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Oswald de Andrade (1880-1954), also known as José Oswald de Andrade Souza, was a Brazillian poet and polemicist from São Paulo, Brazil. Andrade is most famous for his manifestos of Brazilian nationalism, which are the Pau Brasil Manifesto and the Anthropophagite Manifesto. He laid the foundations for what later became the Anthropophagist movement in the Pau Brazil Manifesto, in which he states, “we have a dual heritage- the jungle and the school. Our credulous mestizo race, then geomatry, algebra, and chemistry mixed with equations… Brazilians of our time or nothing. The strictly necessary of chemistry, mechanics, economics, ballistics. All digested.” Additionally, in the Anthropophagite Manifesto Andrade defines anthropophagy as “the absorption of the sacred enemy.” These ideas are relevent, when delving into the theories and ideals associated with Latin American Art.
Andrade’s notions infultrated Brazilian modernism, as he was one of the founders of Brazilian modernism and a member of the Group of Five including artists Tarsila do Amaral, Anita Catarina Malfatti, Menotti del Picchia, and Mário de Andrade. It is important to note that with the start of Brazilian Modernism, came the Week of Modern Art, Semana de Arte Moderna, in 1922. For Brazil and Brazilian artisits this week gave reason to their work. Not only did it coalesce and define the movement, it introduced the movement to the entire Brazilian society. Indeed, this week was orcastrated as an attempt to bring to a head a long-running conflict between the young modernists and the cultural establishment, headed by the Brazilian Academy of Letters, which adhered strictly to academicism. However, the event became highly controversial, due to the radicalism of some of the artisits. Anita Malfatti, for exmaple, who is recognized as a pioneer of Brazilian modernism, brought work to the show that employed bright primary colors and blue and green facial shadows. This offended many, except, of course, for Oswald de Andrade. In the end, the artists divided. One group, the Anthropophagics, led by Andrade, wanted to make use of the influence of European and American artists but freely create their own art out of the regurgitations of what they had taken from abroad.
The Anthropophagist movement expressed Brazilians’ ability to digest European culture, also known as the “sacred enemy” and transform it into something original and better. Through the absorption and regurgitation of another culture, Andrade, along with other poets and artists, hoped and helped to define a Brazilian identity. In the Anthropophagite Manifesto, Brazil is characterized as society guided by instinct, turning academia into “magic,” and as a denouncement of the “canned conscience,” and “antagonical sublimations.” The “pre-logical” society, defined in Andrade’s manifesto is perfectly exhibited through Tarsila do Amaral’s painting, “Abaporú,” 1928. In this painting, a big foot is firmly planted into the ground, standing for the figures firm roots in Brazilian soil, revealing the tenacity and unbreakable backbone of the culture. The painting also rejects the European notion of the importance of intellect as the very small head depicted minimizes the role of academia, logic, and reason. Like Tarsila, Lasar Segall also explores the “absorption of the sacred enemy” in his work. In “Bananal,” 1927, a slave’s head is painted front-and-center, with a backdrop of green, blue, and yellow leaves. Here, Segall refers to Brazilian nationality, as he employs the colors of the Brazilian flag in his painting. Therefore, the painting is an expression of Brazilain identity and as an indictment of colonialism, as seen though the depiction of the confined slave.
As Segall employed the colors of the Brazilian flag in his work, Oswald de Andrade utilized the same color scheme to decorate the cover of his book, Pau Brazil Manifesto. There is a noticible disconnect between the cover and the title because “Pau Brazil” substitutes for the flag’s positivist logo, “ordem e progreso.” Positivism was a rational philosophy imported from Europe in the nineteenth century, while “pau brazil” focused on the authentic and the naïve. According to Andrade’s manifesto, Brazilians enjoyed a dual heritage, the jungle and the school. In conjunction with the Anthropophagist movement, the Pau Brazil Manifesto explored the defiance of the “indigestibility of knowledge” because, according to Andrade, Brazil was “wild, anive, picturesque, and tender.” Andrade defended native authenticity and his notions certainly influenced his contemporaries of Latin American poets and artists. Here, Tarsila do Amaral’s painting for the Pau Brazil Manifesto comes to mind. “Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil,” 1924 is a depiction of a railway and city. By using flat colors and child-like imagry, this painting directly associates itself with the anti-intellectualism of the time. Instead, it reveals the rich culture of Brazil, though a bright pallate and lush imagry. Tarsila’s “Carnaval en Madureira,”1924, has a similar effect, in that, it is vividly colored, utilizing child-like imagry, and it comes right out toward the picture plane. Tarsala and the Pau Brazi relied on the civilizing pulse of aesthetic reform and on the imminent unleashing of a process of rationalizing the Brazilian landscape.
Essay by Alix Greenberg