Brazil’s First Indigenous Curator: ‘We’re Not Afraid Anymore’

Sandra Benites, of the Guaraní Ñandeva people, is using art to bring new visions and voices to the museum world.

The art curator Sandra Benites at the Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, with “Facões” by Sallisa Rosa, from her photo series “Resistance.” These types of knives are a symbol of survival and resistance for rural Indigenous workers.Credit...Gabriela Portilho for The New York Times

By Jill Langlois

May 22, 2020
New York Times

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Sandra Benites’s work is all about finding common ground. As Brazil’s first Indigenous art curator, the 45-year-old educator, who grew up with the Guaraní Ñandeva people in the village of Porto Lindo, wants to use art to bridge the gap between Indigenous Brazilians and those from other backgrounds.

She is searching for a way to show their commonality, and is looking to represent many of her country’s 305 ethnic groups in “Indigenous Stories,” a yearlong exhibition of global indigenous art set to take place at the Museum of Art of São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, known as MASP, in 2021.

That shared thread, she said, will come in examples of storytelling and the profound connection all Indigenous Brazilians have to their land. “My favorite thing is to look at the narrative — everyone has their own way of telling a story,” Ms. Benites said. But what unites Indigenous people, she added, “is our vision of the world and how it relates to our territory.” As one of several curators of “Indigenous Stories,” she will organize an exhibition that will feature sculpture, paintings, photographs, dance, narrative song, performance and audiovisual art associated with the land.

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