s partner Julie’s Bicycle, is intended to prompt a conversation about climate change and visual arts. The purpose of this study is to model indicative greenhouse gas emissions of the global visual arts sector and identify opportunities for reduction. Click here to read more.   

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Artist Natalie Ball

In 2021, the Summit’s partner the 3-D Verbier Foundation is experimenting with a new format for their Residency Programme: an Online Residency with Native American artist Natalie Ball. From using Instagram as a sketchbook to online open discussions and virtual happenings, the Online Residency will exist in various digital formats throughout the year. Click here to read more. 

The exhibition Véxoa: We Know, curated by Naine Terena at Pinacoteca de São Paulo, is part of the museum’s intention to build a more diverse and inclusive narrative around its collection. The curatorial project discusses the representativeness of female artists, Afro-descendants and indigenous people in the museum collection and investigates the relationship between art and society.

Click here to read more. 

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Adrian Lahoud's presentation at 2020 Verbier Art Summit

In his 2020 Verbier Art Summit talk, Adrian Lahoud spoke about the exceptional case of Australia’s Aboriginal people who presented a collective painting of their territory to evidence a historic land claim. Watch his talk here.



Djamila Ribeiro

Djamila Ribeiro is a public intellectual, writer and philosopher, a social justice activist, and one of the most influential leaders in the Afro-Brazilian women’s rights movement. Djamila holds a Master´s Degree in Political Philosophy by the Federal University of São Paulo. She is a best-selling writer of the books Quem tem medo do Feminismo Negro? (‘Who is afraid of Black Feminism?’ 2018), Lugar de Fala (‘Place of Speech’) and Pequeno Manual Antirracista (‘Little Anti-racist Manual’). Djamila is the lead publisher of the Collection Feminismos Plurais (‘Plural Feminisms’), editor of afrodescendant writers´ works at affordable prices and with a didactical language approach. She is the founder and head of the "Sueli Carneiro Seal", which aims to publish black women from Latin America and the Caribbean. Recently she was awarded a Prince Claus Award for outstanding achievement in the field of culture and development.

Photo by Alpimages


Jochen Volz

Jochen Volz is the General Director of the Pinacoteca de São Paulo. In 2017, he was the curator of the Brazilian Pavilion for the 53rd Biennale di Venezia. He was the curator of the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo in 2016. He served as Head of Programmes at the Serpentine Galleries in London (2012-2015); Artistic Director at Instituto Inhotim (2005-2012); and curator at Portikus in Frankfurt (2001-2004). Volz was co-curator of the international exhibition of the 53rd Bienal de Veneza (2009) and the 1st Aichi Triennial in Nagoya (2010) and guest curator of the 27th Bienal de São Paulo (2006), besides having contributed to other exhibitions throughout the world. He holds a masters in art history, communication and pedagogy by the Humboldt University in Berlin (1998). Lives in São Paulo.

Photo by Alpimages


Naine Terena

Naine Terena belongs to the Terena indigenous people of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  She has a doctorate (PhD) in education, a Master’s degree in Art and a degree in Social Communication. Terena received a Postdoctoral fellowship in education (July 2015) at Lêtece—UFMT and currently lectures at the Catholic University of Mato Grosso in the areas of Social Communication and Indigenous Education.  She is a Cultural/Artist Producer at Oráculo Comunicação on education and culture, where she develops research projects, workshops and activities related to education, culture and militancy.

Photo by Alpimages

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